The Art of Paying Compliments in Portuguese
Now that your Portuguese is getting a bit more sophisticated, you might be receiving compliments in Portuguese.
And you don’t even need to understand them — context tells you that people are saying positive things about your Portuguese.
But when it comes to paying compliments yourself, how do you go about it in Portuguese? Do you sound sincere? Do you sound “wrong”?
In this short guide, you will learn the art of paying compliments in Portuguese, how Brazilians view it, and some best practices when doing so.
Complimenting in Portuguese — Best Practices
If you go to restaurant and feel so grateful that you want to express it by complimenting the chef on the food… Or you see your friend is looking great today… And you want to let them know, you should keep three things in mind.
What to Say
What are you going to compliment them on? General statements tend to sound insincere. And if you’re too straightforward you might sound aggressive or give them the wrong idea.
So, no matter what language or speaking, you should always think what you are going to compliment the other person on. Is it their hair? Why? Is it the food they made? Why again?
How to Say it
A huge gap separates “you’re looking great” and “I think you’re looking great”. Especially in Brazil where we tend to be indirect. If you’re going to pay someone a compliment — no matter the reason — you should avoid being direct if being direct is not called for.
Also, pay attention to body language. We’re going to talk a bit about that later on, but depending on your tone you might not sound sincere.
When to Say it
Your Brazilian friend did a great job but they are so low-key they don’t want attention. However, you praise them in public, drawing unwanted attention to them and making them feel bad.
This is one possible situation. Or your Brazilian friend might be completely the opposite. They might want public praise but you only did it in private.
Always think of the person you are paying compliments to.
Now that we got the best practices in, let’s move on to the actual words you’ll use when paying compliments in Brazilian Portuguese.
You look great! (The Looks)
Carlos is always dressed in rags but today he did the something different. He chose to wear a nice suit. To reinforce this behavior, you tell him how great he looks in his new suit.
This might be valid reason and a good situation to act upon. But always be careful if you’re complimenting someone on their looks. They might not be flattered — Worse still, they might be bothered by your words.
So, think of the person you are complimenting. Don’t be a jerk.
- Como você está bonita hoje! How beautiful you are today!
- Que vestido lindo! How beautiful a dress!
- Que bonita a sua roupa! How beautiful your clothing is!
- Como seus cabelos estão sedosos hoje! How silky your hair is today!
- Que chique, você! How chic, you are!
And if you’re complimenting a woman or a man because you are interested in them, and they already showed some interest in you, you might go straight to the point.
- Você é um gato! You are hot!
- Você é a maior gatinha!You are a smoke show!
- Gostosa! You got it going on!
- Seu sorriso é lindo, sabia?Your smile is beautiful, did you know it?
You did a great job! (The Work)
Praising others in the workplace is always a great idea.
If you overdo it in Brazil you might get the results you want but you would get the reputation for being a “baba-ovo” (“egg droller”) or “bajulador” (“boot-licker”). And other coworkers usually shun this kind of people.
- Você fez um ótimo trabalho.You did a great job.
- Você fez um excelente trabalho.You did an excellent job.
- Você mandou muito bem no trabalho hoje.You nailed it at the job today.
- Você se superou nesse projeto.You excelled in this project. Literally: you overdid yourself in this project.
- Dê meus cumprimentos ao chefe pelo excelente prato. Give the chef my compliments on his excellent dish.
The English expression “well done” does not translate well in Portuguese.
If you use it word for word (“bem feito!”), what you’re actually saying is “it serves you right!” When you’re happy that some bad thing happened to someone else.
- Bem feito que ele tenha perdido o emprego. It serves him right that he’s lost his job.
The right way to use it in Portuguese is by saying “very well” or “good job”.
- Muito bem!
- Bom trabalho!
Or any of the expressions listed above, actually.
And it might be interesting to learn some expressions to congratulate in Portuguese.
You’re simply the best! (Personal Performance)
Complimenting someone on their performance isn’t very different from doing so at the workplace.
But in this section, you’ll find expressions that you could use with friends, too. They’re very informal and Brazilians use them frequently.
- Você é o cara. You’re the guy. (also for women)
- Ele está mandando muito bem. He’s doing great!
- Fulano de tal é o melhor que há quando o negócio é computação. So and so is the best that there is when it comes to computing.
- Melhor que você só você de novo. Only you are better than yourself.
- Você manja dos assuntos. You really understand things. You are an expert.
- Ele manja dos paranauê. He gets it.
And a parent would say:
- Que menino inteligente! How smart a boy [you are]!
A quick note about the phrases above.
You’ll see that most of those phrases use a similar structure.
Que + adjetivo + rest of the sentence (if needed).
Como + person+ compliment (usually a fact).
By using those structures all you need to do is put the vocabulary in the right slots.
Write them down if you want to remember them. They differ from English most of the time.
Odds and Ends
Depending on where you are from and how your parents raised you, you might find giving compliments easier or harder.
Culture determines how we view this.
And it’s no different in Brazil. Here are four aspects you should pay attention to when complimenting someone in Brazil.
Attention to Your Tone!
It’s very important to match your voice tone to your emotion.
English is a stress-timed language. It means you stress some syllables more of some words more depending on how what you mean. And to Brazilian ears, when people speak English they seem “happier” than they actually are.
Brazilian Portuguese is a syllable-timed language. We don’t really need to stress words — though we do — when we want to convey lots of emotion. We use the pace we speak at and syllables to convey different meanings. Aquele is different from Aqueeeeele.
And we often speak in a monotone.
If don’t believe me just watch YouTube videos where Brazilian speakers use English — especially if their English is not advanced.
And is there an easy way to learn how to do it?
Of course there is — it’s very easy but it takes time.
It’s called imitation.
You can imitate how native speakers convey their messages.
In Brazil, we are not very direct, but we do pay attention to the body language of our interlocutors.
So, when paying compliments, do look the other person in the eye — but not so intensely that will scare them — and say what you have to say.
If there are other people present, make sure you also look at them too.
But I’m just raining in wetland here. You already know how to do all I taught you if you have had any social interaction in your life.
And How to Respond to Compliments in Brazilian Portuguese?
The tendency in Brazil is to return the compliment to the person who gave it in the first place.
We might accept it, but we tend to return it. If you just accept it without trying to play down the compliment, you might be seen as arrogant.
- Que nada! It’s nothing. Not really! (contradicting the other person)
- Você [é] que… It’s you who…
- Só faço meu trabalho. I’m only doing my job
- Eu não ia conseguir sem você.I couldn’t do it without you.
- E eu digo igualmente. And I say the same.
And you might have seen some articles and people out there saying that you can reply São seus olhos (“it’s in your eyes”).
I advise against it. It really sounds insincere and slightly passive-aggressive no matter the situation.
Now, next time you go to a restaurant you know how to compliment the chef on his delicious meal.
And let’s spread happiness — tell me the comments section below who you would like to compliment and what would you like to compliment this person on? Use Portuguese, please 🙂