Hard Words in Portuguese

3 de April de 2021

Welcome back, dear student! Whether you’re a native English speaker, or grew up speaking Spanish: sooner or later you’re bound to run into some hard-to-pronounce Portuguese words. But how do you nail their pronunciation? And what are some words non-natives often struggle with? Listen to one of our native teachers pronouncing these tricky words, read along, and then try to say it yourself!

Near Impossible Vowels

If you’re a Spanish speaker, this is most likely your worst nightmare. Your girlfriend just told you she wants to visit her grandma (avó)… or was it her grandpa (avô)? That’s no big difference, so who cares? Well, maybe you will when you start switching your cocos for cocôs. So let’s take a look into the vowel sounds that you can find in some hard words to say in Portuguese.

example of hard words in portuguese: você prefere água de coco ou suco?
avó – grandma
coco – coconut
cocô – poo
pão – bread
pau – stick / dick
maçã – apple
coração – heart
mãe – mother
pais – parents
país – country

Don’t worry though! I did mention they were near impossible – but that near just means that you can do it! The key is to train your ear to recognize these sounds. So listen to these audios, and every Brazilian movie and music you can find! Once you’re able to differentiate them, pronouncing them will be a lot easier, too! You can check out this Dica to find out more about vowel pronunciation in Portuguese.

Near Impossible Consonants

Now, in Portuguese, we love to use the same consonants to represent a multitude of different sounds. So, yes, the letter X has about five different sounds, the Portuguese R can be pronounced two different ways and don’t let me get started on the letter S. These are all quite difficult to get used to when you’re reading something out loud, but trust me, it’s not as horrible when you just hear them! Listen to these hard words to say in Portuguese and see if you can say them yourself:

example with hard words in portuguese: você prefere churrasco ou hambúrguer?
perigoso – dangerous
preguiçoso – lazy
hambúrguer – hamburger
exceção – exception
lagartixa – lizard
justiça – justice
jeito – way / manner
trocadilho – word play
coelho – rabbit
mergulhar – to dive
engolir – to swallow
exemplo – example
tranquilo – chill
rural – rural
enxaqueca – migraine

I hope that you paid attention to those consonants! Can you pronounce lhnh and j in Portuguese? And how’s your S with Z sound doing?

Hard Words to Say in Portuguese with a Carioca Accent

Here’s the deal: not everybody who speaks Portuguese speaks the same way. Although that may be obvious, what you may not know is that the carioca accent, despite being beautiful, can be a little bit trickier to learn if you’re a foreigner. In Rio de Janeiro, we like to pronounce d and t differently from the rest of the country. Instead of a hard sound, like you may hear in the Northeast of Brazil or even amongst Spanish speakers, cariocas opt for a dj and a tch sound instead, especially at the end of a word. Check this out:

leite – milk
dente – tooth
dinheiro – money
dinâmica – dynamic
direito – right / correct
dinastia – dynasty
tio – uncle
tenente – lieutenant
enchente – flood

Are you carioca enough to master those? And are you curious to hear what other accents are like in Portuguese? Check out this video.

Portuguese Words that are Difficult to Spell

Now that you know all about pronouncing difficult words, let’s dive a little deeper! Have you ever wondered which Portuguese words are difficult to write? Don’t worry, we are here to help you! We’ll list a few of these words as well as their meaning. Most of these words are hard to write because people often mix up some letters, like x and ch, s and ss, g and j, z and s!

example of difficult words in portuguese: você consegue enxergar a praia?
EnxergarTo see
MexerTo move
JiboiaBoa constrictor
DirigirTo drive

Now it’s your turn!

Maybe you’re sitting there right now wondering: “When are they going to get to the real hard stuff?”. The time is now! We at Rio & Learn challenge you to record yourselves trying to pronounce these words! You can also call up your friends and see how well they fare with these hard words in Portuguese. Ready?

verossimilhança – likelihood
liquidificador – blender
otorrinolaringologista – otolaryngologist

How hard were those to pronounce? I hope you had fun anyway! See you in the next Dica!
Bye bye!

Click in the links below to see more related Dicas
The Portuguese Alphabet
Portuguese R
Portuguese L
Vowels in Portuguese