10 Portuguese Colloquial Contractions

Que que cê qué bebe?

Que que cê qué bebe?

If you can’t understand this type of language, you must have a look on this article since Google Translate won’t be able to help you. When you finish reading you will be able to translate this sentence by yourself.

Sometimes you study the language for years and still, when you try to speak with natives of the language, you can’t understand what they are saying. We think that they are speaking ‘too fast’. In many cases, yes, they are speaking too fast. But sometimes that’s not the main problem, since they may also be cutting down words and if you don’t know how that works, it will be hard for your brain to process the information. Contractions are fundamental for fluency and if you want to sound more natural, more like natives, you may choose to speak with some contractions as well.

Here I have selected the 10 main Portuguese colloquial contractions found in the Portuguese language. First we will see a selection of contractions that are used in Brazilian and European PT. Then I have selected some contractions that apply only to Brazilian PT. “Vamu começá?” (shall we start?)

1. Verbo Estar
Verbo ESTAR (Presente e Pretérito Imperfeito)
No-Contraction (Formal)
Contraction (Colloquial)
Estou / Estava
Tô (Tou) / Tava
Estás / Estavas
Tás / Tavas
Ele, Ela, Você
Está / Estava
Tá / Tava
Estamos / Estávamos
Tamos / Távamos
Eles, Elas Vocês
Estão / Estavam
Tão / Tavam

In my opinion, this is the most important contraction since the correct form sounds too formal nowadays. Natives rarely say: Eu estou cansado. But: Eu cansado.

Note that this happens only on Present and Imperfect Past tenses, along with their variations such as the Present Continuous and the Past Continuous, for example:

1. (Brazilian PT) Eu estou comendo = Eu comendo. = I am eating.
(European PT) Eu estou a comer = Eu tou a comer. = I am eating.
2. (Brazilian PT) Eu estava comendo = Eu tava comendo. = I was eating.
   (European PT) Eu estava a comer= Eu tava a comer. = I was eating.

2. Para

The preposition para (for / to / in order to) is commonly reduced to:

Para = Pra
Para a = Pra (EUPT: Prà)
Para o = Pro (EUPT: Prò)

1. Eu vou para o Brasil. = Eu vou pro Brasil.
2. Ele vai para a escola. = Ele vai pra escola.

3. Num, Numa, Dum, Duma

While some prepositions with D or N are compulsory (e.g. de + o = do, em + o = no), num, numa, dum and duma are optional. Still, they are very common in colloquial language.

1. Eu moro em um flat. = Eu moro num flat.
2. Eu moro em uma casa. = Eu moro numa casa.
3. O carro é de um amigo. = O carro é dum amigo.
4. O chapéu é de uma amiga. = O chapéu é duma amiga.

4. Dropping the “R” (infinitive contraction)

When natives say the infinitive of a verb, most of the times they will drop the letter ‘r’.

1. Eu vou falar. = Eu vou falá.
2. Eu quero comer. = Eu quero comê.
3. É melhor você falar com ela. = É melhor cê falá com ela.

Note: When this type of contraction is written we usually add an accent on the last letter < á > <ê> only to indicate that the last syllable must be stressed.

5. Question Words

A) The question word “o que” (what) is commonly reduced to ‘que’.

1. O que foi? = Que foi? (What happened?)
2. O que tu fizeste? = Que tu fizeste? (What did you do?)

In many cases, natives instead only contracting ‘que’, they also add an extra que for questions:
1. Que foi? = Que que foi?
2. Que tu fizeste = Que que tu fizeste?

B) (Brazilian PT only) The tag question “não é” (isn’t it) becomes “né” (a reduction similar to the English “innit”, but much more recurrent and which can be used in any social situation).

1. Você vai jantar comigo, não é? = Você vai jantar comigo, ?
2. Você vai viajar, não é? = Você vai viajar, né?

6. Você / Vocês (Brazilian PT)

In many regions of Brazil people will say instead você and cêis instead vocês. This happens only when there is a verb after the pronoun. For example:

1. Que que  tá fazendo? = What are you doing?
2. Cê já foi pra São Paulo? = Have you been to São Paulo?
3. Que que cêis querem beber? = What do you want to drink?

Note: although this contraction is very common when people speak, its written form is rarely used. For text messages (Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS) natives usually write “você” or “vc”.

7. “Bad” Portuguese (Brazilian PT)

In the big cities of Brazil, the contractions that we shall see here are not accepted as correct or “appropriate” language. Some people would say that this is ‘”bad Portuguese”, although I believe that in many regions this is just part of the natural dialect of many people. If you are learning Portuguese, it’s OK to learn this to improve your listening skills, but I suggest to avoid speaking like this.

A) Dropping the letter D from the gerund (gerúndio):
1. Eu estou comendo agora. = Eu tô comeno agora.
2. Eu estou falando com ela. = Eu tô falano com ela.

