A little Portuguese

The basics (by a native).

The only way to learn any language is to learn it by using it with the people in real life situations.
I am Portuguese…… What do you want to learn? Conversational Portuguese? Traditional Portuguese? Useful Portuguese?

Hello: Ola.
Good afternoon: Boa Tarde
Good night: Boa noite
Please: Por favor
Good by: Adeus, but if you want to be friendly we say Adeusinho

Thank you. Obrigado if you’re male. Obrigada if your female
Thank you very much –Muito obrigado/a BUT we actually say Muitobrigado/a.

Food is likely to be a big part of your holiday so here are some food related terms to use


If you look up coffee in an English/Portuguese translator it will most likely return “Café”.  And that is correct if you are referring to normal black coffee but not to what the Portuguese mean when they say “Café”.

When a Portuguese refers to Café she is speaking of what we call espresso coffee. Black coffee, very strong, served in a small cup. It is actually very good and it is usually had with copious amounts of sugar, and traditionally the Portuguese usually accompany it with a bit of Agua Ardent or sometimes called Bagaco (brandy). More on that later.

So you could simply ask for Café right? No, not really. See if you say Café the waiter or waitress realising that you are not Portuguese will then try to ascertain just what kind of coffee you mean. You could do much better. Here’s how.

Espresso in Portugal is called “Bica” so if you want espresso simply say “uma bica”, (one espresso). Now here’s your opportunity to really improve your communications and get that smile.

When you order a bica, you may be surprised to get a little cup only half full of espresso. You may thing you have been had. Not so. That is how bica is traditionally served. However many Portuguese also rebel against the 1/2 cup so there is a way to ask for a better poring. Bica – chavena cheia. That means espresso – fill the cup.

If on the other hand you simply want a run of the mill cup of coffee, then just say: Café normAl. The A sounds like when a detective in a novel says; “Haha, now I have you”. That haha sound is how you say the A in normAL.

What if you want a cappuccino: That is called Galao.

What about just plain coffee with milk: Café com Leite.

Normal coffee: Café NormAl.
Espresso: Bica.  Lisbonites don’t say espresso. The word comes from  Art Deco A Brasileira on Rua Garrett . In 1905, it was first to sell small cups of strong coffee – which weren’t popular to start with. So, they put a sign up in Portuguese saying ‘drink this with sugar’. The initials of these words spell ‘bica’
Espresso full cup: Bica – chaven cheia.

Now that we know how to say coffee in Portuguese let’s try something to use during the meal.

Now a dictionary would tell you that beer is cerveja. Well true, kind of. If you order a cerveja they will ask you what brand and bring you a glass and a bottle. However if you are like me, when you say beer, you mean a draught beer. Beer on tap is Imperial. Not imperial but ImperiAl. Again with the “haha”.

Now, if a glass will do you then all is fine, but if what you meant was a beer mug with a decent amount of beer then what you want is an ImperiAL CanEca accent on the e as if you were an old man laughing quietly – “hehehe”..

What if you are really thirsty? Then order an Imperial GarrAfa. It’s a large mug full of cold beer, on tap.

Now for the beer itself. ImperiAl comes generally in two brands. Sagres and Superboc.

Look out for Sagres as it will give you a headache in the morning if you have too many. Superboc on the other hand has less alcohol, is very refreshing and won’t make you feel stupid.

The bread is wonderful in Portugal. There are many bakeries all around so always get fresh bread NEVER keep it to the next day as it is made without preservatives and won’t last.

There are many kinds of bread, Pao da mesa (proper is Pao de mesa but Portuguese never say de, we say da) (table bread), Pao mistura (table bread with two different kinds of flour, and my favorite), and Cacasas, or Papos Secos (Portuguese rolls).

There are many wonderful cheeses, all easily available.
Queijo Fresco: Fresh cheese. Very light and moist, wonderful with a bit of salt and white pepper and a piece of mistura bread, and a glass of wine (more on that) or a beer.
Queijo da Serra: Mountain cheese. Full flavored but not sharp. Wonderful by itself or in Omelettes.
Queijo da Ilha: Island cheese. Sharp and full flavored. Calls for a glass of beer or some Vinho Verde.
Queijo de Cabra: Goats cheese. Also very sharp but creamy and usually made in small cheeses. Needs wine.
Qeijo de Ovelha: Lambs cheese. Lighter and more delicate then goats cheese.
There are many more but those should get you started.


Wine comes in many types, but the most common are red, white and verde (green).

Verde wine is actually not green at all. Instead it is a wonderful light and slightly bubbly wine that is refreshing anytime and will not hurt you because it is low in alcohol. If you are thirsty, and you don’t want soda or juice, then try a glass of this wonderful wine.
It is said simply Vinho Verde.

Red. A translator would tell you that red in Portuguese is encarnado or vermelho but if you say that about red wine you will create insolvable confusion. Instead it’s Vinho Tinto. Tinto means red when it comes to wine.

There are many wonderful reds but if you ask me, just drink the house wine. You won’t be sorry.

White wine –Vinho Branco. Not the Portuguese favourite of wines but there are many nice ones around.

So now you can say hello, ask for some cheese, bread and a glass of wine or beer, then ask for some coffee and say thank you and good bye as you leave.

Easy and fun.

Oh! Agua Ardent …… We usually call it Bagaco…. But if you say Bagaco make sure it is from grapes (Uvas) not Medronho because that will hurt you!

The best Agua Ardent for me is CR&F or Casal Ribeiro e Ferreira. We say c r & f as c err e f, fast, – all one word as CERREF…. Kind of the way we say GN&R – Guarda Nacional Republicana -what usually happens when you had too many CR&F and do something stupid like driving!!