Portuguese False friends



In the Portuguese language we have many False Friends, these are words that look similar to English words, but mean something else completely different!

For example, did you know that bife actually means steak in English?

Or that puxe means pull and esquisito means weird!

Don’t tell your neighbour that his house is exquisite or he might think you are insulting him…

Here are a few false friends in action!

Assistir vs Assist

Assistir means to watch something. If you want to say assist in Portuguese, you have to say ajudar.

Eu assisti ao jogo de futebol (I watched the football game).

O gerente de loja ajudou o cliente (The store manager assisted the client).

Atender vs Attend

Atender means to pick up the phone or to take care of a client. If you want to say attend, you have to say participar.

Ela atendeu o telefone (She picked up the phone).

Eu participei na conferência (I attended the conference).

Atualmente vs Actually

Atualmente means nowadays. Actually, in Portuguese is Na verdade.

Atualmente, temos mais electrodomésticos do que antigamente (these days we have more electrical appliances than in the olden days.)

Na verdade, eu gostaria de ir convosco (Actually, I would like to go with you).

Balcão vs Balcony

Balcão is a counter, while Balcony is Varanda in Portuguese.

O pagamento é efetuado ao balcão (Payment is made at the counter).

A casa tem uma varanda com uma vista magnífica (The house has a balcony with an amazing view).

Bife vs Beef

This is often misused.. Bife actually means steak in English, can be a turkey steak even, or a tuna steak. Beef is carne de vaca.

Ontem, eu comi bife de peru grelhado (Yesterday, I ate grilled turkey steak).

Eu não como carne de vaca (I don’t eat beef).

Colar vs Collar

Collar in Portuguese is coleira or gola. Colar means necklace (or to glue)

A coleira do cão é vermelha (The dog’s collar is red).

Uma blusa de gola alta (A polar neck top).

O teu colar é de ouro? (Is your necklace gold?).

Colégio vs College

Colégio means private school. If you want to say college, you should say Faculdade.

Ela andou num colégio até ao 12º ano (She went to a private school until 12th grade).

Ela agora anda na faculdade (Now she goes to college).

Convicto vs Convict

A convict is preso or prisioneiro, in Portuguese. Convicto means certain.

Ele estava convicto de que ia ganhar (He was certain he was going to win).

O prisioneiro foi levado para a prisão (The convict was taken to jail).

Data vs Data

Data in English will be dados in Portuguese. Data in Portuguese means date.

A data está marcada (The date is saved)

Podia inserir os seus dados neste questionário (Could you insert your data (details) into this questionnaire)?

Dente vs Dent

Dente means tooth. Dent is in Portuguese is amolgadela.

Dói-me o dente (My tooth hurts).

O meu carro tem uma amolgadela (my car has a dent).

Estrangeiro vs Stranger

Estrangeiro means foreigner. If you want to refer to a stranger, you have to use the word estranho

Aquele rapaz é estrangeiro (That boy is a foreigner).

Proibido a entrada de estranhos ( entrance of stranger prohibited)

Esperto vs Expert

Esperto is someone smart. When wanting to say Expert, the equivalent in Portuguese is especialista.

Ela é esperta (She is smart).

Ele é um especialista no assunto (He is an expert in the matter).

Esquisito vs Exquisite

Two very similar words, but esquisito means weird. Fenomenal is the equivalent to Exquisite.

A senhora é um pouco esquisita (The lady is a bit weird). 

A comida Portuguesa é refinada/ fenomenal (The food is exquisite).

Enrolar vs Enroll

Enrolar means to roll something. If you want to say Enroll, you have to use the word inscrever-se.

Eu enrolei o fio do computador para o guardar (I rolled the computer cable to put it away).

Eu inscrevi-me no curso online de Português (I enrolled in the Portuguese online course).

Eventualmente vs Eventually

Eventualmente means maybe. Eventually should be translated as Finalmente.

Eventualmente, poderei comprar um carro (Maybe, I can buy a car).

Nós quase não conseguimos registar. Mas, finalmente, conseguimos (We almost couldn’t register, but eventually could)!

Êxito vs Exit

Êxito means success in Portuguese. Exit is saída.

A festa foi um êxito (The party was a success)!

A saída é por ali (The exit is that way).

Fábrica vs Fabric

Fábrica is a factory. If you are looking for Fabric, you should say tecido.

A fábrica de automóveis é muito grande (The car factory is very big).

O tecido é macio (The fabric is soft).

Jarra vs Jar

Jarra is a jug. Jar is boião.

Que linda jarra de flores (What a beautiful flower jug).

Põe o doce nesse boião (Put the jam in that jar).

Legenda vs Legend

Legenda means subtitles or captions. Legend is lenda.

Leio a  legenda do filme para aprender melhor (I read the film subtitles to learn better)

O Zorro era uma lenda (Zorro was a legend).

Livraria vs Library

Livraria means bookshop. Library is biblioteca.

Eu vou à livraria comprar um livro (I am going to the bookshop to buy a book).

Eu vou à biblioteca levantar um livro (I am going to the library to pick up a book).

Lanche vs Lunch

Lanche is the snack that Portuguese people normally have between lunch and dinner. Lunch is almoço in Portuguese.

Queres fazer uma pausa para o lanche? (Do you want to take a break for a snack?)

O almoço está pronto (Lunch is ready).

Notícia vs Notice

Notícia is the news. Notice is aviso, in Portuguese.

Ela soube pelas notícias (she found out via the news)

Havia um aviso na porta (There was a notice on the door).

Novela vs Novel

Novela is a soap opera. A novel is a Romance, in Portuguese.

A novela tinha muito drama (The soap opera had a lot of drama).

O Romance falava de um grande amor (The novel was about a great love story).

Parentes vs Parents

Parentes means relatives. Parents, in Portuguese is Pais.

Tenho muitos parentes (I have many relatives)

Os meus pais vêm visitar-me amanhã (My parents are coming to visit me tomorrow).

Pasta vs Pasta

Pasta, in Portuguese means briefcase or folder.  But pasta, something you can eat, you say massa.

Ela guardou os documentos na pasta (She kept the documents in the folder).

Eles comeram massa com vegetais (They ate pasta with vegetables).

Pretender vs Pretend

Pretender is to intend to do something. Pretend, in Portuguese, is fingir or fazer de conta.

Eu pretendo dizer-lhe a verdade (I intend to tell you the truth).

Ele fingiu que estava a dormir (He pretended to be asleep).

Puxar vs Push

Puxar does not mean to push. It means to pull. To push is empurrar.

Eu puxei a porta (I pulled the door).

Tem de empurrar a porta para entrar (You need to push the door to enter).

Sensível vs Sensible

Sensível means sensitive. Sensible in Portuguese is Sensato.

Ele é uma pessoa sensível (He is a sensitive person).

Fizeste uma escolha sensata (You made a sensible choice).

Taxa vs Tax

Taxes are impostos, in Portuguese. Taxa means fee.

Eu pago uma taxa para poder estacionar aqui (I pay a fee so that I can park here).

Eu pago o imposto automóvel todos os anos (I pay the car tax every year).

That was just a few examples, there are many more. You can click here to see an extensive list, this list can be downloaded to your device.

You might want to take a look at cognates too! Words you already know!


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