Using whole word stress to change meaning

I came across the following sentence - Ele não deve ter carro - which was translated as “he must not have a car”.

It was unclear from the context whether this meant:

a) “poor chap, he hasn’t got a car” or

b) “under no circumstances should he be allowed to have a car.”

In English (EN-EN) these meanings would be distinguished by the way the sentence was said. Essentially a matter of how much stress is put on the word “not”.

So, I’d like to know if the Portuguese is unambiguous out of context, and I’d be very interested to find out if Portuguese plays these meaning games using stress, or other unwritten ways of altering meaning.

Olá, @coljay. Yes, that sentence has different possible interpretations. Context would be the primary way of distinguishing between them, but we can also play with stress, which probably happens in many/most languages. Without any extra context or stress, the most likely meaning, in my opinion, is “He probably doesn’t have a car”.

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Thank you @Joseph . A lot of language tuition ignores the way people actually use a language so it is good to get a more nuanced view.

As a bonus extra, I’d like to say that I love the way that Practice Portuguese uses recordings of lots of different voices in the lessons.


You’re welcome, @coljay ! And thanks for the feedback. The different voices really offer a taste of the real world. Sometimes, that means extra mumbling, or extra fast speech, so it can be quite the challenge too. But it’s worth it :slight_smile: