taxista-carioca

Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Goodnight!

Good morning everyone! Hmm, a time-of-day specific salutation like ‘good morning’ doesn’t make much sense on a blog page that can be read in any time-zone and at any time of day after it’s been published does it? Here in Brazil, time-of-day-specific salutations come in 3 flavours:

Bom dia (sounds like ‘bown JEE-ya’) – Good morning

Boa tarde (sounds like ‘boa TAHR-je’) – Good afternoon

Boa noite (sounds like ‘boa NOY-tche’) – Good night

 

And already I’ve run into trouble. “Bom dia” literally means ‘good day’, but it is used in the way that English speakers say ‘good morning’ (i.e. not used after midday). Also, I’ve translated “boa noite” as ‘good night’, but it is also used in the way that English speakers would say ‘good evening’. Everyone still with me?

Back in England I know instinctively when to switch from ‘good afternoon’ to ‘good evening’ – around 5.30pm – but here in Brazil, I am far less sure about when to make the switch from ‘Boa tarde’ to ‘Boa noite’.

For some reason it always seems to be taxi drivers who correct me when I get it wrong (and they appear to take great pleasure in doing so I might add!). However, seeing as several taxi drivers have wished me ‘bom dia’ at just a few minutes past midnight, I’m not sure I’m going to take too many lessons from them!

 

Taxista-carioca

The Carioca taxi driver. The caption that goes with this image says “he drives with his elbow out the window, pretends the air conditioning has broken down [TL: they always do this!] and definitely doesn’t believe that a straight line is the shortest path between two points!”. See the original post (in Portuguese) here it’s pretty funny!

 

Lucky for us, Mira Baros from Eat Girls and New Laje has put together a set of definitive rules:

 

 =====================

The Definitive Rules of Salutation

Bom Dia
“Bom dia” se fala depois que o sol nasceu.  
You say ‘Bom dia’ after the sun has risen.

Boa Noite
“Boa noite” se fala depois que escureceu.  You ‘Boa noite’ after it has got dark.

Boa Tarde
“Boa tarde” se fala depois que almoçou.  You say ‘Boa tarde’ after you’ve had lunch.

Notes:

  • As 04:00 eu vou falar boa noite, sim, Sr. Taxista.  At 4am I will say ‘boa noite’, yes Mr Taxi driver!
  • 18:30 no horario de verão é boa tarde. At 6.30pm in summer it is ‘boa tarde’.
  • Se eu acordar 14:00 é bom dia sim.  If I wake up at 2pm, I’ll say ‘bom dia’.
  • Tarde não é noite, então está permitido falar “Bom dia” mesmo depois do almoço.  Afternoon is not night, so it’s permitted to say ‘bom dia’ after lunch too.
  • Gente que trabalha em local fechado e não consegue saber se já escureceu fala o que quiser a qualquer hora.  People who work in a closed environment and can’t tell if it’s dark yet can say whatever they like at any time.

 =====================

 

I think that clears things up nicely – thanks Mira! I may have to get a set of these rules printed off to present to the next taxi driver who has a problem with my greeting. If this all seems like too much complication, why not try the Trueman Approach? Have a good weekend people!

 

 

17 replies
  1. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    And don’t forget that “goodbye” translates to “boa compra” (or “comprar comprar” for a more colloquial feel).
    Believe me Tom, this is how the in crowd bids farewell in Brazil and thus is vocab you should start using asap.
    Source: taxi driver from down the street.

    Btw Portuguese needs a term to differentiate “good evening” from “good night” as I often feel that I should be in pajamas when greeting people at night. Perhaps I should come up with a term . . . humm.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ha ha ha – pyjamas! 😀 I feel exactly the same way about the lack of “good evening”!

      Oh man, I just got your first joke too! You’re on form today Gritty… kind of…

      Reply
  2. Karin
    Karin says:

    I absolutely hate it when taxi drivers say good morning when picking you up from a party. The air of satisfaction with which they imply it’s too late for you to be going home and remind you that for some people it already is morning and they’re heading to work is awful. I feel bad and i know they do it on purpose!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Exactly! More than a little judgemental right?

      I used to have a friend who would delight in remarking that he had to work “tomorrow” as we got a cab home at 3am on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Anyone who hadn’t heard it before would be shocked: “Oh man! You have to work on Sunday! You’re going to suffer tomorrow man!”. Then he would smugly inform them that it was already Sunday and he was referring to work on Monday… The joke wore thin after 5 or 6 years… 😉

      Reply
          • The Gritty Poet
            The Gritty Poet says:

            What I find most commendable is that the guy doesn’t yield to peer pressure. After 5 to 6 years the moaning from his constituents begins – as do the calls to halt the joke (the weak just can’t handle the long haul), but he carries on nonetheless for he knows that changing course, albeit popular at present, will ultimately prove detrimental to his mates. And to the many cab drivers that deserve to rejoice in the joke and laugh at the sucker who fell for it as much as anyone one else (*that* is true concern for the working class btw). Man, you just don’t see that kind of commitment anymore.

