Tá Falado

May 12, 2007

Grammar Lesson 2: Contractions, Getting Change From A Machine

Filed under: Grammar — @ 9:46 am

Can you believe how many contractions Portuguese has: nesse, num, do, naquele, aos, pelo, etc. The list goes on and on. When speakers of Spanish catch on to these contractions, sentences become instantly easier to understand. And that, of course, is what Orlando, Michelle, Valdo, and José Luís hope to do with today’s lesson on contractions.

At the same time, culturally, Valdo and Michelle found it hard to find their change that automatically fell out of a machine at the supermarket. Sure enough, that would be a new experience for visitors from Brazil.

PODCAST LINK: Grammar Lesson 2


  1. Wonderful PDF transcript! Thanks a lot!

    Comment by Edo — May 14, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

  2. It’s quite a daunting list, isn’t it!

    Comment by orkelm — May 14, 2007 @ 7:48 pm

  3. You bring up an interesting idea that it is easier for Portuguese speakers to understand Spanish than for Spanish speakers to understand Portuguese; mentioning the “millions” of contractions as being part of this reality. Perhaps you have touched on a possible lesson direction that focuses on the other factors that make Portuguese so much more difficult to be understood by Spanish speakers.

    Meanwhile, little by little with those incredible lists!


    Edward Schiffer

    Comment by Edward W. Schiffer — May 15, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  4. Ed,
    We haven’t mentioned it, but another thing that makes it easier for Portuguese speakers is how they developed from Latin. Portuguese lost a number of consonants that remain in Spanish (tener – ter, poner – por, venir – vir, dolor – dor, luna – lua, color – cor, etc.) I’m sure that when Brazilians hear luna, color, and dolor, they understand all of those words. I imagine that Spanish speakers have a much harder time when they hear Brazilians say lua, cor, and dor. Anyway, combine that with the contractions and you start to see why it is harder for Spanish speakers to understand Portuguese. At least that’s one of my best guesses.

    Comment by orkelm — May 15, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

  5. That cultural note is TOTALLY on target. Great one!! This was certainly an experience I had visiting Brazil.

    Comment by Jason Weden — May 28, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  6. Jason,
    Correct, keep the coins and the 5’s, 10’s, and 20’s because change is hard to come by!

    Comment by orkelm — May 29, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

  7. Hm, agora entendo por que as pessoas que falam espanhol não conseguem entender o português while as pessoas que falam português conseguem entender quite a bit. Yeah, tem many contractions in Portuguese. Ugh.

    Comment by Lisa Martinez — August 29, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  8. Tenho estudado portugues somente ums semestres, mas ja quero usar as contracoes como ‘na’ e ‘pelo’ nas aulas do espanhol.

    Comment by Chris Morley — August 30, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

  9. E obrigatorio fazer as contracoes? As vezes vejo “em um” o
    de um”.

    Comment by Monica Mitre — August 30, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  10. I love hearing Michelle speaking! It’s not difficult to understand when she speaks as she does so at a normal pace and in a very clear way. I also learn a new word today: caixa

    Comment by Cynthia Z — August 30, 2007 @ 7:28 pm

  11. Goste da lista, e útil para poder falar e entender melhor porque e verdade que Português tem mais contraçãos que o Espanhol. Mais ainda tenho dificuldade com disse, deaquele, nesse, neste, nessa, e naquela. Eu acho que a coisa cultural e uma coisa de America Latina. Em mihna experencia no Brasil, não foi assim- dificil de trocar o dinhiero.

    Comment by Elisa — August 30, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

  12. Absolutamente excelente! As contrações são, na minha opinião, muitos difícis guarder ao início. O quadro das contrações contido no PDF é um recurso excelente que bem apresenta a diversidade, complexidade e formação das contrações portuguesas. Depois de estudar este quadro, qualquer estudante de português terá um entendimento acadêmico e prático mais esclarecimento das contrações portuguesas. Ótimo trabalho, gente!

    Comment by dmonzingo — August 30, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  13. Tem vezes quando não é necessário usar uma contração?

    Comment by Amelia Crawford — August 30, 2007 @ 11:09 pm

  14. Gosto muito que o português usa tantas contrações. Quando as usa, a conversação é muito mais rápido e soa meior. Como tem tantos pode ser difícil entender a alguém se não os conhece bom, mas quando as aprende a vida é muito mais fácil.

    As maquininhas que lhe dão o troco me confundíam também a primeira vez que as viu—pensei que estavam robando meu troco.

    Não sabia que em Brasil muitas veces o caixa não tem troco para bilhetes grandes. Nos estados unidos a gente espera que o caixa tem troco e se ponem loucos se não o tem. É muito útil saber isso.

    Comment by Kellsey K — August 31, 2007 @ 12:10 am

  15. Very good lessons. I am currently trying to learn different languages with co-workers (“Cantonese, Italian”), but Portuguese I’m trying to learn because it’s my interest in working over in Brazil. I want to finish my Master Degree First.
    I have a question though, it’s that I cannot hear clearly if the speaker it’s saying an o or a u in each word. Some of them sound like an o and some of them sound like a u. For example: Sinto muito eu ter batido a porta do carro. Also last sentence. My first language is Spanish. Thank You for these lessons they are great.

    Comment by Omar Sánchez — December 4, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  16. Omar,
    Your ears are not wrong. The letter “o” at the end of a word sounds like “u”. If you go to our pronunciation lesson #2, we have a whole podcast on that topic. Boa sorte,

    Comment by orkelm — December 4, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  17. These contractions are kind of tricky to understand and incorporate at first, but they become second nature in time.
    In my experience with speakers of Brazilian Portuguese, they seldom use “dum, duma, duns, dumas” or “num, numa, nuns, numas”. I observed the same thing when I was in Brazil. I asked my Brazilian friend about it, and he told me that, other than in written materials, it isn’t common. The other contractions I have found to be common, and (I’m fairly certain) obligatory.
    This (non-usage of “num”, “dum” and its related forms) may be somewhat regional… I’m not sure. All my time in Brazil has been spent in the state of São Paulo (most in the interior).
    It would be intresting to hear Michelle’s and Valdo’s thoughts on this. 🙂

    Comment by Marlene — March 21, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  18. Right Marlene, where “no, na, nos, nas” are obligatory, “dum, duma, num, numa, etc” are optional. Your general observations from São Paulo apply throughout the whole country.

    Comment by orkelm — March 21, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  19. Estudei a tabela das contrações, e encontrei, na tabela para a palavra ‘de’ as contrações dum, duma, duns, e dumas. Fiquei interesado porque nunca ouvi (pelo menos, não me lembro ouvir) essas contrações faladas. Quase tenho certeza, porque sempre ouvia o som da palavra ‘de’ antes de ‘um’ ou ‘uma,’ o som definido. Os falantes estavam falando errado, ou talvez seja uma diferença entre a língua falada e a língua escrita? Ou eu ouvi errado?

    Comment by Clyde Sheble — August 27, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

  20. The contractions used in Portuguese definitely make speaking easier and faster, but for a non-native listener it can sound as though all of the words are running together. I can see why the contractions are used; it’s much easier to say ‘no’ instead of articulating ’em o,’ which tends to run together on its own anyway.

    On the cultural point, I have yet to visit Brazil but experienced similar difficulties with using large bills during my stay in Argentina. I ate a lot of penny candy that semester.

    Comment by Golden Dale — August 27, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

  21. Thank you for the lesson.
    I confirmed the veracity of this lesson after I came back from Brazil. I showed some pictures to some Mexican friends and in one picture there was a wall with a message that said “no Brasil,” which means “en el Brasil” in Spanish, but one of my friends thought the contraction “no” meant “not” in English. Then I explained him that it was not a negative it was a contraction and it meant “en el Brasil.” Personally, Portugues became easier once I learned the contractions.


    Comment by Eduardo Gonzalez — August 28, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  22. I am also wondering about the dum, duma, etc. contractions. I have seen it in grammar books, but have been told not to use it by Brazilian professors. I am going to be working with several people from Portugal this year, though, and am wondering if I should use it for communications with them?
    Also, I know this isn’t a Spanish class, but I thought it was interesting that the Spanish translation was “en el Brasil.” In Mexico, I have always heard simply “en Brasil,” without the article, so I’m wondering if this is a North America / South America difference?

    Comment by Erin Daley — August 28, 2008 @ 9:39 pm

  23. Eu vi o filme “Cidade de Deus,” e tentei ler os subtitulos no espanhol. Eu ficava um pouco confundido, porque a velocidade das pessoas falavam foi mais ràpido que eu pude ler. Eu acho que isso foi porque eu estava tentando ler os subtitulos como eram espanhol, sem entender o uso dos contrações.

    Comment by Eric — August 28, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

  24. This is very true, Brazilians like to facilitate things and take shortcuts. Spanish to me comes easy because of it, but at times there is much difficulty because I want to follow portuguese rules and just shorten everything.

    Comment by Liana Depew — August 28, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  25. I noticed that the contraction de + um/a aren’t written but are spoken. I was chatting with a Brazilian friend online and typed some sentence using the phrase dum and he asked me what it meant. I also never saw it in the short cronicas.

    Comment by Ebony Jackson — August 28, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

  26. Contrações: preposição (em, por, a, de) mais artigo definido e indefinido (número e gênero), mais pronomes pessoais do caso reto e oblíquos, demosntrativos. O uso da contração é obrigatório? Não, mas é indicado, especialmente, quando simplifica a pronuncia, e, também, da escolha do autor da prosa. É muito amplo esse assunto. É bom separar as contrações por preposições, pois há casos que a preposição não tem contração, pois falta o artigo, por exemplo, etc.

    Comment by teresa menin — January 8, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

  27. The tendency to make contractions out of so many words makes it rather difficult for a speaker of Spanish to understand a speaker of Portuguese. Moreover, I feel that learning Spanish before Portuguese has made it harder to pick up the beginnings, as well as endings, of spoken words in the latter language because I often misinterpret commonly-used contractions to be either another word, or a part of the word it is meant to act with. Contractions are going to take some time to become accustomed to.

    Comment by Will — May 11, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

  28. I think the contractions are a really interesting part of Portuguese. Although, I have to say that I still find myself thrown off by “em + o” –> “no”. My first instinct is always to read that as a Spanish/English “no” — and I have to stop and think about it. I’m getting used to it though.

    Comment by Mary Slosar — July 1, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  29. I think that contractions in Portuguese are more user friendly and easier to hear that contractions in spoken English,.. I remember having a hard time hearing things like “I’d” “whatcha” etc.

    Comment by Carlos Barrera — July 12, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  30. Somewhere I learned that Portuguese speakers can understand Spanish speakers (more so than vice versa) because Spanish sounds like a contracted Portuguese with less vowels. So it’s interesting to learn that Portuguese contractions can also make it more difficult for Spanish speakers.

    Comment by Kanitra Fletcher — July 14, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  31. sempre é interesante ovir as diferencias entre o espanhol e portuguese, especialemnte os contrações. mais existam situaçoes que não combinem as palavras?

    Comment by Barbara Fox — January 26, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  32. Tem alguma outra maneira para dizer “cashier” em português? No princípio, o diálogo me confundiu bastante porque enquanto Michelle observa que nos Estados Unidos “as moedas caem das maquininhas que ficam ao lado do caixa (cash register)”, Valdo responde que “nos supermercados brasileiros a gente recebe todo o troco dos próprios caixas (cashiers). Embora eu achasse que eles estavam dizendo a mesma coisa, percebi a diferença só quando vi as palavras “caja” (cash register) e “cajero” (cashier) em espanhol para distinguir as duas idéias. Por exemplo, a palavra “dependente” (cashier) seria uma boa maneira de evitar esta confusão entre “caixa” (cash register) e “caixa” (cashier)? É uma palavra corrente? Ou dependeria do tipo de “cashier”?

    Em espanhol, eu diria que “cajero” e “dependiente” querem dizer a mesma coisa, só que “dependiente” seria mais corrente na Espanha e talvez “cajero” no resto do mundo latinoamericano (mas pode ser que eu esteja generalizando um pouquinho).

    Comment by Eric Solomon — January 26, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  33. Tenho uma pregunta…Há uma diferença quando você usa o preposição “em” com este(s), essa(s), aquele(s), e aquela(s) não é? Porque eu não entendi quando você pode usar o artigo ‘este/essa’ ou ‘aquele/aquela’ e eu não entendi a diferença com os dois.

    Comment by Lindsey Hernandez — January 27, 2010 @ 1:00 am

  34. Obrigado para todos as gravações, mas podemos usar todos os contrações na escrita formal? Ou só é aceitável na fala? Que são outras contraçoes na fala coloquial? Eu gostaria de aprender um pouco mais da gíria.

    Comment by Benjamin Echelson — January 27, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  35. Uma pregunta, os brasileiros falado “duma/ duns” ou somente escrito?

    Comment by Swetha Nulu — January 28, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  36. I cannot open the pdf file, and I would love to follow the listening of the podcast with the transcript, especially with these crazy contractions! any help?

