Brazilians can be bizarre creatures: from starting sentences with “sim, não!” to saying they walk by bus (andar de ônibus). That can make it quite difficult for anyone to understand them. Yet because they are attuned to the same bizarre frequency, they live their lives as if all of it was just… normal. So today we’ll be trying to make some sense out of the expression pois não in Portuguese and understand its meaning. What does it mean? When do people say it? And how do you pronounce it? Let’s find out!
Pois Não in Portuguese and Its Meaning
Imagine this: you are in a shoe store, trying to buy yourself a pair of havaianas, but you can’t find them! Perhaps it’s time to ask for some help. You approach a salesperson, muster all your Portuguese and ask them:
– Pode me mostrar onde estão as havaianas?
– Can you show me where the havaianas are?
– Pois não.
How rude of them! Denying to help a potential client like that! How dare they? But, wait a second, are they walking away too? Are salespeople in Brazil insane? Oh, they’re coming back with a pair of havaianas… What’s going on? Let me explain it to you!
Contrary to what it may seem, pois não is not really used as a negative response to something. In fact, it’s the opposite of that: pois não is a polite form of sim in Portuguese. That is, pois não would be the equivalent to “yes” or “sure” in English. That poor salesperson was trying to help you all along. Brazilians are not that crazy!
Examples of Pois Não in Portuguese
– Senhor, você pode me ajudar?
– Pois não. Em que posso te ajudar?
– Sir, can you help me?
– Sure. How can I help you?
– Professor, posso ir ao banheiro?
– Pois não. Corre lá.
– Teacher, may I go to the bathroom?
– Sure. Go quickly.
– Estou perdida. Não consigo achar meu hostel. Sabe como chegar lá?
– Pois não. Pegue o metrô naquela estação ali e desça na General Osório.
– I’m lost. I can’t find my hostel. Do you know how I can get there?
– Yes. Take the subway from that station over there and hop off at General Osório.
Review Your Pronunciation!
Pois sim or Pois não?
So, you probably expect that pois sim also means yes, right? Well, it’s actually the contrary of pois não! Pois sim is used often in an extremely negative or even ironic way. Since pois não was is a very polite way to say yes to someone, it didn’t take long for people to use the opposite words with irony. Those Brazilians, am I right? Let’s take a look at this example to illustrate:
– Acho que você deveria dar um aumento para João.
– Claro, vou dar um aumento para quem não faz nada, pois sim!
– I think you should give João a raise.
– Yes, I will give a raise for someone that does nothing, sure!
Exercises with the Meaning of Pois Não
Read the short dialogues below and decide whether or not their use of pois não makes sense for their meaning:
- Oi, senhor. Você pode me dizer onde fica a farmácia?
Pois não. É só seguir a rua e virar na próxima esquerda.
- João, eu não entendi essa questão do dever de casa. Pode me ajudar?
Pois não. Estou ocupado. Pergunta para o Guilherme.
- Com licença, estou procurando a seção de calçados.
Pois não. Eu te levo até lá. É só me seguir.
That’s it, guys! We’ve not just learned the meaning of pois não in Portuguese, but have also looked at some examples and even practiced our pronunciation! If you want to watch more of our videos, check out our YouTube channel!
See you in our next Dica!
Kisses from Rio de Janeiro!
- That’s correct. It makes total sense to use pois não here. The person is willing to help and gave directions to the nearest drugstore.
- This doesn’t make any sense. You use pois não when you’re answering positively to something. João decided his time was too precious to help his classmate. He should have just said não instead.
- That’s correct. The person who said pois não made sure to help and show the other where to find footwear.