Authentic Ways to Say Congratulations in Portuguese
Sometimes, simple things such as saying congratulations in Portuguese may be a challenge.
Simply because those expressions tend to be very common. And as such, idioms and highly informal sayings crop up all the time — while those you find in the dictionary tend to be left aside.
The first thing you have to keep in mind is that “congratulations” doesn’t translate well literally. “Congratulações” doesn’t sound only stilted in everyday conversation — it sounds comical. And, unless that’s what you are striving for… You should avoid it.
Now, let’s take a look at six simple ways to say congratulations in Portuguese. We’re going to start from the more formal (yet not so much) to the most informal expressions.
1. Cumprimentos and Felicitações
I decided to include those two under the same category because their emotional impact is basically the same.
Both are highly formal. They’re something you want to say to your boss if you want to get that promotion. And they’re certainly not something you want to say to your friends… If only because they’ll avoid you afterwards.
Let’s take a look at the possibilities for “My [earnest] compliments for your new job.”
- Meus [sinceros] cumprimentos pelo novo emprego que você conseguiu.
- Felicitações pelo novo emprego que você conseguiu.
- Meus cumprimentos pelo novo emprego que você conseguiu.
- Minhas felicitações pelo novo emprego que você conseguiu.
You can see that “cumprimentos” requires the word “meus”. But that’s not the case with “felicitações.”
This is something you would write to a friend who just got married or to a coworker who got a promotion.
Of course, only if this coworker didn’t get the promotion you deserved.
And the word “sinceros” usually precedes “cumprimentos” but not “felicitações”.
Perhaps the simplest and most common expression, “Parabéns” is for Portuguese what Bombril (a brand of steel wool) is for Brazilians.
This word was born from the combination of “para” (to, for) and “bem”. If it isn’t clear, it literally means “for / to well”. That’s the expression we use when we wish someone well.
But it’s an equivalent of “congratulations” in daily usage.
- Parabéns! Hoje você teve um desempenho arrasador. Congratulations! Today you had an astonishing performance.
My friends tend to use “meus parabéns” too. The meaning is the same, but it sounds more intense.
- Meus parabéns pelo seu desempenho! Congratulations on your performance.
3. Muito bem
Well done, good job, very well… All those expressions translate “muito bem” with the same emotional impact.
- Muito bem, continue assim. Well done, keep up (the good work).
But in daily conversation, depending on your intonation, this expression might mean the opposite.
4. Mandar Bem
Translating this expression word for word will not help you here.
“Mandar bem” is used when you think someone did a great, great job. Or when someone excels at something.
- Cara, você mandou muito bem nessa reunião. Acho que os investidores ficaram fascinados. Dude, you rocked in this meeting. I think the investors were fascinated.
Young people use this expression a lot. When you get older, you tend to use it less and less.
And attention to the structure: it’s mandar bem em alguma coisa. It’s never mandar uma coisa muito bem*.
Like “Mandar Bem”, this expression is something you want to use with close friends or people your age.
It has two opposite meanings: to destroy something, as in “crush”, “ruin”, or “humiliate”. And “to win hands down”, “to have an excellent performance”, “to do a terribly good job”.
- Você arrasou nesse trabalho. Com certeza, você ganha a promoção. You nailed this job. For sure, you’re going to get that promotion.
It’s a bit stronger than “mandar bem.”
If a friend invites you to see her performance in the theater and by the end of the play you think she did an excellent job, you might say “Você arrasou no palco” (you did an excellent job on the stage).
6. É isso aí
At first blush, you might think it means only “that’s it.” And you would be partially right.
“É isso aí” has the added meaning of “way to go.” The emotional impact isn’t as strong as “arrasar” but that’s something Brazilian say all the time when they want to praise their friends.
- É isso aí, mandou bem. Way to go, you rock.
Now that you know how to say congratulations in natural Portuguese, what would you want to congratulate your best friend for? Leave it in the comments section below… In Portuguese 🙂
And if you want to expand your vocabulary, see how you can compliment people in Brazilian Portuguese. It’s a natural extension of congratulating, right?