  3. Nanda
    Nanda says:

    As far as i know you are supposed to say good afternoon when the clock hits 12:00 PM. I thought this was standard in the entire country. I didn’t know it was different in Rio. So if someone says good afternoon will you reply good morning just because you didn’t have lunch yet?!
    The midday mark seems to be a big deal where i live. If i say good morning at 11:52 AM people usually check their clocks to make sure whether should they correct me or not. It never fails to annoy me!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Nanda!

      Mira (and I!) share your annoyance when people check their watches to see if you have said the correct greeting at the correct time. Also (as Karin said above) it is annoying when taxi drivers make a point of saying ‘Bom dia’ when you are clearly on your way home after a late night out!

      I think that’s why Mira devised her set of rules. These rules are a rather ‘tongue-in-cheek’ – a term for which I am struggling to find a proper Portuguese translation. My long description would be to say that the rules are ‘mock-serious’ and quite funny at the same time. They made me chuckle when I read them 🙂

      Reply
  4. Malvina
    Malvina says:

    haha! I feel your pain! I remember when I was living in Ecuador and trying to figure out the dividing point between buenas tardes and buenas noches. Being from the northern USA where there’s a HUGE variation in the time that it gets dark, I couldn’t imagine how it would work. The set of rules I was given went like this: “6pm.” Me: “But sometimes, like in the winter it gets darker sooner right? ” No. 6pm. “But in the summer it doesn’t change?” No. We’re on the equator. 6pm. Always. (doh!) I like the Brazilian version of “when it gets dark” much better. More natural for me 🙂

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      I’m glad there is at least some seasonal change in this part of Brazil – I would miss it if it always stayed the same all year round like that. However, it certainly does take away the uncertainty of the tardes/noches switch! 😀

      Reply
  5. Marcos
    Marcos says:

    Hi Tom!

    Brazilian Portuguese is a confusing language for everyone, including those who were born here. I consider Brazilian Portuguese a dialect not a language. If you can see the Portuguese that people in Portugal speak is completely different from the kind of Portuguese that people here speak. I think that the Portuguese spoken in Portugal is more accurate than the one spoken in Brazil.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Marcos – I’d be fascinated to go to Portugal one day to hear the differences in the Portuguese spoken there. I’m sure I would sound hilarious to them, but I hope they’d at least be able to understand me 🙂

      Reply
  6. Nicolas
    Nicolas says:

    Oi! como vai? tudo bem?

    até onde eu sei, pelo menos no Rio, a questão depende do horário: se for depois de meio dia (12 PM) deve-se dizer boa tarde, e passar a dizer boa noite depois de 6 PM, só não sei dizer ainda quando é que é válido começar a dizer bom dia (mas acho que seja a partir das 6 da manhã)..

    aqui na Argentina, porém, não uso regra horária, o bom dia (buen dia) o uso quando acordo, independentemente se ainda for de madrugada e estiver escuro ou se já for de manhã e estiver claro, geralmente digo boa tarde (buenas tardes) depois de 1PM e boa noite (buenas noches) uma vez que o céu escureceu…

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Oi Nicolas! Tudo bem amigo! Acho que eu preciso respostar para seu email ainda – desculpe! Eu gosto delas regras da Argentina – elas fazem sentido 🙂

      Reply
  7. Marina
    Marina says:

    Bem, eu aprendi que a partir das 5 ou 6 da manhã é bom dia, depois das 12 é boa tarde e depois das 18 é boa noite.O jeito das pessoas falar pode variar, mas acho que essa é a regra que quase todos usam, viu? Ah, e quando eu digo regra, não é que tivemos aulas de etiqueta para aprender isso, mas é comum alguem dizer boa tarde e ser corrigido porque já passou das 18 horas. Eu não me ofendo com isso, geralmente a pessoa que corrige deduz que achamos que ainda é cedo e não que estamos usando o cumprimento errado, portanto na verdade ela está explicando que é mais tarde do que pensamos!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Heh heh, boas palavras Marina! Na verdade, nem eu me ofendo. Mas as vezes prefiro pensar que está ainda noite e não quero estar lembrado que está já manhã… rs

      Reply

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