Did Portuguese need to have four different “whys”? No, but it does, so we need to learn how to use each one.
First of all, did you know that while English only has two “whys”, Portuguese has 4? It sounds like a joke, but it’s real! When you finish reading this article I am sure that your mind will be better prepared to accept this and also to know how to use these “Porquês” (Whys) correctly.
I, as a native, find the 4 whys extremely easy, but not because I am a native (seriously). Many people get it wrong even though they have been living in Brazil for, say, 50 years. I will help you to see the “Whys” as I see them.
Let’s begin… and the first one is:
The “Por quê” is the easiest of them all. Do you know why? Because it always has a punctuation mark after it (yes, the picture already hinted at this).
But how come?
Imagine the following situation:
You are very upset about something that happened to you and you are wondering: “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
Do you notice that after the “Why” there is a “?” (Question mark)?
In Portuguese, the exact translation of this expression would be “Por quê?” “Por quê?” “Por quê?” (Exactly because of the question mark after it)
“Eu estou tão feliz, mas por quê?” (I’m so happy, but why?)
“Fui demitido, não sei por quê.” (I was fired, I don’t know why.)
The second “why” we will see is:
Another very easy one, believe me!
This type of “why” has a very nice rule to identify when it should be used as well.
In this case, you don’t need to have a punctuation mark after it. Instead, look for “determiners” before it. Determiners are pronouns and articles.
This sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Check it out!
If before the “why” you have one of the options below, use porquê.
USE THE “PORQUÊ” without fear of making a mistake.
“João gosta muito de assistir a filmes de romance, só não sei o porquê.” (John really likes to watch romance movies, I just don’t know why.)
“Luiza faltou à escola hoje, mas ela não disse um porquê sequer.” (Luiza missed school today, but she didn’t say a single reason why.)
*Note that in the examples above, porquê can be easily translated as the motive or reason! If you can replace the word “why” in English with “reason” or “motive” and it makes sense, then use porquê!
It’s time for the “Why” that translates perfectly to “because”:
“Porque” is used when answering a question that has a “why” at the beginning. So just seeing if a “because” would fit the situation helps you answer correctly most of the time you need to use this why. – Another way to know, is if it doesn’t fit into any of the other types we have mentioned above, because it is actually used without the rules of the previous 2!
It’s easier to learn how to use it by looking at some situations, so let’s go!
“Eu vim porque eu quis vir” (I came because I wanted to come.)
“Por que você não poderá estudar?” “Porque estou muito cansada” (“Why can’t you study?” “Because I’m too tired”)
Now, on to the last of the 4 whys…
It is the famous “Why” used to start questions! This simple “why” usually comes at the beginning of the question, but it is not the only position in which we can find it.
So, as we say in Portuguese, this one is the rest! That is, where the other ones don’t apply, this one does!
While “por quê” is used directly before punctuation, “porquê” is always after a determiner, and “porque” is aimed at explaining/answering a why question, this one doesn’t fit into any of those categories.
I will show you some examples to better understand where it fits in.
“Por que as pessoas agem estupidamente?” (Why do people act stupidly?)
“Estes são os direitos por que estamos lutando” (These are the rights for which we are fighting.)
- Por quê – followed by a punctuation mark (Você faltou ontem, por quê?)
- Porquê – preceded by a pronoun or article and can often be substituted with the words “motive” or “reason” (Eu não sei o porquê dela estar chorando.)
- Porque – means “because” (Não como pêssegos porque tenho alergia.)
- Por que – the Why at the beginning of a question (Por que você não quer ir?)
I hope that by now you have been able to understand a little more about Portuguese and have realized that, even though having 4 whys is really unnecessary (I agree with that), it is a subject you can master!
I hope to see you on a discovery call, because there are many more whys to discover together!