    Comment by Florencia — February 3, 2010 @ 6:50 am

  37. Bom video, eu nunca soube que o português tem muitas contrações

    Comment by David Cervantes — February 1, 2011 @ 2:20 am

  38. Uma pregunta, in the first line of dialogue the word “né” is translated to Spanish as “verdad.” Is “verdade” not used, or is there some rule when to use it when you would use “verdad” in Spanish? Obrigado!

    Comment by Josh — February 1, 2011 @ 11:36 am

  39. It really does make sense to make contradictions. Now that I know the contradictions, it’s so much easier to understand Portuguese when people speak!

    Comment by Arianne Moran — February 1, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  40. Obrigado por explicar “pelo”. Eu não sabia que é uma regra.

    Comment by Harrison Harvey — February 1, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  41. Gosto deste programa! Os conversas são MUITO útil. Gosto desta lição porque contrações são muito difícil para mim. Entendo o conceito, mas não posso ouvir os contracões nas conversas. Vocé deve fazer uma lição adicional sobre este tema para mais prática. Obrigado!

    Comment by Samantha Shaw — February 1, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  42. Is it possible to get a list of the main vocabulary words for each podcast? I try to write down the words I don’t know but don’t always know how to spell them or if I’m getting the definition correctly. Thanks!

    Comment by Robin — February 1, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  43. Robin,
    Every lesson has a PDF file that goes with it and you can download that to get a written transcript of everything.
    Interesting observation, and you are right. Brazilians do not use “verdade” as a tag question the way that Spanish speakers use “verdad?”

    Comment by orkelm — February 1, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

  44. Foi muito interesante. Eu senti a mesma coisa na Argentina!

    Comment by Zachary Anderson — February 2, 2011 @ 9:17 am

  45. Obrigado por a lição! Quando comecei o estudo do português, o entendimento das contrações foi uma parte muita difícil. A tabela me ajuda muito!

    Comment by Eric Nikolaides — February 2, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  46. Thanks for these dialogues, which are very helpful and which encourage me to pose a question. Your PDF list of contractions has de + um = dum and de + uma = duma. My problem is that I have often come across “de um” or “de uma”. Just to make sure that I wasn’t making it up, I went to “Catecismo da Igreja Católica” publlished by the Conferência nacional dos bispos do Brasil. Sure enough, I found many uncontracted forms. For example, “Com efeito, para falar com simplicidade, apesar de a razão humana poder verdadeiramente, pelas suas forças e luz naturais, chegar a um conhecimento verdadeiro e certo de um Deus pessoal, que protege e governa o mundo pela sua providência, bem como de uma lei natural inscrita pelo Criador nas nossas almas, há, contudo, bastantes …” Why “de um Deus pessoal” and not “dum Deus pessoal” and why “de uma lei natural” and not “duma lei natural”? Is it a matter of formal versus informal usage? Or is it a matter of personal preference? What is going on? Many thanks.

    Comment by Martin Hilbert — April 12, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

  47. Hi Martin,

    Good eye. In fact, the contraction of prepositions with “um” and “uma” are optional. Contractions with definite articles are not optional in Portuguese, e.g., no livro, na casa, nos livros, nas casas. But they are optional with indefinite articles, e.g., num livro or em um livro, numa casa or em uma casa, nuns livros or em uns livros, numas casas or em umas casas.

    So, you can either say dum Deus pessoal or de um Deus pessoal.

    Comment by orkelm — April 15, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

  48. Hello! First I want to say THANK YOU your lessons are amazing and have improved my Portuguese tremendously. I live in São Paulo and am constantly confused by the contraction of “de” with the definite article. I have been taught that it becomes a contraction when the noun following is specific. For example, “Eu dou aulas de história,” MAS “Eu dou aulas da história brasileira.” However, expressions like “Pelo amor de Deus” seem to contradict this rule, as there is only one Deus. Why is it not “pelo amor do Deus,” for example? I would appreciate knowing your insights. Thank you!

    Comment by Carrie — January 2, 2015 @ 9:28 am

  49. Hi Carrie,
    Ah yes, and once you think you’ve got it figured out, you’ll leave São Paulo and find out that things will change in other parts of the country too!
    As to your example, notice that if you were to say something like, “pelo amor do Deus poderoso” you’d be speaking about a specific “powerful God.” So, your rule still kind of works.

    Comment by orkelm — January 4, 2015 @ 5:49 pm

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