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Giving Estimates in Brazilian Portuguese


Brazilian Portuguese employs several expressions denoting guesses and estimates. Learn how to use some of them in your daily life. (em torno de, por volta de, mais ou menos, chutar, dar um chute, adivinhas)

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I have been teaching Portuguese for about two years now… or is it around three years? I don’t know, but I do know that giving estimates is something we all do from time to time. And today we are going to learn some expressions dealing with this language function.

por volta de…

Por volta de means around, about, as in Por volta de dez horas, comecei a trabalhar. (I started working at about ten o’clock). This expression can be used both in conversations and writing, and its tone is formal.

Em torno de has a similar meaning, but it usually describes an undetermined number of something. Havia em torno de dez pessoas na sala de espera means there were around ten people in the waiting room. Em torno de usually precedes a number. It is formal in tone and used both in writing and speaking.

Não sei quando aconteceu o acidente, mas acho que foi quinta ou sexta (I don’t know when the accident happened, but I think it was either on Thursday or Friday); using ou is also a good way of expressing uncertainty.

Eu tenho comigo mais ou menos quinze reais means this person – whoever he or she is – is short of money (I have more or less, about fifteen Brazilian reais on me). Mais ou menos is by far the most used expression, both in writing and in speaking. Be careful, however, with two things: it is very informal, and its pronunciation changes somewhat depending on where people are from. In my state (Ceará), it’s usually pronounced informally as marromeno, without the S in menos, and linking the mais_ou with a /h/ sound (as in house) instead of the expected /z/ as (in zebra).

Mais ou menos is used to give an estimate on the duration or amount of something. Mais ou menos duas horas foi o tempo que a palestra levou – quase não acaba! (the lecture lasted, ran for almost, more or less two hours — it was nearly endless!); estou ensinando português há mais ou menos dois anos (I’ve been teaching Portuguese for about two years).

I don’t know when Mary graduated from college (she’s still unemployed, coitada [poor thing], mas vou dar um chute (make a guess, try and guess “give a kick”): cerca de dois anos atrás. Cerca de, by the way, is another word expressing the idea of around, about, more or less, and it must precede the preposition de. I have seen and heard oftentimes this expression being misused. Be careful: cerca de dois anos, not cerca dois anos.

Dar um chute (make a guess, try and guess at something) is an informal expression, and the one-word verb is chutar, whose literal meaning is to kick. Adivinhar is the regular verb for to guess, and um jogo de adivinhação is a guessing game. Um adivinho (ou uma adivinha) is someone whose profession is guessing the future, therefore a fortuneteller. When someone finds out something obvious and states it as a discovery of the utmost importance, Brazilians smirk and say in a derisive tone: adivinhão (adivinhona in the feminine form). You don’t need to be an adivinhão to understand these expressions and put them to use.

Now, vambora trabalhar com estes jogos de adivinhação!

  • O que é, o que é:
  • Cai em pé e corre deitado?
  • Tem asa mas não voa, tem nariz mas não respira?
  • De dia, anda de quatro. De tarde, anda de duas. E de noite, anda de três?

  • Obrigado – muito útil.

    • Eu que agradeço, Barry! E sempre que tiver perguntas, estou aqui para ajudar 🙂

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