Mal vs mau

Mau y Mal en Portugués. Pablo joga mal mas Janos joga muito bem,

Hi folks! How are you doing? Today let’s talk about something that confuses many foreigners: the difference between mal vs mau.

The word Mau in Portuguese

To begin our Portuguese lesson for foreigners, let’s start with the word mau. The word mau (bad) is an adjective, and it’s the opposite of bom (good). Don’t remember what an adjective is? Click on the previous link to learn more. But to help you a little bit: an adjective gives characteristics to a noun.

The word mau has also the feminine form and can be in the singular or plural form, just like bom (and other adjectives).

Take a look at the examples:

Aquele filme é bom.
That movie is good.

Não gosto daquele homem porque ele é mau.
I don’t like that man because he is a bad person.

Mau Masculine singular
Feminine singular
Maus Masculine plural
Más Feminine plural

The word Mal in Portuguese

The word mal (badly) is the opposite of bem (well), an adverb. The adverbs modify the meaning of verbs or another adverbs. Click in the previous link to learn more about it.

Ele fala português muito mal.
She speaks Portuguese badly.

Ela cuida muito mal do carro dela.
She takes care of her car so badly.

The word mal, just like the word bem, is an adverb so they don’t vary in quantity (singular or plural) or gender (masculine or feminine).

Let’s take a look at some structures:

Examples of the difference between mal vs mau

Ele é mau. Não gosto dele.
He is a bad person. I don’t like him.

O cachorro é muito mau.
The dog is really evil.

Aquele garoto é mau: ele bate nas crianças menores.
That boy is mean: He beats up smaller children.

Ele falou mal de você para mim.
He spoke badly of you to me.

Ele cuida muito mal dos livros.
He takes care of his books so badly.

Ele trata mal as pessoas. Não tem educação. Que rude!
He treats people badly. He is not polite. What a rude person!

Let’s pronounce mal vs mau! 

Now take a look at the table below, and learn how to pronunce each word.


That’s the difference between mau and mal in Portuguese, let’s practice a little?

Now it’s your turn!

Use the words mau and mal to complete the sentences correctly.

  1. O português dele é muito _______________.
  2. Carla é uma boa motorista mas seu marido, João, dirige _______________.
  3. Nós temos trabalhado _______________ por isso temos conseguido _______________ resultados.
  4. _______________ posso esperar para encontrar com você de novo.
  5. Eu tenho medo do mar porque nado muito _______________.
  6. Você foi um bom ou um _______________ aluno na escola?
  7. Juliana sempre foi uma _______________ estudante em matemática, sempre tirava notas ruins.
  8. Eles não dançam tão _______________ quando bebem cervejas ou caipirinhas.
  9. Meu português está muito _______________, preciso estudar mais.
  10. Luana cozinha super _______________! Não sabia que ele era tão _______________ cozinheira.

That’s it, now you know how to use mau vs mal! We hope you have enjoyed this Portuguese Dica for foreigners. If you have any more doubts, have online Portuguese classes with us. We are waiting for you.

See you! If you miss us, come see our smiling faces on our Facebook!
Hugs from Rio & Learn!

Ler esta Dica em Português   Leer esta Dica en Español
Click in the links below to see more related Dicas
Adjectives in Portuguese
Common adverbs in Portuguese
Difference between bom e bem in Portuguese
Verbo ser (To be)

Answers of the exercise about mal vs mau

  1. mau
  2. mal
  3. mal / maus
  4. Mal
  5. mal
  6. mau
  7. mal
  8. mau
  9. mal / má

This post is also available in: English Português (Portuguese) Español (Spanish)

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