Portuguese and Galician can be very similar, but I’m sure most of you don’t know why. So, here is a small explanation of it. After the creation of the Kingdom of Portugal in 1139, the Reconquista expanded the Kingdom to the south and the Portuguese language was spread to these conquered lands. The Portuguese later discovered Brazil, Africa and other parts of the world. Portuguese was used at that time not only in the cities conquered by the Portuguese, but also by many local governments in their contacts with other foreign powers. The Portuguese language also influenced several languages, especially at this time.


Did you know that Portuguese originated from the Galician-Portuguese language spoken in the Kingdom of Galicia and northern Portugal? Yes, it’s true. With my article, you will understand the main differences between these two amazing and pretty languages. Let’s start!


Consonant Phonemes


Most phonological consonant phonemes in Galician are equal or similar to those in Portuguese. Let's see the following cases:


  1. Galician lacks the Portuguese phoneme [v]. Although the spelling remains the same, the sound component changes to a [‘b]: vaso is pronounced as [‘baso], caverna then becomes [ka’berna].
  2. Galician lacks the alveolar fricative phoneme sound [z]. Words represented by [z] in Portuguese use [s] in Galician. Example: Galician: casa [‘kasa]; Portuguese: casa [‘kaza].
  3. Galician lacks the phoneme palatal fricative sound [Š] of Portuguese: hoje  [‘oŠi]. There is only the deaf palatal [ƒ]: hoxe ['oƒe].
  4. In Galician, there is the interdental fricative phoneme deaf [q], which is absent in standard Portuguese: cinco ['qinko] and caza (caça) [' kaqa].
  5. Galician has the palatal affricate phoneme deaf [¢], which doesn’t belong to standard Portuguese. It uses ch, the Portuguese spelling that represents the phoneme [f] of chuva. In Galician: chave [‘¢abe] and cachorro [‘ka¢oRo].




Nasalization does not exist in standard Galician as a distinctive mark. The final nasal consonant syllable does not nasalize the preceding vowel.


  • Galician: campo [‘kampo]. Portuguese: campo [‘kãpu].
  • These nasal endings also do not exist in Galician : -ão, -ãos, -ões, -ães, -ã, -ãs.
  • Portuguese: coração, condições, órfão, cidadãos, catalães, irmã, irmãs.
  • Galician: corazón; condicións, orfo, cidadáns, cataláns, irmá (ou irmán), irmás (ou irmáns).


The differences are mainly phonetic. Most Galician words have an absence of a hissing sound. In Galicia, there is no opposition between vowels and nasal vowels (although it does exist in parts of the Galician province of León). Galician nasaliza vowels are somewhat nasal, but that does not make a phonetic distinction.


The rest of the phonetic differences are the same as in northern Portuguese dialects:


  • Pronunciation of ch and tch.
  • Confusion b/v.
  • Clear pronunciation of diphthongs oi/ou (hesitantly as default: loiro/louro).


Treatment of nasality is variable in Galician speech, while the Portuguese dialects evolved differently. This gives us the three endings of the Galician-Portuguese:


  • -ão
  • -am / -ã
  • -om / -õ


The Portuguese nasal diphthong appears sometimes as –ão, while in Galician it has undergone several developments:


  • -ão > -án /-ao
    • Galcian: irmán (directly irmao)
    • Portuguese: irmão
    • English: brother


  • -ãa > / -án
    • Galician: irmá (directly irmán)
    • Portuguese: irmã
    • English: sister


  • -am > -an / -a
    • Galician: ra (directly ran)
    • Portuguese:
    • English: frog


  • -om > -on
    • Galician: razón
    • Portuguese: razão
    • English: reason


Notice the hesitation between the maintenance of nasality through a monophthongization:


  • irmão > irmán (generally west) or maintenance of the diphthong through desnasalação.
  • irmão > irmao (usually center and east), however, there are small areas where there are nasal vowels and diphthongs.


Other differences between the common variants are not yet applicable to all dialects. In Galicia, there is the Indo-European diphthong ui or oi replacing the u in Latin tonic Luso-Brazilian Portuguese (there is, however, the dialectal level in Portugal).


Differences in three words


  • Fruit: Froito / Fruito (Galician) Fruto (Portuguese)
  • Fight: Loitar, loita or Luitar, luita (Galician) Lutar, luta (Portuguese)
  • Listen: Escoitar / Escuitar (Galician) Escutar (Portuguese)


These diphthongs are really etymological:


  • Fructu > fruito
  • Luctare > luitar
  • Auscultare > ascoltare > escoutar > escoitar > escuitar
  • Analogous to multu > molto > mouto > moito > muito


Their loss as the default sound is due to relatinizações in the Modern Age (sixteenth to seventeenth centuries). Luctar, Fructo etc. were changed when the c was removed. A common case is with the Galician and Portuguese word "act," which was originally actu > auto (auto-da-fé). Galician preserved the archaic pronoun che, alternating with te, which is a pronoun dative complement. Its function is analogous to the pronoun lhe in Portuguese, but it is used with the second person singular.


