Learning Brazilian Portuguese (or any other language for that matter) isn’t just about words and phrases, conjugations and tenses, pronouns and prepositions. All those things are important of course, but there is something else missing from that list. Body language! Or “non-verbal communication” if you prefer. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s not something you can easily learn from a book.
When Brazilians meet each other they have a whole range of greetings to choose from.
The Many ways to say Hello
- Oi is a very versatile word. As well as being the equivalent of “Hi”, it can also mean “Excuse me” (to catch someone’s attention) and “What?” (as in, I didn’t hear you). Has none of the rude connotations of the English “Oi!”.
- Olá is the equivalent of “Hello” – brief and to the point.
- Bom dia, Boa tarde, Boa noite - Good morning, afternoon and night. Here in Rio you can say this to pretty much anyone you pass on the street. Well, not if it’s a very busy street downtown during lunchtime. But if you are the only person walking down the road and then you pass an old lady, it’s nice to say wish her a good day.
- Como vai? My mother in law likes this one – it means “How is it going?” and can be used in combination with most of the others in this list.
- Tudo bem? – Sounds more like toodoo bayne, this means “All well?”. THis is probably the most common way of saying hello to someone you don’t know well, like at a party.
- Tudo bom? – This mean “All good?” and is pretty much interchangeable with tudo bem. When someone says “Tudo bem” to me, I like to counter with “Tudo bom” (and vice versa). My father in law once told me that Tudo bom is a little bit more familiar, less formal than Tudo bem
- Tudo certo? – This one means “All correct?” and it really confused me the first time someone said it to me. My response was to adopt the expression of a startled (and rather unintelligent) rabbit.
- Tranquilo? / Beleza? - These mean Calm and Beauty respectively and can be used with a questioning intonation as a greeting.
- E aí - This one literally means “And there” and is usually followed by one of the “Tudo” greetings above. This is mostly for cool people when they meet other people they judge to be cool. Strangely, people don’t seem to use this one with me very often…