Posted in English

101 Transgressions

502xSo I got this book “101 Erros de Português que Acabam Com a Sua Credibilidade” (Available on Amazon | Bertrand) , which is really, really *not* aimed at estrangeiros like me, so a good deal of it either went over my head or seemed like something I could ignore safely. but I thought I’d go through it and list out the errors that are worth remembering. I’ll leave out the obvious idiocies – the portuguese equivalent of saying “He asked pacifically how big the specific ocean was” – and also the very fancy, finer-points-of-the-language stuff and just stick to listing out the ones that might be useful to refer back to later.

Ordinal numbers – because portuguese uses primeiro, segundo, etc instead of first, second, etc, they use 1°, 2° instead of our 1st, 2nd, etc. Now, obviously, this looks like a degree sign, so to distinguish it from a temperature, they put a dot after the number like this: “2.°“. Or should. The same applies to feminine nouns such as days of the week: 2.ª-feira. Note the dot, the dash and the lower case f! This seems not to be very strictly applied by native speakers. This is the first hit I get on google. No dot, no dash, upper case F

Percentages – plural or singular?

  • If  you’re saying “1% of (some plural noun) then it’s plural to match the noun. 1% das pessoas são portuguesas
  • If it’s just 1% of a quantity, it is singular for 1% and plural for any other number. 1% da piscina é xixi, A gente deu a sua opinião no referendo e 52% votaram sim.

Collective nouns – as I noted in a previous post, the portuguese are a bit more consistent in using colleective nouns like “a gente”, “a família” and “a maioria” as singulars that take singular verbs and singular adjectives but the author reminds us that if that’s followed by a plural, it reverts to being plural: “A maioria dos ingleses votaram para o Brexit”. Basically, it hinges on whether you’re talking about the group as a solid mass or as a set of many individuals, I think

Acerca de/A cerca de/Há cerca de – three similar-sounding phrases.

  • Acerca de means something like “on the subject of” or “with respect to”
  • “A cerca de” means “approximately” or “about” in situations where we’re dealing with something being (at) a certain distance away in time or space
  • In “há cerca de”, the “cerca de” is doing the same job as in the case above, but it’s used in sentences where an “há” would make sense – so it’s some quantity of time ago, or where “existe” would work – so there’s roughly siuch-and-such an amount present

Laughter – Ah! Ah! Ah! not Ha! Ha! Ha! This seems like a weird thing to have as a rule, but that’s what the book says, babe. Ah! on its own is still an interjection, denoting surprise, as in english

Billions – Bilião should designate um milhão de milhões as it… should in the UK. Curiously, the author has given us up as a lost cause and grouped us with the countries that use a short form billion – a thousand millions. Brazil is one too, but a long-form billion is the standard in Europe generally.

Bimensal and bimenstral – OK, a bit obscure this one. Bimensal means twice a month and bimenstral is every two months.

Cará(c)ter – has an accent in the singular form, even though the plural – caracters – doesn’t. Obviously, this is just for alphanumeric characters, not characters in a film – those are personagens or protagonistas.

Círculo vicioso, not ciclo vicioso – as in english, dammit!!!

Concerteza is not a thing – it’s com certeza and that’s that

Discordar – When you agree, it’s “concordar com” but when you disagree you have to use “dioscordar de” – so you disagree from someone and agree with them. I like that.

Fake Acordo Ortográfico changes – Some words that look like they should have dropped their C in the AO haven’t. It’s contacto, not contato, and facto not fato (which would be confusing, what with that already being a word)

Dates seem to have set formats so it’s either the long form

  • 6 de maio de 1969 (note the lower case, because all months and weekday names have lower case letters in the AO)

or in a short form, with the year foremost

  • Com traço 1969-05-06
  • Com barra 1969/05/06
  • Com ponto 1969.05.06

Decerto and de certo – this was interesting to me because I didn#’t even know there was a word “decerto”. Apparently it means the same as “com certeza” and “certamente”. De certo (as two words) is used in phrases like “de certo modo” and “o que temos de certo” – so it means “in a certain…” or “of what’s true”

De forma que – “In order to” can be used in place of “para”. Occasionally written as “de forma a que” but this is wrong.

