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Your Definitive Guide to Using Porques in Brazilian Portuguese

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Using Porques in Portuguese can be tricky, but not for you

I have good news: here's a topic you'll find useful and very easy to understand.

After reading this short article, you'll be able to use the different words for "why" and "because" in Portuguese.

You can take it from me that you'll understand something that, in my experience, 4 out of every 10 Brazilians get wrong.

Por quê

Pay attention – there are two words, and one of them has a diacritic above it.

This one is used at the end of questions. Also, when it's the only component of a question, it's obviously written that way.

Examples:

Ontem ele ficou com muita raiva. Você sabe por quê?

Yesterday he got very angry. Do you know why?

Estou vendo que você comprou outro computador. Por quê? Você já tem um.

I see you bought yet another computer. Why? You already have one.

Porquê

Pay attention that this is only one word, and it has a funny diacritic that looks like a little hat. By the way, this is called the circumflex accent ("acento circunflexo").

When it's written in one word, it is used as a noun. Roughly equivalent to why when used as a noun as well.

Você aprende muitos idiomas. Gostaria de saber o porquê.

You learn many languages. I'd like to know why.

You see that I have included that little "o" before the word for why here. Since it is being used as a noun, it does require an article.

For example, if you asked, "please, tell me only one reason for you to have done it." In Portuguese, you should say:

Por favor, só me diga um porquê de você ter feito isso.

Of course, using the word "razão" would do here as well, but it wouldn't sound as vernacular as the other alternative.

Some Brazilians confused the first one with this one that you have just seen. Keep an eye out for that when you read Brazilian articles and stories and posts.

Por que

Two words, no diacritics.

This has two different usages.

One: it is used at the beginning of questions.

Example:

Por que você não vem à minha casa hoje?

Why don't you come over to my house today?

(You could also have translated that as "why won't you come over to my house?" depending on the situation)

And the second usage for that kind of "por que" is when you want to ask indirect questions. That is: when a question is implied.

Example:

Não entendi [a razão] por que você não aceitou o convite.

I didn't understand [the reason] why you haven't accepted the invitation.

Many Brazilians have trouble writing this kind of sentence. Since "Por que" (two words, no accents) has two usages, Brazilians tend to think that this is wrong. Usually, you'll find that Brazilians use – wrongly – "porquê" in place of "Por que."

But here's a tip Brazilians tend to overlook. If you can substitute "pelo(a) qual" ("for which") for "por que," then you know that's right.

Example:

Não entendi [a razão] pela qual você não aceitou o convite.

I didn't understand [the reason] for which you haven't accepted the invitation.

The word "reason" is understood in that context.

And the last one…

Porque

This is the easiest one. It corresponds to "because" in English. It must be preceded by a comma, and unlike English, Portuguese doesn't accept the word "because" at the beginning of a sentence naturally.

Porque estava cansado, dormi cedo. (don't do that, this sentence is weird)

Because I was tired, I went to bed early.

But of course you can say:

Dormi cedo, porque estava cansado.

The rule about the comma preceding this word can be broken if you're writing a story and want to keep a fast pace. But in academic writing and other types of writing, it is necessary.

One more example:

Ele não veio, porque ficou doente.

He didn't come, because he got sick.

And that's it. Now you have learned everything that there was to be learned.

But make no mistake – those words are elusive. You should always make sure you're writing the right one. And as always, pay attention to what you're reading online and off-line. Most of the time, you can catch some of those mistakes.

And Brazilians make a lot of mistakes, believe me.

And a last word of caution: don't worry about the pronunciation. All of them will sound the same. If someone tells you otherwise, you can dismiss that as being some information from someone who is uninformed.

Added challenge

If you want to, translate the following sentences into Portuguese. Don't check the answers before you finish. People who do that are ugly, and you are not ugly… Are you?

(For sentences marked with an asterisk, there may be more than one possible answer.)

  • He didn't tell me why he couldn't come today. We have to start without him.*
  • Why do you want so much money right now? I don't have it.
  • Now I see why you don't want to eat the dishes she prepared. You think she's a bad cook.*
  • I would like to understand why you spend so much time completing these exercises.*
  • He parked his car here because there was no way he could park it there.

ANSWERS

  • Ele não me disse o porquê de não poder vir hoje. Temos que começar sem ele.
  • Por que você quer tanto dinheiro agora? Eu não tenho.
  • Agora sei por que você não quer comer os pratos que ela preparou. Você acha que ela é uma má cozinheira.
  • Gostaria de saber o porquê de você gastar tanto tempo fazendo esses exercícios.
  • Ele estacionou o carro aqui, porque não tinha jeito de estacioná-lo ali.

And here's an infographic I prepared for your benefit.

Using Por que In Portuguese

Don't know where to go now? How about heading over to the grammar section and exploring it more?

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