Exclamatory Phrases

Expressing Wonder, Admiration, Compassion, Surprise with “QUE + WORD + !”

Portuguese is a very flexible language. One of the things that make it so flexible and easy to use are exclamatory phrases, since everything (from object’s qualities to personal emotions) can be expressed with the word “que”. Spanish and Italian also enjoy of this language feature and maybe this is one of the things that give natives of these languages that well-known ‘latin-emotional’ life-style. For example, English speakers don’t express personal necessities in the same way. They don’t say “what a hunger!”, or “what a tiredness!”, it’s not part of their language and culture to say these expressions.
QUE FOME!
So, basically, you can say: que fome! (what a hunger!), que chuva! (what a rain!), que bonito (that’s beautiful!), etc. Anything works with ‘que’ (in Spanish it’s the same word and in Italian the spelling is “che”) and that’s how exclamatory phrases, or phrases of wonder, admiration, compassion and surprise are expressed in Portuguese.

In Englishadjectives usually are expressed with “that is” or “how”. For example: “That is beautiful!” / “How beautiful is that!”. Nouns are usually expressed with “what a”, such as: “What a beautiful house!”. But not all nouns will work in English, so translations may need to be adapted and because of this sometimes phrases may lose their exclamation strength and real meaning (eg: “Que fome!” is not exactly the same as “I’m hungry!”).

It’s funny that many translators are not aware of this feature. They make a common mistake when translating from English to Portuguese. As I have seen many times (especially in dubbed films and TV series) it’s common to find translations like:

Typical Wrong Translation: That’s good! = Isso é bom!
> Correct Translation: That’s good! = Que bom!

You would only say ‘isso é bom’ if you are pointing to an object and making a statement about it, not if you are expressing your pleasure or happiness.

I have studied this language feature deeply and compared it to all the languages that I have studied, which are French, Italian and Indonesian, and I hope that the following information may be useful for Portuguese learners of these other languages. Thus, in Italian the equivalent is “che” and in Indonesian “sekali”, with most translations being very close to the original meaning (slang and idiomatic expressions usually don’t apply). But in French the same doesn’t happen because ‘personal necessities’ are not commonly expressed in the same way. Also, there are more variations, since the equivalent words are “comme c’est, c’est, quel, quelle”.

Here is a table that I made with examples, comparing these 5 languages (Portuguese, English, Italian, French and Indonesian). Note that LIT stands for Literal Translation and FREE TR stands for Free Translation.