Despender – “to expend” – always has an e as its second letter, not an i, even though the noun (“dispêndio”) and the adjective form (“dispendioso”) have an i.

Descricao and Discricao – Description and Discretion. Not to be confused

“Em Vez de…” and “Ao invés de” – are sometimes used interchangeably. The first one means “Instead of” and the second “Contrary to”. So one could be used in a sentence like “Tocou uma guitarra em vez dum piano” (“he played a guitar instead of a piano”) the other would be used in “Ao invés de melhorar a banda, a guitarra fez ainda pior” (“Rather than making the band better, the guitar just made it worse”).

Empenho/Empenhamento – both mean the same thing (commitment) but the shorter one is preferable

Foreign Words – like french, portuguese is plagued by words from english showing up especially in discussions about media, business and computing. She recomments finding portuguese equivalents where possible: Gosto for “like” on facebooks for example, clique for click, aswell as avoiding neologisms based on other languages like “equipe” for “equipa” and “controle” for “controlo”. There’s a list of “estrangeirismos” on the Portal Da Língua Portuguesa along with some suggested alternatives, where they exist.

Latin phrases – behave like in english, so they’re italicised when they’re used, and the littlest one, etc., has a dot after it, with surrounding punctuation behaving just as it would in english too.

Fim de semana – not fim-de-semana

Adverbs ending in -mente – No adverb ending with -mente needs an accent, even if the adjective it’s based on does. This seems like a useful rule! I love useful rules!

Some stuff about “haver” – apparently some people write há-des for some reason. Presumably thinking the -de is part of the verb, and most verbs take an s on the end in the second person singular. It’s hás-de of course. Some people also use “houveram” as the bast tense of “há” when talking about more than one thing “houveram muitos erros no meu último blogue” but unlike “existir”, you don’t use the plural form in that context.

Business Bullshit – cited examples of fancy words being misused in the workplace to sound more hardcore

  • “implementar” being used erroneously as a fancy way of saying “realizar” or “fazer” or whatever.
  • “despoletar” being used in place of espoletar (espoletar means the same as descadear, original, provocar… but despoletar means pretty much the exact opposite!)
  • Empreendorismo in place of Empreendedorismo. If you’re going to talk about entreprenoors, at least spell the word right, for heaven’s sake
  • Sediado means “headquartered”, as in “Many banks headquartered in London are considering a change of location after Brexi”). Not to be confused with “sedeado” which means “scrubbed with a silk brush” and is um… much less common.

Imprimir and its participles – Imprimir has two participles – imprimido and impresso. Imprimido is used with ter and haver (tenho imprimido….) when it’s behaving in a more “verby” way and impresso is used with “estar” and “ser” when it’s behaving in a more “adjectivey” way. “o documento foi impresso”

Interveio – intervir is based on vir not ver so the past tense is “interveio” and not “interviu”

Informar (de) que – Informar someone de que something is used when the sentence refers to who you’re informing (“Informo o professor de que chega atrasado”) and informar que is just used when you’re giving out some information but not saying who to (“Informa que chega atrasado”)

Ir ao/de encontro – “Espero que esta proposta vá ao encontro aos seus objectivos” means “I hope this suggestion meets your objectives”, but if we change ao to de it means “I hop it opposed your objectives”. Common mistake, apparently!

Cash – euros, dollars etc are written with small letters when referraing to actual day-to-day notes in circulation (libras, euros) and capitals when discussing the currency itself (A Libra Esterline). When writing amounts of money, The Euro symbol or EUR goes after the number, not before as in english.

Numbers – some rules for orthography

  • The portuguese use a virgula (comma) in place of a decimal place and a space in place of a comma – 1 000 000 is a million and 3,14159265359 is pi.
  • Pleasingly, an individual digit in a long number is called an algarismo which is obviously drawn from the same (arabic) root as “algorithm”. If there are 4 or fewer, you don’t need to bother with the space. So it’s 1000 for a thousand, not 1 000 but 10 000 for ten thousand, not 10000
  • Numbers smaller than ten can be written out in full (three, four) but larger number should be in the form of numbers (273) or mixed (2.3 milhões – note that millions are pluralised here!)

