Things I Should Know But Don't (pronunciation)

So many dumb questions that I should know by now

When is “r” said like Rua with the hard “h” sound and when is it said like regular English “r”
(Sometimes when they say it in futebol commentary it is regular, but in stupid TV shows its the rua way)

ALSO when is “S” like “sh” and when is it regular?
I am under the impression that x = s like expresso = espresso
and that two s’s (ss) is regular “s” sound and so is Z
ç = z noise
empresário ; there’s an accented vowel after it, so does that change how I pronounce the s??

Is there a real answer to these or is it just trial and error?
Learning another language makes me feel so dumb sometimes :sweat:

Whats everyones favorite resource for explaining hard to read words the right way?

They’re not dumb, but they’re many, so I hope you don’t mind that I answer as directly as possible :sweat_smile:

  • Hard R: When R is the first letter of a word or when you have a double R (rr).

Uns carros (Some cars)

O rato (The mouse)

A rua (The street)

  • Soft R: When R is the last letter of a word or when you have a single R between other letters.

Números (Numbers)

Um livro (A book)

Congelador (Freezer)

  • Sibilant as in soup: At the start of a word or when you have a double S (ss).

Um sapato (A shoe)

A massa (The pasta)

  • SH as in shoe: Before a consonant or at the end of a word, when not followed by a vowel or H.

Escreve (Write)

Somos (We are)

  • Z as in zero: Before a vowel or at the end of a word when followed by a vowel or H.

A casa (The house)

Quantos anos tens? (How old are you?)

Joel, Rui and Wayne did a good job describing all the variations of X in here :slight_smile: :
How to Pronounce the Letter X in Portuguese

The double S and the Ç both sound like the sibilated S I described above. But Z always sounds like a proper Z.

The accents only affect the vowel they lie on. They also indicate the stressed syllable of the word. The pronunciation of the surrounding letters isn’t affected, though. Here, S sounds like a Z only because it’s between vowels, and it would still sound the same without the accent (for example, in the word “empresa” - company).

Surprisingly, there’s a logic to these! This should be celebrated, because there are other questions where I feel really bad when it’s just not possible to give a clear answer.


Thanks so much! Super helpful. I just was listening to futebol on the radio and noticed he didn’t pronounce “r” at the beginning of the word like “rua” or the “h” sounding r (as I like to call it) and it kind of just made me feel like I will never learn Portuguese lol but I guess I don’t know what was going on there.
I never heard the vowel before or after the letter S thing as a way to pronounce it. I just have generally gotten it right because I already know the word.

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Maybe he was rolling his Rs, a bit like the Spanish do? That’s also a common variation in Portugal.

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The wake up call for me was, having viewed the Camões statue in Lisboa I returned to the hostel and mentioned I’d just viewed the statue of the famous poet Camões and was staggered that I was not even close to pronouncing the ‘oes’ part of it.
The moral of the story is hearing the word properly spoken is the only answer. Thankfully we have Practice Portuguese.
And since you mentioned the pronunciation of ‘r’ I thought that I, as a Scot would find it easy with our rolling rrrrrs but not so with Portuguese.
The first time I heard Rui I could not believe the sound I heard, it sounded to me like hoey with a guttural rather than rolling r . Likewise carro sounds quite guttural.
Perhaps Joseph may care to comment?


The pronunciation of the hard Rs will depend on the speaker’s regional accent. Many people will make the guttural sound, and this is the norm around Lisbon, which is where Rui’s accent is from and is kind of our working standard pronunciation in Practice Portuguese. But then you’ll find several people who roll them, especially more towards the countryside or the north of the country, I would say (I’m not amazing at locating each regional variation, hah). The pronunciation of the soft R also varies, but not so significantly.

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