English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in the tourist mecca of the Algarve. However, it’s always respected and appreciated if you at least have a go at speaking the native language.
A surprising number of expats make no attempt at all to speak Portuguese, so by learning the following simple phrases you can stand out from the crowd—and will probably find you get more friendly and helpful service as a result.
1. Obrigada / Obrigado
“Obrigado” and “obrigada” both mean “thank you” in Portuguese, and the rule is that men should always say “obrigado,” while women should always say “obrigada.”
Which word you use has nothing to do with the gender of the person you are addressing, despite what some people may tell you! If you want to go a little more advanced, you can say “obrigadinha,” which is a friendly “little thanks” that you would usually address to children. Beware of saying this to another adult, as it can come across as flirtatious!
“Posso?” (pronounced “possoo”) is a really handy little word that essentially means “may I?” You can use it to confirm you can taste a sample at a food festival, pick something up from a display, or take a vacant chair from a neighbouring table.
3. Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite
Portugal is a friendly country, and it’s not unusual for complete strangers to greet passers by with a polite “good morning” or “good afternoon.”
There are no firm boundaries regarding when one greeting starts and another begins each day, but the general rule is “bom dia” in the morning, “boa tarde” after lunch, and “boa noite” after darkness falls.
4. Queria isto
“Queria isto…” means “I would like this.” This simple phrase makes trips to shops and markets a whole lot easier. All you need is the phrase, and a point of the finger to make it clear what you want to buy or order.
5. A conta, se faz favor…
This means, “can I have the bill please?” and allows you to demonstrate that you know enough Portuguese to avoid the universal “writing on the palm” hand gesture when you conclude your meal!