Ó vs Oh – Ó is used when addressing or calling someone as in “Ó Evaristotens cá disto?” the phrase in O Pátio das Cantigas that drives the shopkeeper to distraction. Oh! is more of an indicator of surprise: “Oh que pena!”

Reflexive pronouns – being misheard as part of the verb – e.g percebeste / percebes-te, falasse/fala-se. Just something to be aware of, really.

Porque/Por que/ porquê – A lot of people get these wrong, apparently, and especially in questions.

  • Por que – “for what”. Can often do swapsies with “por qual”
  • Porque – “why” (interrogative) or because (declarative)
  • Porquê – In the interrogative, it’s similar to porque but it’s a deeper question, asking about someone’s motives. If you’re at a job interview and want to know why someone wants to work at the organisation, use Porquê? but if you just want to know why they liked the book it’s Porque? Porque is more conversational and more friendly. In the declarative it just means “motive. “É preciso avaliar o porquê dessa decisão”.

Poder/Puder – Poder is very irregular but apparently you can remember when it’s a u and when it’s an o by remembering that it’s an o when the e that follows it is enunciated as an ê and u when the e is enunciated like an é. TBH, I’m none the wiser but i’ll interrogate Mrs Lusk about it later when she’s recovered from my obtuseness over the difference between porquê and porque. For a start, there are some parts of the verb where the e is silent, or an near as dammit.

Senão and se não – Whew – already written a post about this one.

Reunir – Normally means “bring together”. Used reflexively (“reunir-se”) it means “meet”. If it’s followed by “com” (ie, “meet with”, it’s always reflexive.

Abbreviations – As in english, there’s a difference between “acrónimos” (abbreviations like LASER and NATO that can be said as words) and “siglas” (standard abbreviations like UN or RSPCA that are said letter-by-letter). They are to be written in caps with no dots between them. To make them plural, you pluralise only the article – e.g. “As FAQ”, not “As FAQs”. Nobody is quite sure whether SMS is masculine or feminine so maybe say “uma mensagem” instead and save yourself the headache.

Ter de and Ter que – I’ve seen a few different teachers defending different opinions on this one but Elsa Fernandes is of the school of thought that thinks “Ter de” is right and “ter que” is a vulgarisation. Tenho de fazer alguma coisa means I have to do something. You can say “tem muito que melhorar” meaning “It has a lot that is beneficial” but not “ter que fazer alguma coisa”. It’s done wrong often eough that you’ll see it that way though.

Trata(m)-se de – Like “haver”, “tratar-se” is a verb that is basically only ever used in the third-person singular. Trata-se de means something like “it refers to” or “it deals with” or even just “it’s an example of”… it’s quite hard to translate though. I used to think it meant “it’s about” so I’d say stuff like “Este livro trata-se dum homem que…” but that’s wrong. The example she gives is “trata-se de tecnologias capazes de transformar a forma como trabalhamos”, which is something like “It’s all about technologies that can change how we work”.

Ups! – Not Oops!

Compound verbs with pronouns – In the example give, “vou-me ligar à internet” or “vou ligar-me à internet”, either is fine. It doesn’t go into great detail so I have had a look at the gramar book. The rules seem to be:

  • Compound verbs such as the preterito-mais-que-perfeito composto take the pronoun after the auxiliary: “Ela tinha-me escrito uma carta”
  • More involved comound tenses like “ter de fazer alguma coisa” and “haver de fazer alguma coisa” seem like the pronoun would follow the main verb because it would be too clunky to put it anywhere else.
  • In other kinds of compound verbs using Ir+infinitive, for example, it’s more a question of style and formality than strict rules. Sticking the pronoun onto the auxiliary sounds more informal, on the main verb more formal.
  • Obviously the usual rules apply regarding the pronoun going first in questions, in negative sentences and in subordinate clauses (ie, after a “que”)

It tends not to matter whether the pronoun follows the main vern or the auxiliary. It’s more a matter of style than rules (thank the lord! at last!) except where the auxiliary in question is “ter” or “haver”

It’s a funny old book. It purports to show errors “that will obliterate your credibility” but in some cases, she’s just highlighting that there are two options but one is preferable, which doesn’t seem like it would obliterate anyone’s credibility. In short, it seems more like a style guide and arguably a bit pedantic in places. There’s also an error (I think – and my wife agrees) on page 36!