Six portuguese expressions that don’t seem to make sense

Six portuguese expressions that don’t seem to make sense

You know that in English many expressions seem to make no sense. Structures such as “It’s nothing to sneeze at”, “there will be hell to pay” or “a far cry from” and many others certainly make life difficult for anyone learning English. However, it is not only the English student who faces this kind of difficulty. Other languages have structures similar to these, which don’t make the slightest sense outside the head of a native speaker. 

Knowing this, we have prepared a special list for those of you who are learning the Portuguese language. These are 7 expressions, specifically from the Portuguese spoken in Brazil, that will blow your mind. I hope you enjoy it!


“Tenho pra mim”

Literal translation: I have for me.

If you have been studying Portuguese for a while, you must know these words. Moreover, you know that they don’t make much sense in this construction. After all, if you use the structure “tenho” (I have) you are saying that you own something. For example, when you say “Eu tenho um carro” (I have a car) you mean that that car belongs to you, right? 

But if you literally translate the expression “tenho pra mim” (pra = para, Portuguese preposition that is translated as “for”) it would become something like “I have for me”. The question here is: what do you have for you? Well, if you complete the sentence with the word “carro” (car) it’d sound like “Eu tenho para mim um carro” (I have for me a car) it might make sense, but what about when native speakers of Portuguese use this expression without a complement? In these situations the “Eu tenho pra mim” will basically mean “I have it in my mind” or “I guess”.


Eu tenho para mim que Mariana não foi a festa.”

I have it in mind that Mariana didn’t go to the party.” or I guess Mariana didn’t go to the party.”


“O sol está quente / O sol está frio”

Literal translation: The sun is hot / The sun is cold.

What do you mean “the sun is cold”? Or “the sun is hot”? The sun is always the same temperature: very hot. But if you have heard this and wondered about its meaninglessness, don’t despair. The Portuguese language has an explanation for this. You know that in Brazil, because of its mostly tropical climate, temperatures are high most of the year, even when it is considered to be cold it is still hot in this country. So, when you hear a Brazilian saying “O sol hoje está quente” (Today the sun is hot) he is saying that the temperature that day is very high. On the other hand, when someone in Brazil says “Hoje o sol está frio” (Today the sun is cold) they mean that the temperature is lower than usual, that is, a little cold (which for them can be quite cold).

Six portuguese expressions that don’t seem to make sense

“O sol está quente.”

Six portuguese expressions that don’t seem to make sense

“O sol está frio.”


“Falou / Valeu”

Literal translation: Spoke / was, were worth.

What was spoken? (falou o quê?) What was or were worth? (O que valeu?)These are the questions that may come to your mind when you hear, for the first time, these two expressions that Brazilians speak when saying goodbye. Weird, right? But that’s just it, basically the expressions “falou” and “valeu” mean “see you later”, “bye“, “take care”, that is, words used to say goodbye. An important thing to be said is that “valeu” can also mean “thanks”, so pay attention to the context when these two words are used.


– “Bem, eu tenho que ir, a gente se fala.”

– “Tá certo, falou.”

– “Valeu

– “Well, I gotta go, I’ll talk to you soon.”

– “Ok, see you.”

– “Bye.


– “Consegui fazer aquele favor que você me pediu.”

– “Valeu, cara.”

– “I managed to do that favor you asked me.”

– “Thanks, man.”


“E eu vou lá saber!”

Literal translation: And I’ll go there to find out!

This may make sense, but don’t let the literal translation fool you. You might hear “Eu não sei o preço daquela blusa, e eu vou lá saber” (I don’t know the price of that blouse, and I’ll go there to find out). This makes perfect sense when you consider the literal translation. But the context in which this phrase usually appears is different from what you would expect.

Imagine the following: you come across a beautiful blouse in front of a shop window and ask your Brazilian friend, “Quanto será que custa aquela blusa?” (I wonder how much that blouse costs?). Your friend, who, out of curiosity, is a little angry because you have already spent hours and hours shopping for clothes in various stores, replies, “E eu vou lá saber!”. Perhaps you are happy, because he has been willing to go to the store and ask how much the product you want to buy costs. But don’t be fooled. What your friend has actually said, in a very rude way, is that he doesn’t know how much that blouse costs and he is not intending to know that. So, be smart, “E eu vou lá saber!” means “I don’t know” and is used, most of the time, in a rude way.


– “Diga-me, João, quantas vezes você perdeu para mim quando jogamos vídeo game ontem?”

– “E eu vou lá saber!


– “Tell me, John, how many times did you lose to me when we played video games yesterday?”

– “I don’t Know!


“Minha nossa!”

Literal translation: My our!

What? I mean, that totally doesn’t make sense, right? How can something be mine and yours? Crazy Portuguese. But, let me explain this to you. “Minha nossa!” is basically used in moments of amazement, indignation or admiration. It’s similar to “oh, my gosh” or “oh, my goodness”.


Minha nossa, eu não acredito que ele fez isso!”

Oh my god, I don’t believe he did that!”


Minha nossa, ela é tão linda!”

Oh my gosh, she is so beautiful!”


“Eu estou bem mal, eu estou bem ruim”

Literal translation: I’m good bad.

Another one that will explode your mind. You might know that “mal” and “ruim” are synonyms, that’s why I put the same translation for both of these words. Well, but the point is: how can someone or something be good and bad at the same time. The explanation for this is that “bem” (good) in these sentences actually works as an adverb, intensifying the word “ruim” or “mal” (bad). Therefore, what “eu estou bem mal” really means is “I’m really bad.”


– “Como você está?”

– “Eu estou bem mal.

– “How are you?”

– “I’m really bad.”


– “Como foi sua apresentação?”

– “Acho que foi bem ruim.

– “How was your presentation?”

– “I think it was really bad.

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