B) Replacing the AM ending (nasal sound) with U:
1. Eles falaram comigo ontem. = Eles falaru comigo ontem.
2. Eles comeram muito. = Eles comeru muito.

C) Replacing the MOS with U:
1. Nós comemos muito bem. = Nós comemu muito bem.
2. Nós falamos com ela. = Nós falamu com ela.
3. Vamos! = Vamu! (Note: This expression is not so ‘bad’, it’s actually quite common.)

D) Replacing the EM ending (nasal sound) with I:
1. O homem veio na minha casa. = O hómi veio na minha casa.
2. Eles comem muito! = Eles cómi muito.

E) Saying “tamem” instead “também” (also)
1. Eles também vão. = Eles tamem vão.

8. Avoiding Reflexive Pronouns (Brazilian PT)

In colloquial language people rarely use the reflexive pronouns. Yes, that’s much easier! So instead saying: “eu me lembro” (I remember) you can just say “eu lembro” (I remember).

1. Eu me esqueci = Eu esqueci.
2. Ela se chama Paula = Ela chama Paula.
3. Nós vamos nos sentar aqui. = Nós vamos sentar aqui.

9. Common Shortened Words (Brazilian PT)

a) Brigado!
Obrigado sounds “too polite” nowadays and in Brazil people prefer to be more friendly than polite. So obrigado becomes only “brigado”.

b) Magina!
It’s common to hear “magina!” meaning “don’t mention it!” after you say thanks to someone. “Magina” actually comes from the word “imagina” (imagine) and the first letter (i) is dropped. Maybe this expression came from something like “what a imagination, you don’t need to mention it!”.

A: Brigado! (obrigado)
B: Magina! (imagina)

c) Ó!
If you wanted to say “look!” you would, in correct terms, say “olha!” (from the Imperative tense). But natives very often just say: “ó!“.

d) Péra!
If you wanted to say “wait!” you would say “espera!”, but natives very often just say: “péra!

10. Num = Não (Brazilian PT)

Sometimes, usually when there is a verb after the word “não” (no), natives may pronounce it like “num”. For example:

1. Eu não gosto de cachorro-quente. = Eu num gosto de cachorro-quente.
2. Eu não falei com ela ainda. = Eu num falei com ela ainda.

Finally, there are many other colloquial contractions, but here I believe I have covered the main ones. Please feel free to comment on this post (below) if you have more suggestions or any questions.

Nota para os nativos: Se você é brasileiro ou português e quer se aprofundar mais neste assunto, veja também este documento que analisa cada contração com detalhes e possui a terminologia correta para cada caso:

2 Comments on “10 Portuguese Colloquial Contractions

  1. Very nice list.

    I think that in some of these examples what is happening is similar to French usage of putting a tag in front of the expression, such as qu’est-ce que. Qu’est-ce qu’il est dinge. Qu’est-ce qu’elle a fait apres?, versus Qu’a fait-elle apres?

    For example, in Brazil, o que e que aconteceu? may come out sounding like que que aconteceu since the o and the e are not stressed. The second “que” means “that”, not “what”. One of your examples might be rendered with the English sounds of “key, key foy,” in speech but when written as “o que e que foi? (with the accents). The “o” and the “e” are unstressed.

    If I had to pick the one most useful and distinguishing word in Brazilian Portuguese, it might be “e” with the accent, meaning “is.” A Brazilian might listen to a long discourse from someone and at the end of a five minute ramble, simply reply by saying “e”. “E” often takes the place of “sim” or can replace the original verb. “Estao todos eles chegando tarde outra vez? could be answered with Estao sim, but just as easily with “e”, meaning that’s the way that things are, that’s what the situation is. English, French and Spanish all require at least two words here when using “to be”, “is”, “est” and “es” don’t carry the weight to stand alone: “It’s true,”c’est vrai, asi es.

    Brazilian Portuguese often resembles a pidgin or creole in that so much syntactical variation is allowed but I believe the changes in verb endings that you listed are considered sub-standard.

    I agree about swallowing or not using reflexives but I have had Brazilians tell me adamantly that they do not do that and that it is incorrect to do so.

    In my experience, spoken Spanish, even by peasants, tends to adhere much more to the written standards than does even normal register Brazilian Portuguese. Given this, students of Portuguese need to decide what constructions are more like the phrase, “It’s me” in English, which is perfectly proper spoken English, and which expressions are more like “Me and John went to the store.”

    So, what is the status of the phrase, ” Como voce vai? Eu te vi na praia”? I used “te” in place of “o” and “voce” all the time as do most cariocas. Eu vi ela probably also passes muster.

    How about ela viu eu? Probably not. How about “Tu vai amanha? Probably not although this construction is basically the same as the “eu te vi” example.

    How about “Fi-lo porque qu-lo” instead of “eu o fiz porque eu o quis” or Fiz porque quis? Spanish grammar, even for the relatively uneducated lacks this flexibility in case forms.

