English for Portuguese Students – Comparatives

Why do Brazilians say…

“It’s more cold today than yesterday.”

Because in Portuguese you say: “É mais frio hoje do que ontem.”


É mais frio hoje do que ontem. It’s more cold today than yesterday.

This sounds perfectly correct if you translate it literally.

But the correct way is: “ It is colder today than yesterday.”

 WHY? Let’s see!

In English, like in Portuguese, adjectives normally have three degrees;

The Positive – non-comparative and also known as the base-adjective.- Frank is tall.

The Comparative – comparing two nouns = adj. + “than” – Frank is taller than Mary.

The Superlative – compare more than two nouns = “the” + adj – Frank is the tallest of them all.

And we generally follow the structure as set out above.

But of course we have exceptions like – beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful, or bad, worse, worst, and a few others.

But in most cases we follow the above patterns, adjective + “than”, and “the” + adjective.

Unfortunately/Infelizmente – the exception in English becomes the rule in Portuguese.

I know you also have your exceptions in Portuguese, like:

bom melhor o melhor means good better the best

mau pior o pior means bad worse the worst

But in Portuguese – generally – comparative and superlative phrases mostly rely on the word – mais/more.

Unlike English adjectives, which have special comparative (the -er of bigger) and superlative (the -est of biggest) endings, Portuguese adjectives do not have special forms.

A comparative phrase in Portuguese is basically formed as: mais + adjective + (do) que – means  ___-er than.

Thus, Roberto é mais alto do que João or Roberto é mais alto que João = Robert is taller than John.

A superlative phrase also relies on the word mais/more.

Roberto é o mais grande. –  Robert is the biggest.

Ana é a mais alta. –  Anna is the tallest.

Esses homens são os mais altos. –  Those men are the tallest.

Hopefully you understand now why we translate:

“É mais frio hoje do que ontem.” as “It is colder today than yesterday.”

Please Note: We will have specific lessons where we look at typical so-called “Grammar Goofs” made by Brazilians.

Do JOIN our English classes and enjoy the professional guidance of our highly qualified and experienced English teachers. They are also specifically trained to understand the ESL needs of Brazilian speakers.

English for Portuguese Students – ‘TH’ Sounds

‘TH’ Sounds

That very awkward /th/

Many Brazilians seem to have a problem with this /th/ sound because it does not exist in Portuguese. They then pronounce it as /d/ or /t/ at the beginning of a word or as /f/ at the end of a word.

There are actually two /th/ sounds:

Group 1: The unvoiced /th/

thirsty, think, through, thanks, nothing, bath, math, truth, both, teeth, three, etc.

This /th/ sound is unvoiced. This means that the sound is made in the front of the mouth.

You thus do not need your vocal chords in the throat.

Students normally do not have a problem to pronounce this sound at the end of a word, but usually when it’s at the beginning of a word, like, thanks, think, thought, etc.

Let’s look at the following:

I normally ask my students to pronounce the word ‘both’ and feel the position of their tongue (in relation to their teeth) on the /th/ sound?

Example: bo-th – in which position does the tongue end on the /th/ sound? That is the same position that the tongue must be when you start the word “th-ink”

For example: bo-th (position of tongue)-th-ink = bo-th-ink, = bo-think = – think

This sound might feel a bit odd at first, but with the correct practice you will become perfect.

Group 2: The voiced /th/

The, these, those, there, that, thus, then, brother, mother, etc.

These words contained the voiced /th/ sound. It is the unvoiced /th/sound with a vibrating sound – you can feel this vibration – if you touch your vocal chords lightly as you say the words.

Note: You can do exactly the same exercise as above – with the word “both” – but this time when you end on the unvoiced /th/ sound, you add a vibration – like the buzzing sound of a bee.

And that buzzing /th/ will be the starting sound of the words starting with the voiced /th/

This will take quite a bit of practice, but your pronunciation will improve dramatically once you’ve mastered this sound.

