How to say why?

I’m having problems understanding how & where to use: porque, porquê, por que, por quê, para que, & multiple other iterations I’ve seen. I think the circumflex is used when the word stands alone, but that’s as far as I’ve got.



Ah, Francesca, even native speakers mix them up :slight_smile: The PP team made an Instagram post on this last year, maybe it’ll help you get the hang of it:

If you need any extra clarification, just let me know!


Hi Joseph
I visited the Instagram post, but it seems to just show the different versions, without an explanation of how to use them. The gorilla is cute though!


Oh I just saw the follow on pages. But sadly, my Portuguese isn’t yet good enough to understand the Portuguese!


Here is what I found from Google. I really feel like… it’s hard as hell and I don’t get it. I only know because vs why and they don’t even seem to put enough emphasis on the fact that its entirely different word (why vs because) So I am still lost but it helps a bit? I like to just write the super informal “pq” when talking. I believe it’s slang. Means the same thing but you don’t have to figure out if its the right one or not.

Por quê (two words, with circumflex accent on ‘e’) can only occur at the end of an indirect or direct interrogative phrase:

Eileen didn’t arrive yet, why? Eileen didn’t arrive yet, no one knows why.

  • Interrogação direta: Eline não chegou ainda, por quê?
  • Interrogação indireta: Eline não chegou ainda, ninguém sabe por quê.

Por que (two words, no accent) can be used in two situations:
Why didn’t Guy call yesterday? No one knows why Guy didn’t call yesterday.

  1. To start an interrogative, direct or indirect:
  • Direct: Por que Gui não ligou ontem?
  • Indirect: Ninguém sabe por que Gui não ligou ontem.
  1. When it could be substituted for: pelo qual, pela qual, pelos quais, pelas quais :
  • Desconhece-se a razão por que (pela qual) Gui não ligou.
    It’s Unknown the reason why Guy didn’t call.

Porquê / Porquês (one word, with an accent circumflex on the ‘e’) is the right way to form the noun. It is easy to spot, since it will always be preceded by an article: o, a, os, as, da, das, do, das, na, nas, no, nos, etc., demonstrative pronoun ( este, estes ), or an adjective:

  • Desconhece-se o porquê da ausência de Marcos.
  • O estudo dos porquês é interessante.
  • Os estudantes se defrontam com muitos porquês.

Porque (one word, no accent) for when all else fails, and the use fits none of the previous categories: O Gui não ligou porque estava fora da cidade.
This one is just “because” // Guy didn’t call because he was out of town.


Ah, sorry about that, @freespiritphotos. Fortunately, @nicolebgarcia saved the day. The explanation she found is good, it’s just skewed towards Brazilian Portuguese (and actually, so is the Instagram post, I just realized :laughing: ). They write “por quê” and “por que” in cases where we would write it as one word in Portugal. So, here’s a slightly modified explanation that you can definitely use:


This is great - thanks so much!