Exclamatory Phrases (Admiration, Wonder, Surprise, etc.)
Cat
Portuguese
English
Italian
French
Indonesian
Adjective
Que bom!
That’s good! / How Good!
Che buono!
Comme c’est bon !
(Betapa) Bagus sekali!
Adjective
Que bonito!
That’s beautiful! / How beautiful!
Che bello!
Comme c’est beau ! / Que c’est beau !
Indah sekali!
Adjective
Que nojento!
That’s disgusting! / How disgusting is that!
Che schiffo!
C’est dégoûtant !
Jijik sekali!
Adjective
Que estranho!
That’s strange! / How strange!
Che strano!
C’est bizarre !
Aneh sekali!
Adjective
Que engraçado!
That’s funny! / How funny!
Che divertente!
C’est drôle ! C’est marrant !
Lucu sekali!
Adjective
Que legal! (BRPT) / Que fixe! (EUPT)
That’s nice! / That’s cool!
Che figo! / Che figata! / Che bello!
C’est cool ! / C’est super !
Keren sekali!
Adjective
Que gostoso!
That’s delicious! / How delicious!
Che delizioso!
C’est délicieux !
Enak sekali!
Noun
Que coincidência!
What a coincidence!
Che coincidenza!
Quelle coïncidence !
Kebetulan sekali!
Noun
Que chuva!
Lit: What a rain! / Free Tr: It’s raining a lot!
Che pioggia!
Lit: Quel pluie ! / Free Tr: Comme ça flotte !
Lit: Hujan sekali! Free Tr: Hujannya deras sekali!
Noun
Que sol!
Lit: What a sun! Free Tr: It’s sunny!
Che sole!
Quel soleil !
Lit: Matahari sekali! Free Tr: Cerah sekali!
Noun
Que pena!
What a shame!
Che peccato!
Comme c’est dommage !
Sayang sekali!
Noun
Que casa!
What a house!
Che casa!
Quelle maison !
Free Tr: Rumahnya bagus!
Noun
Que vento!
Lit: What a wind! / Free Tr: It’s windy!
Che vento!
Lit: Quel vent! / Free Tr: Comme ça souffle !
Free Tr: Angin kencang!
Noun
Que sorte!
Lit: What a luck! / Free Tr: How lucky!
Che fortuna!
Quelle chance !
Beruntung sekali!
Noun
Que boa ideia!
What a good idea!
Che buon’idea!
Quelle bonne idée !
Idée yang bagus sekali!
Personal Necessity
Que fome!
Lit: What a hunger! Free Tr: I am so hungry!
Che fame!
Free Tr: J’ai trop faim !
Lapar sekali!
Personal Necessity
Que sede!
Lit: What a thirst! Free Tr: I am so thirsty!
Che sete!
Free Tr: J’ai trop soif !
Haus sekali!
Personal Necessity
Que saudade!
Lit: What a longing! Free Tr: I miss it so much!
Free Tr: Quanto mi manca!
Free Tr: Comme ça me manque ! / J’ai le vague a l’ame !
Rindu sekali!
Personal Necessity
Que sono!
Lit: What a tiredness! / Free Tr: I am so tired!
Che sonno!
Free Tr: J’ai trop sommeil !
Ngantuknya sekali.
Personal Necessity
Que cansaço!
Lit: What a tiredness! Free Tr: I am so tired!
Che stanchezza!
Free Tr: Je suis trop fatigue !
Letih sekali!
Slang
Que saco!
Free Tr: What a pain in the ass!
Che palle!
Free Tr: Quel emmerdeur !
Bosan sekali!
Slang
Que merda!
That’s shit!
Che merda!
Quelle merde !
Lit: Tai sekali!
Slang
Que coisa!
Lit: What a thing! / Free Tr: How strange! / How funny!
Free Tr: Che strano!
Free Tr: Bizarre !
Lit: Hal sekali! Free Tr:
Lucu sekali! Aneh sekali!

Portuguese natives use exclamatory phrases everyday. If you are learning Portuguese, I believe the most important phrases to memorize are:

Que bom!
Que pena!
Que fome!
Que sede!
Que chuva!

KibonRelated Curiosities:

The most famous ice-cream brand in Brazil is called Kibon (In the United Kingdom it’s “Wall’s” and in Portugal “Olá”). It has a different spelling than what it’s meant to be, but it sounds like “que bom!” (how good is that!).

There is a great Brazilian song called “Que Beleza!”, composed by Tim Maia. Click here to listen to it on YouTube.

 

 

9 Comments on “Exclamatory Phrases

  1. As an Indonesian sekali can be replaced with banget, which means the same thing so “cerah sekali” can be “cerah banget!”. Though I’ve never heard of “tai sekali”… or that’s just me.
    But this is useful!
    Obrigado!

  2. Does anyone know a portugese saying that sound like, “eye zazoozsh” ? I used to hear it all the time with my friends snd their parents in Provincetown,MA
    I need the proper spelling and mesning., Thanks G

  3. As a Brazilian, I have seen these phrases used a lot. Both of my parents use similarly structured slang very often.

    (unrelated, but Kibon is known as Good Humor in the U.S.)

    • Do you mean the French slang: “digage!” > “go away!” ?
      If that’s the case, in Portuguese we can say: “cai fora!”

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