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10 Ways to Say “No” – Portuguese Alternatives to “Não”

The word “não” (no) is among the first terms you learn, whether in European or Brazilian Portuguese. As the most common way to say you disagree with someone, it is also one you will use often, along with “sim” and “Obrigado/a.”

From the beginning, when you learn Portuguese, you will include it in short answers like “não sei” (I don’t know) or “não quero” (I don’t want). But you will also use it by itself. On these occasions, you can replace it with equivalent sentences.

In Portuguese from Portugal, you can use these 10 expressions to say “não”:

  1. Isso é que era bom!
  2. Achas?
  3. Não é natal todos os dias!
  4. Nem pensar!
  5. Quando as galinhas tiverem dentes. 
  6. Nem que a vaca tussa.
  7. Nunca or Jamais 
  8. Nem que chovam picaretas!
  9. Era só o que faltava!
  10. Podes esperar sentado/a.

These examples include humorous idioms and Portuguese mum’s favorite phrases. They will help you answer spontaneously and blend in with native speakers. Learn when and how to use them, have a good laugh, and extend your knowledge of the European Portuguese language!

10 Unique Alternatives to The Word “Não” in Portuguese From Portugal

“Não” is everywhere in the European and Brazilian Portuguese languages. Similar to the English “no,” it expresses a negative answer. But, like the word “sim,” the preposition “em,” and many others, it has a nasal vowel. You can create this sound by making the air come simultaneously through your mouth and nose.

For a lesson in Portuguese pronunciations, see our YouTube video: Tricky Sounds of European Portuguese. Our interactive Portuguese course, The Journey, has extra support so you can learn and practice the language as pronounced in Portugal.

Nonetheless, you can replace “não” while learning its proper pronunciation. Here are ten awesome alternatives:

“Isso é que era bom!”

Here is the sentence most chosen by Portuguese mums. “Isso é que era bom!” is similar to “That’d be good!” It might seem a hopeful expression and can be applied that way. But the intonation in this answer implies a resounding negative.

It’s an excellent response to manage expectations. Did your athlete friend invite you for a 4 A.M. run when you are at your soundest sleep? The perfect answer would be: “Isso é que era bom!”


Again, “Achas?” applies to different situations. You can translate it to: “You think so?” to express doubt on a specific subject. 

To replace “não” in European Portuguese, say it once in a flat tone. Of course, if the situation calls for it, you can accompany this term with a sneering look or include a dramatic eye-roll. 

“Não é Natal todos os dias!”

“Não é Natal todos os dias!” is an expression used to stave off indulgences. Whatever the subject or request, it’s something that you would accept as a possibility on occasion, but not always. 

For example, your teenage kid broke their third phone this year and asked for a new one. Well, “It’s not Christmas every day!” It’s not that you will never get them a new one, but it shouldn’t happen anytime soon. Preferably not before they learn to be more responsible for their belongings.

“Nem pensar!”

This saying corresponds to the English “No way!” You might also hear the variation “Nem pensar nisso.” which means “Don’t even think about it. “Pensar” is the verb “To Think” in Portuguese. So, this expression establishes neither you nor anybody else in the conversation will even ponder the subject. 

thumbs down, disapprove, gesture

It is a popular European Portuguese expression to say “no.” And as one of the simplest alternatives, it is also one to remember. Plus, it helps you make a definitive point, conveying a final negative answer. Check out our YouTube video to find out 100 Common Expressions in European Portuguese.

“Quando as galinhas tiverem dentes”

“Quando as galinhas tiverem dentes” translates to “When hens have teeth.” The French language also has this saying. It indicates you are willing to concede only when something as unnatural as teethed chickens occurs in the real world. 

“Nem que a vaca tussa.”

Here is another zoological way to say “não” in Portuguese from Portugal. The translation for “Nem que a vaca tussa” is “Not even if the cow coughs.” Like in English, “vaca” (cow) is a feminine noun and thus preceded by the definite article “a.”

It is based on the belief that it would be impossible for cows to cough. Veterinarily speaking, cows can and do cough. Yet, it is a rare occurrence and a sign of illness. So, the phrase is still valid despite its apparent inaccuracy. 

“Nunca” or “Jamais”

Both “Nunca” and “Jamais” mean “Never.” They are simple ways to say there is no hope something will happen, regardless of the circumstances. 

You can use them in formal or informal contexts like their English equivalent. Still, “Jamais” is posher and has fallen into disuse lately. 

“Nem que chovam picaretas”

“Nem que chovam picaretas” translates to “Not even if it rains pickaxes.” Again, this expression indicates you will not comply, even in the face of an extraordinary phenomenon. It’s fiercer than the alternatives but carries the same cold and non-negotiable tone.  

“Era só o que faltava!”

Another mum favorite, “Era só o que faltava!” conveys a clear “Forget it.” It’s similar to the English expression: “That’s all we needed,” and you can use it the same way.  

Era só o que faltava!

Besides replacing “não,” its applications vary with the intonation used. You can express frustration over an inconvenient situation in life. For example, if it starts raining and you have no umbrella or your car breaks down on your way to work. 

“Podes esperar sentado/a”

This last expression also exists in the Spanish language. Its meaning, “You can wait seated,” implies that something is unlikely to happen. Thus, the person you’re speaking to should wait comfortably seated rather than standing. It’s excellent for when someone has been pushing your buttons. Does your co-worker want you to finish their report so they can go out partying? “Podes esperar sentado/a.”

Quick Portuguese Grammar Lesson

This sentence contains three verbs. “Podes” (You can) is the verb “Poder” (Can) in the second-person singular in the Present Indicative. “Esperar” is the verb “Wait” in its Infinitive form, and “sentado/a” (Seated) is the verb “To sit” in the Past Participle.

Like French, Spanish, and other Romance languages, Portuguese is gendered. So, you should adjust the last word to the gender of the person you speak to. Say “sentada” for a female or “sentado” for a male.

The Journey, our immersive language program, has all the resources to help you explore European Portuguese. With it, you can learn the correct pronunciation of Portuguese sounds and speak and write like a native!

Learn European Portuguese the Instinctive Way!

For the last decade, we’ve been working on putting together the best possible European Portuguese course. After much research, feedback from our students, and a number of iterations, we think we’ve got it! 😉

At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learnt instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help with master pronunciation, phrase construction, oral understanding, grammar, and all the necessary bits to get you to fluency. And still, the whole thing is presented as an adventure. It’s a course like no other, trust us!

How do You Say “No” in Portuguese – A Wrap-up

These were our top 10 ways to say “não” in European Portuguese. Discovering expressions to substitute basic words is one of the best ways to learn any language. Whether in Portuguese, French, or Spanish, you will sound fluent and impress your native friends. It also helps you continue progressing in your target language, avoiding study blocks and keeping you motivated. 

What was your favorite alternative to “não”? Try using it at least once in the next few days. Let us know which you chose and how it went! 

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