Language is a fun tool, and proverbs are some of the most enjoyable aspects of a language – and Brazilian Portuguese is a rich vein of proverbs!
Fun with Proverbs
Want a fast lesson in appearing to be cultured and erudite without putting much work into it at all? Learn a few proverbs in a native language – choose a musical language, something that has a nice rhythm and ring to it, like Portuguese. In fact, Brazil is a deep vein of very cool-sounding proverbs that you can memorise and dribble into your casual conversations without any effort at all. Tossing out Portuguese proverbs just makes you sound super classy and worldly – try some! Here are a few of my favourites.
Favourite Brazilian Proverbs
Alegria de uns, tristeza de outros (one man’s happiness is another man’s sadness). I love this one because it can be applied in a variety of situations, humorous or serious, and speaks a universal truth that applies in any language or culture: That we must remember that in order to win, someone else must be made to lose.
Antes só do que mal acompanhado (better alone than in bad company). This one can be used to justify a wide category of contrary decisions – such as turning down an opportunity or invite. Just be careful – it can insulting, and you never know when another Portuguese speaker is lurking!
Cachorro que late muito não morde (barking dogs seldom bite). This one comes in handy when you find yourself in a confrontation with someone. Often people try to win arguments or altercations through volume and aggression rather than reason and strength – and this proverb suits those moments perfectly.
Cada um sabe onde o sapato aperta (only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches). What I like about this one is the particularly Brazilian flavour it brings to a very common sentiment – that in order to know someone we must walk in their shoes. For extra flair, shorten it to the first four words and then trail off with a world-weary sigh.
Digas com quem andas e eu te direi quem és (a man is judged by the company he keeps). This one is perfect for a quick toast when out with friends – just remember to say it with a positive tone or risk insulting your company!
O amor é bonito enquanto dura (love is nice while it lasts). A sad note, yes, but useful in those morose moments when a party is winding down and a certain sadness is called for.
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