In this article I will show you some words in Brazilian Portuguese that even natives say incorrectly. Discover these words and do not make the same mistakes yourself!


Throughout the language learning process, it is common for all of us to take native speakers as examples to follow. After all, don’t we all want to strive to talk like a native in our target language? During this learning process, we are like sponges: we absorb everything we encounter from native speakers. But sometimes we realize that something we have learned seems wrong. When we have been using the saying for a long time and we discover the mistake, we are perplexed to know the correct form of the specific word.


Of course, the circumstances vary from region to region. Sometimes the mistake is not as bad as you’d think. Language errors are bound to happen in a gigantic country like Brazil. So let's look at a few words that maybe you, as a Portuguese learner, are pronouncing wrong or have heard someone else pronounce wrong. So, without further ado, let's get started!



1. Questão - Question


This is a very common mistake among native speakers themselves. The word questão has a silent u. It means this letter is not pronounced. This is not like the word “question” in English, wherein the “u” is pronounced.


One of the diacritical signs of Portuguese is the umlaut (ü). With the new spelling agreement, the words lost this sign, which previously served as an indication of whether or not the letter u is pronounced when preceded by the letter e.


For example the Portuguese word for Bilingual:


  • Bilíngüe: They previously had an umlaut. 
  • Bilíngue: Now, they are written without the umlaut.


Even still, when the umlaut was still used, the above word was not written with this sign. Thus, the correct pronunciation does not contain the u. It is pronounced in the same way as in words like que (what), quente (hot), quero (I want), and questão (pronunciation is like kestão).



2. Entretido - Entertained


This is another classic spelling and pronunciation mistake. It is common to hear people saying they were entertidas with something -- this is not how you should say it. Remember that the Portuguese word comes from the English word “entertainment”, which in Portuguese is entretenimento. Therefore, you are entretido with something: be careful not to pronounce it another wrong way.



3. Rúim - Bad


This adjective is often regarded as “bad” (rúim with only one syllable). This word has two syllables rú-im -- which are in fact both strong syllables. So next time, make sure not to say this word as ruim.



4. Seja, Esteja - Be, Is


In most verbs that have the termination -ar in its imperative form, the final letter becomes e. For example:


  • Infinitive: To sing – Cantar
  • Imperative: Sing! – Cante!


Other times when the letters of these words change is when they are conjugated in the subjunctive present tense. What is this? Simple, it's a verbal time we can say when we're wishing something for someone else and use que (may, let) in front. For example:


  • Infinitive: To speak - Falar
  • Subjunctive Present: May I speak – Que eu fale
  • Let him speak – Que ele fale


In actuality, the words seje and esteje does not exist.



5. Menos - Less


This is one of the great problems for people learning Portuguese. Especially for those who speak languages in which there is no gender variation in words. In the Portuguese language, words are differentiated by gender, that is, they can be masculine or feminine.


For example, we say:

  • A porta (the door)
  • O dia (the day)
  • A colher (the spoon)
  • O planeta ( the planet)


This variation also occurs with some adverbs. For example:


  • Muitos alunos (many students)
  • Muitas maneiras (many ways)


But this is not the case with regard to the adverb menos (less). In this case, we say that the adverb is invariant, that is, it does not change with gender. That way, the word menas does not exist!


Therefore, you don’t have menas chances to learn Portuguese. So if you don’t study, read, devote, and research hard enough, you will have menos (fewer) opportunities to hone your conversation.


These are some examples of the words even native Portuguese people say wrong. So when you have questions about a particular word pronunciation, make sure you are speaking the correct way by further researching them. Best of luck and happy learning.


Hero image by Jacob Rank (CC0 1.0)