Tudo Bem in Portuguese: Meanings, Two Pronunciation Blunders to Avoid, and Tips
As soon as your teacher pops on the screen, the first expression he’ll say is “tudo bem” in Portuguese. The meaning is clear — even if you never spoke a word of our language: how are you?
But as you progress, you find Brazilians don’t stick to the rule most of the time. They don’t use only tudo bem. They have variants. They leave words out. They mix and match.
In this short article, I’m going to address everything you need to know about tudo bem in Portuguese: meanings, and two crucial pronunciation tips you need to know if you are to speak Portuguese well.
Tudo Bem or Tudo Bom?
You’ve probably heard that.
You say “tudo bem” to your Brazilian friend. And immediately she answers: tudo bom.
You might think: but I’ve just said tudo bem. Why did she reply with that?
Well, the simple answer is: there is no difference. Really. No difference whatsoever. At all.
Some people might say, “oh they are different and yada yada yada.” Don’t believe them. Most of us Brazilians have but a nodding acquaintance with our language.
- Oi, Carla. Tudo bem? Hi, Carla. How are you?
- Tudo bom, José. Você precisa de alguma coisa? I’m good, Jose. Do you need anything?
Is Everything Okay?
Tudo bem may also mean “is everything okay with you?”
We usually include “with you” (contigo, com você) to make it clear we are not only greeting. But, your intonation plays an important role in determining what you mean.
- Nossa, Tiago. Está tudo bem com você? Eu vi que você caiu da bicicleta. Oh my God, Tiago. Are you okay? I saw you fell from the bike.
- Comigo, tudo bem. Obrigado. Mas a bicicleta se ferrou. Everything’s fine with me. Thanks. But my bike is screwed.
- Oi, tudo bem com você? Queria te fazer uma pergunta. Hi, how are you? I’d like to ask you a question.
- Nossa, Tiago. Está tudo bem contigo? Oh, Jack. Is everything alright with you?
We like “contigo”. It sounds more friendly and intimate. You can default to “com você” if you don’t know the other person.
Tudo Bem: Make it Nasal
This is the first pronunciation tip I give you.
Portuguese has five nasal vowels. English has none (neither does Spanish). So, it comes as no surprise that English and Spanish speakers have a hard time nailing down our vowels.
But that’s not the only problem you have to be aware of.
The letters “M” and “N” are not consonants when they are placed after a vowel at the end of the syllable.
And that’s exactly the case of “bom” and “bem”.
What happens is, the vowel becomes nasal. Very nasal. It means that your lips should not touch when you finish saying this word.
Phonetically, this is what this expression should look like: tudo bem = tudo bẽ.
Let’s try a quick exercise.
First, read the following sentence aloud.
- Eu estou bem e ela também está bem. I am fine and she is fine too.
If your pronunciation resembled the next sentence, it’s wrong.
- Eu estou bem me ela também mestá bem.
There should be a glide between “BEM” and “E” and “TAMBÉM” and “ESTÁ”.
Listen to the following example:
When linking bem+e, the linking sound will be similar to the ING in “singing”.
Make it Rise
I’ve talked about it elsewhere when dealing with common mistakes English speakers make.
In English, when Jackie asks the question, she says: how are you? But if she is making a statement, she would reverse that and say “how you are.”
Portuguese doesn’t have this reversion thing. The only thing that distinguishes a question from an answer or a statement is intonation.
When it’s a question it rises, when it’s a statement it falls.
Of course, there are situations — when you’re surprised, for example — when these intonation rules don’t apply.
Listen for the intonation in the next examples.
- Tudo bem com você? Is everything fine with you?
- Tudo bem com você. Everything’s fine with you.
- Tudo bom? Tudo bom. How are you? I’m fine.
And because Brazilians are highly informal, Brazilian Portuguese has become a highly informal language, too.
That reflects in the way we greet each other.
All of the sentences below mean “how are you?” I’ve inserted the literal translation for your benefit.
- Tudo joia? Everything jewel?
- Tudo beleza? Everything beauty?
- Tudo em cima? Everything on top?
- Tudo tranquilo? Everything quiet?
And my favorite one…
- Tudo mais ou menos? Everything so-so?
Speaking Portuguese demands a huge and wide vocabulary.
But the most important lesson is, you can do a lot with what you already have.
In this case, such a simple expression as tudo bem gives us a wide range of possibilities to express ourselves.
So, using insert tudo bem in Portuguese, it’s meanings and variants will give you a boost in your vocabulary.
For more vocabulary help, head over to our content-rich vocabulary section.
And, of course, I suggest you take advantage of the one-hour course for learning Portuguese verbs that are most likely to give you a headache. Register now. It’s free.