English for Portuguese Students – Possessives


Possessives in Portuguese – like nouns – can either be masculine or feminine.

You also know possessives take on the gender of the noun that it refers to.

For example:

You would use “seu” or “sua” according to the gender of the possession – be it masculine or feminine.


  1. Your mother – sua mãe
  2. Your car – seu carro

So you see we use the possessive adjective “your” irrespective whether the possession is masculine or feminine.

Also in English we do the opposite.

We use the gender of the possessive adjective according to the gender of the possessor/owner and not according to the possession.

The possessive noun is thus determined by whether the possessor/owner is masculine or feminine – he or she, his or her.


In Portuguese, “carro” is masculine and you would say “seu” regardless of whether the possessor is masculine or feminine.

In English this is different.

  • Is it John’s mother? Yes, it’s “his” mother.
  • Is it Mary’s car? Yes, it’s “her” car.

This should be fairly easy to understand, but Brazilians still seem to be confused by it.

  1. Let’s look at another difference when using the possessive form in English.

Esse é o livro de John or Aquele é o livro de John

Lit. That is the book of John.

In English we say:

That is John’s book.

Thus in English this possessive statement would normally be reversed.

Also in English we would use the apostrophe – s to indicate possession – i.e. John’s book

What about your use of dele and dela?

  • A casa de Maria e bonita. Eu gusto da casa dela
  • A casa de Joao e bonita. Eu gusto da casa dele

In English:

  • Mary’s house is beautiful. I like her house.
  • John’s house is beautiful. I like his house

Note in English we have:

  1. The apostrophe -s, and
  2. The reversal of the possessive adjective and noun.

casa dela = her house

casa dele = his house

Note: Exactly the same principle would of course apply for the plural forms, deles and delas

English for Portuguese Students – Fazer


Make’ versus ‘Do’

In Portuguese you have a very useful word ‘ fazer’ which can mean a few different words/verbs in English.

Brazilian speakers however, normally struggle with two specific meanings/verbs; ‘to make’ and ‘to do’

In English “fazer” can mean both “make “ or “do”. But in English “make” and “do” are not interchangeable, in other words, they do not necessarily mean the same thing.

You have to learn when to use ‘make’ and when to use ‘do’.

Let’s look at some general rules:

We normally use the verb “do” to express daily activities or routines,


  • to do housework
  • to do dishes
  • to do homework
  • to do the cooking

With these examples you see that nothing is ‘made’ or constructed (construir) It is simply the completion of a chore.

Now look at the following examples

  • Hyndai makes cars
  • Please make some tea

Note: We use the verb “make” when something is made/produced/manufactured (construir).

The following two simple sentences will illustrate the differences clearly:

“They do the dishes” and “They make the dishes”

In the first sentence they ‘clean/wash’ the dishes, and in the second sentence they ‘manufacture’ them.

There are of course exceptions to this rule with some general expressions, but, unfortunately, you must simply learn them, for example:

  • To make a telephone call.
  • To make an appointment.
  • To make plans for the weekend.
  • To make a decision, or
  • To make up your mind.
  • You can also make mistakes (but your teacher can ask you) to do the corrections.

Note the following:

In Portuguese you say: Faz uma prova “Do” or “make” a test? What do we say in English?

  • We take a test – in the USA
  • We write a test – in England
  • We take or write a test in Canada or South Africa.

Here are a few other translations of ‘fazer’ in English.

  • Fazer uma pergunta – Ask a question.
  • Fazer algum dinheiro – Make some money
  • Tente fazer algo – Try to do something
  • Fazer uma pausa – Take a breather/break
  • Fazer anos – (to make years) to celebrate a birthday
  • Fazer a barba – (to make a beard) to shave
  • Fazer compras – (to make purchases) to shop/to do the shopping
  • Fazer as pazes – to make peace.

Please read our blog regularly. During the month of March we will look at some more problems that Brazilian speakers have when they learn English.

Do try and practice your English with a native language speaker – everyday! Take care!