When you see the title of this article, you might think: "Why must I learn the differences between the porquês? Their rules are so complex and their pronunciation is exactly the same!”
Yes, you’re right. When you’re in a conversation, all of them are pronounced exactly the same (if they are used in a question, the intonation can be different, but the pronunciation is still the same). But, remember that’s it’s very important to know the differences when you hear these words in a phrase because you need to recognize what the speaker wants to express. Sometimes, you need to understand ideas through the context. This task can be easier if you know the four porquês well.
Now, what if you need to write? If you don't pay attention to these differences, you might express the wrong idea.
For example, you’re sending a message to your Brazilian friend and you write this: “Pare de escrever por que está me atrapalhando.” This phrase is wrong. But, as you are just in an informal conversation with your friend using your smartphone, you really don’t pay attention. But, your friend may now need to guess what happened:
1) You correctly wrote, por que (two words), but went wrong in the punctuation while trying to write a question, because “Pare de escrever. Por que está me atrapalhando?” means: “Stop writing. Why are you disturbing me?”
2) You went wrong when you wrote porque (one word) while trying to write an affirmation, because “Pare de escrever, por que está me atrapalhando” means: “Stop writing because you are disturbing me.”
Obviously, these are not good examples of how to be polite with friends.
But, you might think: “C’mon this is not such a big deal. My friend knows how hard it is to use the porquês, and knows I’m still learning. And, anyway, the differences in the meanings between por que and porque are not so big.”
Yes, even native Portuguese speakers have trouble with the porquês. Also, in the majority of situations, when you make a mistake, the main idea of the phrase is clear enough through the context.
But, the situation can be more serious if you’re writing a formal email in your new job in Portugal. For example, when you make a mistake using porquês in Portuguese, it’s like writing in English “You are at home?” instead of “Are you home?” This is definitely something you want to avoid.
I hope, at this point, I have convinced you that although Porque, Por quê, Porque and Porquê have related meanings, they are not interchangeable, and it’s very important to respect these rules. So, let's remember in which situations you can use each one:
Por que (two words, no accent)
This is a combination of the preposition por and the interrogative pronoun que. It has two uses: It can be used as "Whereby" in the affirmative, and it can be used as "Why" for interrogatives.
●Por que você não aceitou meu convite? (Why didn’t you accept my invitation?)
●Não sei por que não gosto de bananas. (I don’t know why I don’t like bananas.)
●Por que ele foi embora? (Why did he leave?)
Por quê (two words and accent)
This has the same meaning as por que. But it always comes at the end of the phrase before the punctuation.
●Por quê? (Why?)
●Você sabe bem por quê. (You know why.)
●Usar luvas, por quê? (Use gloves, why?)
Porque (one word, no accent)
This is a conjunction used as an explanation. The meaning is similar to "because.”
●Não fui ao cinema porque eu tenho que trabalhar. (I didn’t go to the cinema because I had to work.)
●Não fume porque vai te prejudicar. (Don’t smoke because it will hurt you.)
●Chegue cedo, porque não jantamos tarde. (Get there early because we don’t have dinner late.)
Porquê (one word and accent)
This is a noun and its translation is "the reason.” It must follow an article, pronoun, adjective or number.
●Diga-me um porquê para não fazer isso. (Tell me a reason to not do this.)
●Não sabemos o porquê de ela ter agido assim. (We don’t know the reason for her acting like that.)
●Existem dois porquês que justificam seu comportamento. (There are two reasons that explain your behavior.)