  • Collerche as mans = Colher-te as mãos


The plural llelos (lles + os) is also conserved, and not the common form of the Portuguese standard lhos.


The Galician groupings enclíticos pronouns are also conserved, due to the existence of a "pronoun of solidarity."


  • Non cho teño = Não to tenho = Não tenho isso que queres = I do not have what you want.





  • Names ending in –n, only add -s: Galician: can, cans (Portuguese: cão, cães), Galician: grandón, grandóns, (Portuguese: grandão, grandões), Galician: nación, nacións (Portuguese: nação, nações), Galician: artesán, artesáns (Portuguese:artesão, artesãos).
  • Names ending in –z. Change the –z to –c in plural: Galician: luz, luces (Portuguese: luzes), Galician: veloz, veloces (Portuguese: velozes).
  • Monosyllables ending in –l. The –l remains in plural form: Galician: el, eles (Portuguese: ele, eles), Galician: ril, riles (Portuguese: rim, rins), Galician: vil, viles (Portuguese: vil, vis).




The regular verbs conjugate in a way very similar to Portuguese. But, there are phonetic and/or naming differences. Some peculiarities:


  • The second person plural keeps -d in the ending:
    • Galician: cantades, colledes; partides, andariades; collesedes, partades
    • Portuguese: cantais, colheis; partis, andaríeis; colhésseis, partais
  • The first and second person plurals receive a tonic accent on the ending: andabamos, andabades; colliamos, colliades; partiamos, partiades; collerades, partiredes; andasedes (andávamos, andáveis; colhíamos, colhíeis; partíamos, partíeis; colhereis; partireis; andásseis)
  • The second person singular past tense of the indicative uses the ending -ches: andaches, colliches, partiches (andaste, colheste, partiste), enquanto na 2a do plural do mesmo tempo e modo essa desinência é -stes: andastes, collestes, partistes (andastes, colhestes, partistes)
  • The first person singular preterite indicative of the second and third conjugations have -n in the ending:
    • Galician: collín, partín
    • Portuguese: colhi, parti


Changes in verb conjugations:


  • Eu son vs. Eu sou
  • Vós sodes vs. Vós sois
  • Eles son vs. Eles são
  • Eles falaron vs. Eles falaram


Eu fun = Eu fui


Galician systematically nasalizes the first person of anti past tenses:


  • Collín = colhi
  • Estiven = estive
  • Daí fui > fuin > fun


Other Differences


Accent Graphic


The graphic accentuation of normative Galician does not correspond in large part to Portuguese. It’s closer to the Spanish system.


  • The accentuation of oxítonas occurs in all vowels, even if they are followed by -n, -s ou -ns: mazá, alí, champú, ninguén, corazón, corazóns latíns, comúns.
  • The tonic accent of the vowels i, and u is on hiatus in all instances, unlike what happens in Portuguese: María, túa, aínda, sabía, xuício, baúl. Why not accentuate paroxitone followed diphthong: sabia (sábia), carie (cárie), consecuencia (consequência).




The comparative ca ([do] que), in latin qua > ca, is followed by the dative pronoun and not the personal: máis alto ca min = mais alto que eu.


Castillianisms in Galician


These are numerous, especially in technical or exotic vocabulary. This is due to the situation of diglossia Galician/Spanish Galicia.


Castelhanismos in Portuguese


Certain words of Castilian origin were introduced in Portuguese, while the original form was also preserved in Galician: penha, repolho, castelhano, menino, frente às correspondentes galegas pena, repolo, castelán, meniño.




The syntax of Galician coincides almost entirely with Portuguese. A striking difference is the enclitic pronouns of the future, the present, and the past tense of the indicative: encontrarse (encontrar-se-á), esperaríanos (esperar-nos-ia).


“The similarity between Portuguese and Galician cultures is striking and noticeable, to the point that many scholars do not identify a clear difference between the two brotherly peoples. Regarding the language, for example, it is known that the Portuguese and Galician languages share a relatively recent common origin in Galician-Portuguese and many linguists still consider contemporary Galician and Portuguese contemporaries as two dialects of the same language, what currently claims the reintegracionista movement.”


I hope that my article has removed all doubts between these two languages and now you can write both without mixing them.


Image Sources


Hero Image by Dean Hochman (CC BY 2.0)