How to pronounce 'sei'


I’ve been hearing conflicting methods of how to pronounce “sei”, as in “não sei”.
In the review card “Eu não sei”, it sounds to me like the English word “sigh”. But looking online, others pronounce it like the English word “say”. Is “sigh” the European pronunciation and the other one is Brazilian?

I saw that there’s a similar topic (Help with pronunciation of "ei") but it’s almost 2 years old, so I’ll avoid pinging everyone there. (By the way, in that thread, what Joseph described as the ‘ay’ sound I would consider the reverse: the ‘igh’ sound.)

I trip over this so much I have a flashcard with a mnemonic, but now it looks like I’d better come up with a new one!

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I have exactly the same problem! I decided a while ago to stick with the “say” pronunciation because I think that’s what I was originally taught, but I always find myself hesitating! Perhaps it’s just not important? I notice on the radio (probably from Lisbon) they seem to always pronounce “sexta feira” with the “igh” sound.
Best wishes

For me, it’s a dipthong - i.e. two vowels smashed together pronounced as one.

The ‘e’ (pronounced as the ‘a’ in may) followed by the ‘i’ (pronounced as the ‘e’ in me), Smash the two together, and I hear something that starts with ‘say’ ends with ‘sigh’, inflected, of course, by the local sotaque (accent).

To my very lazy enunciation, it comes out as ‘sigh’ more than ‘say’, but when I travel, I’m in the north more than centro or lisboa, so that may have something to do with it as well.

@happyjolteon, the pronunciation varies from region to region :slight_smile: The ‘sigh’ pronunciation is typical of the Lisbon region accent and the usual media accent, which also corresponds to the main accent you hear on Practice Portuguese materials. The ‘say’ pronunciation is particularly common up north, and there’s also a ‘seh’ pronunciation (basically, just holding the E instead of pronouncing a diphthong), which is more heard around the southern parts of Portugal, if I’m not mistaken. All of these are correct.


@Joseph Thanks for the explanation! I’m mostly concerned about not being misunderstood when I visit Lisbon, so it’s good to know that the other pronunciations are not wrong and I don’t need to stress about it.


For me “sei” always pronounced like “say”. Pronouncing it like “sigh” to me would make me think you were saying the word “sai” meaning “(he/she/you) exit” from the verb “sair” - to exit. Though I speak with a Porto accent as my wife and her family are Portuense

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