BETTER Alternatives for Basic Portuguese Phrases

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

Are you still using super basic sentences you learnt in a phrase book, but want to sound more like a local?

If you are sick of using the same old tired phrases when you are practising your conversation skills in Portuguese, this blog article is going to give you an upgrade.

A boring old “bom dia” is only going to get you so far… if you really want to start sounding natural in Portuguese get ready for better alternatives to the most basic phrases you are currently using.

I cover this and a whole lot more in my free one-hour lesson for beginners – so if you’re ready to get the ultimate quick-start guide to Portuguese conversation, go ahead and register for the session!

And if we haven’t yet met yet, my name is Liz. I’m a Brit living a life I LOVE in Lisbon and I help people who are moving to Portugal build their confidence and conversation skills in European Portuguese so they can live Portugal at its best.

Let’s dive into these phrases:

Saying hello (informal)

So the most common thing people would say is “Olá, como estás?” (Hello, how are you?)

You can use these instead:

→ Boas, está tudo?

This is kind of short for saying “está tudo bem contigo” (is everything good with you?) and a more natural, common way people would speak.

→Conta coisas! 

This literally translates as “tell things”, and in this context means “tell me how everything is” or “tell me what you’ve been up to.”

Saying goodbye 

So how can we replace that boring old Adeus?

→ Até mais! (Goodbye)

This is an abbreviation which refers to “até mais tarde” (until later on).

Saying you’re welcome

When people say “thank you” you might find yourself saying “De nada” (You’re welcome). So how can we replace this?

→ Não tem de quê! (You’re welcome) 

Basically, this is saying “there is no reason to thank me” / “no need to thank me”.

Saying goodnight

What about replacing a simple “Boa noite” (Good night) when someone is going to bed? You could say instead:

→ Dorme bem! (Sleep well)

Other common phrases:

I bet you are using this constantly…

Desculpe, pode repetir? (Excuse me, can you say that again?)

Or maybe you say:

Desculpe, não percebi. (I’m sorry, I didn’t get that)

These are for when you are stuck in a conversation and you didn’t understand what has been said, so you need the person to repeat. Well, there is a tiny little word we can use here that works for both formal and informal situations:

→ Diga? (Say it again?)

This comes from the verb “dizer” meaning to say and it’s kind of like you’re asking someone to say it again. It’s such a simple, easy word and it sounds much more natural than saying those long sentences. 

What about if you are asking for help with something? You might say… “Preciso de ajuda” (I need help).

But a cute, informal way to ask someone to give you a hand would be:

→ Dá-me uma mãozinha? (Would you lend me a hand?)

It literally means “give me a little hand” and because your intonation is going up at the end, it shows that this is a question.

Something else you probably say very often when you just don’t know something is “Não sei.” (I don’t know)

A little more sophisticated way to say this would be:

→ Não faço ideia. (I have no idea)

What about if you are hungry and want a different way of saying this?

“Tenho fome.” (I’m hungry)

It’s a really cute sentence:

→ Estou com a barriga a dar horas. (I’m hungry)

This means that your tummy is telling you it’s time, but the equivalent in English is probably something along the lines of “my tummy is rumbling”. Always makes me think of winnie the pooh!

So what about if someone is annoyed or in a bad mood? Normally, you’d say:

Ele/a está chateado/a. (He/She is in a bad mood)

But here’s a different way to describe it:

→ (Ele/Ela) Acordou com os pés fora da cama.

This literally means “he or she woke up with their feet out of the bed” but we’d probably say in English “he or she woke up on the wrong side of the bed”. 

Lastly, if you want to wish somebody luck, you’d say:

Boa sorte! (Good luck)

But you can also say:

→ Vou fazer figas! (Good luck)

This is a completely different way of saying it, it means “I’m going to cross my fingers”.

I hope these upgrades to your basic phrases were helpful! 

Don’t forget to watch the video to hear me pronounce these words in Portuguese. I also have a free pronunciation guide you can use to get started that will help you master the 7 most difficult sounds in European Portuguese, you can download it here. 

If you want more insight into the way real Portuguese people speak on the streets then you should definitely find out more about working with me inside my Portuguese Pro program for beginners – we break down a ton of real-life situations and focus on these types of phrases that will make you sound just like a native when speaking Portuguese. 

My free lesson for beginners is where you will find all the information you need, I would LOVE to see you there. 

Beijinhos e até à próxima,


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There are 2 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.


  1. Hi Liz
    I’ve been trying to learn Portuguese for some time now and finding it very difficult especially as the locals speak English and very fast at that I would love to be able to converse in Portuguese but I seem to lack confidence in case I make a fool of myself

  2. A clear and helpful article, and I can’t wait to use these tips. I will be looking into Liz’s lesson, but as an American, I hope the pronunciation tips translates across our accents into Portuguese sounds I can hear and make.


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