    Speaking of contractions:

    In my experience in Brazil, the “of” plus indefinite article contractions aren’t used very much . I believe that this is because of the palatalization of the word “de”. If they are used, what comes out sounds like “juma” rather than duma. Brazilians prefer to palatalize when possible so if the contraction is written as “duma” the spelling doesn’t correlate with the pronunciation except in the South.

    With respect to final unstressed “r”s, I believe that they are often aspirated but this may be quibbling. The sound can be identical to the various sounds of “r” in English, French and Spanish, depending upon the speaker and region. In Rio, however, they often sound like the phonetic sign (x). In general, for Americans, just pronounce “r”s like American “h”s and you will be fine, especially in Rio. Aspirated h is an easier sound that trilled or gutteral r’s for most English speakers.

    Para is contracted as shown above but this really isn’t a big deal. This is just how it sounds in normal speech and is not a sound change as with the “por” or the “em” contractions and no one objects to writing “para o Brasil. The “de” contractions with ele and ela and the direct objects are significant because they completely change the normal Brazilian pronunciation of “de”, providing a hard “d” sound. Otherwise de plus ele would be pronounced like the word jelly in English.

    The term “o senhor” and its variants are seldom used in Brazil. I worked in a corporation and I don’t believe that I ever heard this term used. Some families may used it like some Americans use “yes, sir.”

    Using “num” for “nao” is something that I don’t recall encountering in Rio or Sao Paulo. What I do recall is that “nem” replaces “nao” at times and especially in situations where Spanish would use the word “no.” For example, Todos os Americanos sao ricos. Nem sempre.

    However, “num”, “nao” and “nem” are all nasalized and there might be variation in the the pronunciation of the nasal depending on what follows. It is an interesting observation.

    I find the word “obrigado” to be interesting because it seems to be cognate for the older word for thank you found in the hills and American South. Andy Griffith usually says “much obliged.”

    One thing that I might point out is that the word or letter represented by “o” is very often swallowed. I find to my mind that saying “brigado” corresponds to how I would pronounce the word except in careful speech.

    This is such a good article that I felt it merited more discussion. These are only my observations and I might be wrong about some of them. For those of us equally good in Spanish, I think that we prefer speaking Brazilian Portuguese. The sounds are more interesting and for some reason, there are many constructions common to English and Brazilian Portuguese absent in the other Romance languages.

    For example, in Portuguese the personal infinitive can be used almost identically to avoid subjunctives as in English. Brazilian Portuguese lacks personal “a” and is moving towards using subject pronouns for object pronouns, which is much easier for English speakers. Instead of “a ella, la vi yo”, Brazilians say Eu vi ela, which simplification outdoes even English, where the distinction between she and her is still made. This makes word order in Brazilian Portuguese easier for English speakers. Where Spanish omits subject pronounces, Portuguese like English usually uses them.

    Brazilian Portuguese, like American English prefers the preterite to the passe-compose type construction found in French, Penninsular Spanish and Italian. The dar plus para constructions are far easier than in Spanish and French, which require learning complicated word orders and can involve phoneme changes. “Se la di la manzana” means what in Spanish? Eu di a maca para ela is very close to how it can be done in English, without word order changes or ambiguous pronouns. Minor things like telling time are easier in Portuguese since there is no word change (always horas, always time) in Portuguese and English.

    Even more so than in English, Brazilian Portuguese falado finds itself ofen being as pithy as possible. To answer the question, “I went there?”, One might answer by simply saying “e” (accent) or Fui. Spanish is similar but usually requires “si”, but in French and Italian the word “there” requires a pronoun as does the word for “some” and direct objects require grammatical agreement reflected in the past participle. Yikes. “Je ne l’ai jamais aimee.”

    The number one thing that makes Portuguese easier? There is no frigging 2nd person formal term. No matter how much I study the rules in Spanish, there is no there there. I often watch films in Spanish with subtitles and the sound track will quite often diverge by saying Usted while the subtitles say tu or vice versa. Watch Narcos in Spanish and the Columbian speakers will use Usted and tu for the same person in the same sentence, or usually vos as the case may be. A prominent character playing a mother only uses Usted with her daughter. Many places in Latin America use all three, tu, vos and Usted. Spain maintains vosotros and Ustedes.

    French maintains the polite distinction more uniformly than Spanish, except in Quebec where vous is not used as often. I find myself wasting brain cells trying to process these distinctions in French, Spanish, Italian and German, while in Brazil and the English speaking world, we are egalitarians. Like the Quakers in the past, it may be time for English speakers learning foreign languages to refuse to use the formal forms.

    I hope that some of this is of interest. Often when I see an excellent article without comments, I feel the need to provide feedback as a way of recognizing and thanking the writer. Well done and peace.

  2. Fantastically-informative article!! Almost every vital point regarding the actual current pronunciation is to be found here, and almost NONE of them are listed/printed ANYWHERE, neither in books nor videos / blogs etc.

    For the record, I hear ‘num’ for ‘não’ [preceding the verb] all the time in Brazil.

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