Tip 54. The meanings of cara

As in Spanish, the word cara can mean “face”. However, in Brazil it also means “guy” (tipo in Spanish). But here’s the trick. When cara means “face” as in “what a pretty face,” it is feminine, a cara. When it is used to mean ”guy” it is masculine, o cara.

Note that this usage is strictly Brazilian; Portuguese speakers from Portugal and Africa don’t use cara this way.

English: That guy doesn’t know anything.
Spanish: Ese tipo no sabe nada.
Portuguese: Esse cara não sabe nada.

Tip 50. Saying periódico won’t get you a newspaper in Brazil

Hoping to catch up on the news from home or the latest sport scores? Don’t ask for a periódico in Brazil. Brazilians read the jornal. If you are looking for more than one, remember the plural is jornais.

English: Are there any newspapers in English?
Spanish: ¿Hay periódicos en inglés?
Portuguese: Tem jornais em inglês?

Tip 49. Going to the movies in Brazil? Don’t say película!

Thinking of catching a movie while in Brazil? Don’t let Spanish get in the way. The word for “movie” in Portuguese is filme. So, if you try to use the Spanish word película in Brazil, don’t be surprised if you get a blank stare. Remember, if you want to see a movie, remember to just say, “film me!”

Example 1:
English: Let’s go see a movie!
Spanish: ¡Vamos a ver una película!
Portuguese: Vamos ver um filme!

Example 2:
English: I didn’t like that movie.
Spanish: No me gustó esa película.
Portuguese: Eu não gostei desse filme.

Tip 45. Dust, people and octopuses: Three confusing words in Portuguese

When two languages are similar, like Portuguese and Spanish, it’s often the little things that make a big difference. Here are three words that Spanish speakers often get wrong when relying on Portuñol.

English Spanish Portuguese
people pueblo povo
dust polvo
octopus pulpo polvo


English: How can you sell this octopus covered in dust?
Spanish: ¿Cómo puedes vender este pulpo lleno de polvo?
Portuguese: Como é que você quer vender esse polvo cheio de ?

Tip 44. Development isn’t what you think in Portuguese

Today it seems like everyone is developing something of one kind or another. Innovators develop new products, engineers develop software and projects are constantly being developed. In fact, the Portuguese equivalents of “development” and “to develop” are two of the 400 most frequent words in Portuguese. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you can just use the Spanish word desarrollo with a Brazilian accent and be done with it. In Portuguese, “development” is desenvolvimento and “to develop” is desenvolver.

Example 1:
English: I am a software development expert.
Spanish: Soy experto en el desarrollo de software.
Portuguese: Sou especialista no desenvolvimento de software.

Example 2:
English: Brazil is going to develop a new program to fight hunger.
Spanish: Brasil va a desarrollar un nuevo programa para luchar contra el hambre.
Portuguese: O Brasil vai desenvolver um novo programa para combater a fome.

Tip 39. Money talks

The word for “money” in Portuguese, dinheiro, is very similar to Spanish dinero. A common slang word for “money” in Brazil is grana. The words troco and trocado mean “change”. At a store in Brazil, depending on what you are buying, if you try to pay with 100 or even 50 reais, the cashier may ask “Tem trocado?” (“Do you have change?”) or “Não tem menor, não?” (“Don’t you have anything smaller?”). When you pay and you receive the change, they give you the troco.

English: Five hundred reais is a lot of dough!
Spanish: ¡Quinientos reales es mucha plata!
Portuguese: Quinhentos reais é muita grana!

Tip 37. Beware of oficina and other words

Here is another small list of words that may trip up a Spanish speaker.

English Spanish Portuguese
auto shop el taller a oficina
silverware los cubiertos o talher
office la oficina o escritório
desk el escritorio a escrivaninha, a mesa
dessert el postre a sobremesa

Example 1:
English: My car is in the shop.
Spanish: Mi carro está en el taller.
Portuguese: O meu carro está na oficina.

Example 2:
English: Call me at the office.
Spanish: Llámeme a la oficina.
Portuguese: Me liga no escritório.