The best way to start a conversation is with a friendly greeting. Brazilians, especially, respond well to a smiling face and a friendly “good morning!” However, “good morning” isn’t the only greeting you should know.
Perhaps you want to say “good afternoon” to the friendly vendors along Avenida Atlântica in Copacabana. Or maybe you want to strike up a conversation with an attractive person sitting at an outdoor bar in Savassi. Or you have a business meeting in Brasília with the Marketing Manager of your company’s Brazilian subsidiary. Each unique situation calls for a different type of greeting.
In this article, you’ll learn twelve Brazilian Portuguese greetings, when to use them, cultural information, pronunciation, and more. Ready to learn? Let’s begin!
Some greetings are only used during a specific part of the day. In English, these are greetings like “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening.” The Brazilian Portuguese equivalents work similarly. Although as greetings, they come off a bit more formal than a simple “hi,” you can use them in all kinds of situations: formal and informal. Also, you can use each of the three time-dependent greetings as both greetings and goodbyes. Let’s learn what they are and in what situations you can use them.
1. Bom Dia
You wake up early in your hotel in Pinheiros and decide to go for a morning walk. What do you say to friendly residents as you pass by? “Bom dia!” of course. The phrase literally translates to “good day” but everybody knows it means “good morning.” Feel free to use the phrase from sunup all the way to noon (12:00pm).
2. Boa Tarde
You just finished lunch, perhaps a traditional Brazilian favorite, feijoada (bean stew with beef and pork), and it’s not quite dinner yet. Here’s how a Brazilian would greet you: “boa tarde!” It translates to “good afternoon” or “good evening” and you’ll hear Brazilians use it from noon to sunset. In English, we make a distinction between afternoon and evening but Brazilians don’t.
3. Boa Noite
If you’re arriving to meet your friends at a boate (nightclub), here’s what you can say to greet them: “boa noite!” It means “good evening” or “good night.” You use it from just after it gets dark until sunup the next day. Once again, you’ll notice that Brazilian Portuguese doesn’t make a distinction between evening and night. Instead, they just use one word.
These are your standard “hello” and “hi” that you can use in almost any situation. The great thing about these, too, is that they are easy to combine. For example, you can start with a “hi”, followed by almost any of the other greetings in this article.
Oi translates to “hi.” It’s friendly, informal, and one of the most common greetings you’ll hear in Brazil. Everybody uses it. Feel free to try it next time you see a Brazilian.
This is your most standard greeting. Olá translates to “hello.” You can use it in any social situation, formal or informal. Like the English hello, it’s a bit more formal. So, it’s a safe option for when you’re not sure how to greet someone new, like an elder or a business associate.
This word also translates to “hello,” but it’s only used when you’re answer the phone or the call is breaking up and you’re trying to get the other person’s attention, as in “Alô? Alô? Você está aí?”, meaning “Hello? Hello? Are you there?” If the word alô sounds familiar, that’s no surprise. It’s borrowed from the English “hello.”
Ways to Say “How are You?”
A greeting doesn’t just have to be a pleasantry. You can use it to start a conversation and learn about the person you’re talking to. Asking “how are you?” is a great way to do that. Plus, you’ll often hear this phrase added to some of the other greetings we’ve learned, like oi and bom dia.
7. Como está você?
This is a literal translation of “how are you?” and a standard way to ask the question. It’s slightly formal but you’ll still hear friends and family use the phrase.
8. Como vai?
This is a slightly more formal way of saying “how are you?” It roughly translates to “how do you do?” If you want to make it even more formal, for example when speaking in a professional setting, add o senhor (sir) or a senhora (ma’am) before the phrase.
9. Tudo bem?
If you’re looking for a very informal way of saying, “how are you?”, try “tudo bem?” It’s one of the most common phrases you’ll hear in Brazil. People use it to talk to their coworkers, friends, grandparents, and strangers. So, feel free to use it in formal and informal situations.
Its literal translation is “everything well” but it means both “how are you?” as a question and “everything well” as a reply. You’ll also hear “tudo ótimo” (everything’s good) or even just “tudo” as a reply.
Slang makes language more fun. It’s informal, creative, and creates a sense of comfort and bonding between you and your conversation partner. Just make sure to use it in very informal situations, like with people you know or in situations such as a house party with friends of friends.
If you want to learn more slang, check out this article that teaches you ten Brazilian slang words and phrases (number one and three are greetings – think of them as bonuses).
10. E aí?
If you just translate this phrase literally, it doesn’t make sense. The literal translation is “and there.” However, “e aí” is really a way of saying “how are you?” A closer translation would be “what’s up?” It’s a very common phrase in Brazil. You’ll hear just about everyone use it.
This is a simple greeting. It literally translates to “speak.” Think of it as an invitation to the other person to speak, to tell you about their day, how things have been going, what they’ve been up to since you last saw each other. You’ll hear young Brazilians use this phrase, especially cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro).
This word is an informal way of saying “hi,” but it’s closer to “hey!” The reason is that the word came from an expression of surprise. You’d use it when you dropped a dish or woke up late to work. Now it’s used when you encounter a friend in a surprising situation or unusual location, such as bumping into them when you’re out shopping or seeing them at an out-of-town restaurant.
Time to Meet and Greet
Now you know exactly what you can say to friendly shop owners (Boa tarde!), an attractive person at the bar (Oi, como vai?), a business associate, (Bom dia, Como está você?) or any other situation you find yourself in.
After your greeting, the next logical step is to start a conversation. Here’s an article that teaches ten conversations starters in Brazilian Portuguese. Plus, if you want to practice your greetings and perfect your pronunciation, Speechling gives you opportunities to practice Portuguese and get feedback from professionals.
There’s one last bonus word you should know. This word is borrowed from Italian and it’s not a greeting but it's the most common way to say “bye” in Brazilian Portuguese. Tchau!