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“Tu” and “Você” – How to Say “You” in Portuguese

What would you say? Is the correct way to say “You” in Portuguese “Tu” or “Você”? This doubt is a regular among language learners and one of the most crucial to clarify. It might surprise you to know that both terms are correct.

Plus, these are not the only two forms to address a person formally or informally in Portuguese from Portugal. Forms of address are a basis of communication regardless of the language. Using the correct words can determine the result of your interactions. It can also help you establish sound relationships.

But to use personal pronouns, you must first familiarize yourself with the Portuguese language and culture. So, let’s end all doubts and help you address Portuguese natives respectfully.

Below, discover the differences between the words “Tu” and “Você” and what they mean. Learn to conjugate verbs to correspond to each of them and find how to apply them in everyday interactions. Besides, dig into examples of how to use these and other terms to maintain productive conversations with others.

Then, analyze the differences between them in the two main Portuguese variants. Plus, learn about the mistakes you should avoid when using these Portuguese person pronouns. Continue reading to discover all about how you can say “You” in Portuguese.

Understanding The Difference Between “Tu” And “Você”

Tu VS Você in Portuguese

Learn more about personal pronouns and forms of address in an informal or formal environment in our course – The Journey. It is an interactive path through Portuguese from Portugal. And its goal is to help you learn without memorizing boring grammar rules. Instead, you will have fun and interact naturally with native speakers.

“Tu” and “Vós,” “Você,” and “Vocês” are not just ways of addressing people. They carry a meaning that dictates their proper usage in daily interactions. Let’s dive into what sets them apart so you can learn to use the most common forms of address in Portuguese.

The Pronoun “Tu”

“Tu” is the informal second-person singular pronoun in Portuguese. This form usually applies when speaking to someone you have a close relationship with, like an intimate friend. 

You will use it when speaking to family members and other people the same age as you, such as schoolmates. It is also standard practice to use it when addressing children or interacting with people younger than you.

"Tu" is used with friends or children, for example.
“Tu” is used with friends or children, for example.

The Second-person Singular Conjugation

With “Tu,” you must use the second-person singular conjugation. For instance, you would ask: “Tu falas Português?” (Do you speak English?). You can also say: “Tu percebes bem Português.” (You understand well Portuguese.)

In these examples, the verbs “Falar” (Speak) and “Perceber” (Understand) are in the Present Indicative. Like any other person pronoun, when using “Tu,” you should adapt the verb to the second-person singular of the appropriate tense and mode.

The Pronoun “Você”

The term “você” originated from the contraction of the two words: “Vossa mercê” (Your mercy), used for people you could not speak to using the second person. It later became “Vossemecê,” still used today in some areas as an informal or mildly formal address. Then, it evolved to “Vosmecê” and eventually to “Você.”

use "Voce" in mildly formal situations
use “Você” in mildly formal situations

“Vós” – The Second Person Plural in Portuguese

The original formal way of address in European Portuguese was the pronoun “Vós,” which is the plural of “Tu.” The conjugation in the second person plural is different from others. Using the example above, you would ask: “Vós falais Inglês?” (Do you speak English?). And you would say: “Vós percebeis bem Português.” (You understand well Portuguese.)

You might have already seen “Vós” when studying conjugations and personal pronouns. Still, it is uncommon nowadays in almost all the Portuguese territory and is used principally by people in the Northern regions.

“Você,” “Vocês,” and The Third Person Conjugation

The singular “Você” and its plural form “Vocês” came as replacements for “Tu” and “Vós.” Respectively, they are a more formal version and an updated one. They are not as common in written communication as in spoken language. 

Despite being an equivalent of “You,” “Você” uses the third-person singular conjugation. Thus, you would ask: “Você fala Inglês?” (Do you speak English?). Plus, you would say: “Você percebe bem Português” (You understand well Portuguese.)

You use “Vocês” when speaking to more than one person. Because it is a plural form, you must pair it with the verb, keeping the same form as its third-person plural conjugation. Hence, using the same example sentences, you would ask: “Vocês falam Inglês?” (Do you speak English?). And you would say: “Vocês percebem bem Português.” (You understand well Portuguese.)

These personal pronouns apply to the same situations and carry the same level of formality. Nowadays, it is also common for natives to use the word “Vocês” in informal contexts.

European Portuguese vs. Brazilian Portuguese

European Portuguese vs. Brazilian Portuguese
European Portuguese vs. Brazilian Portuguese

As you have seen, Portuguese speakers use “Tu” as an informal pronoun. Then, depending on the region and personal viewpoint, they may or may not use “Você” in formal circumstances.

In Brazil, these pronouns also depend on the region and your relationship with the person. But the generalized form of address is “Você.”

Yet, many Brazilian dialects use the pronoun “Tu.” In some regions, especially Southern states, “Tu” is the most common pronoun for natives. Still, Brazilians tend to be more relaxed people, while Portuguese natives are, in general, much more formal.

Thus, you can interchange “Tu” and “Você” when speaking Brazilian Portuguese. However, you must be mindful of the way you apply them in the European variant.

How to Address Someone in European Portuguese 

Our European Portuguese program – The Journey – helps you understand the common forms of address with barely any effort. It uses engaging and fun learning techniques to help you learn Portuguese. With it, you will instinctively know how to react in formal and informal situations.

Should You Use The Word “Você” or Not?

Many European Portuguese natives associate the word: “Você” with Brazilian Portuguese. Some see it as an informal address, an alternative to “Tu.” Others think of it as a way to indicate someone is from a lower social standing or even see it as a disrespectful expression.

So, the main issue with using “Você” to address formally is that you don’t know how the other person will react. Still, there are several forms of address you can use to avoid these pronouns. Here are two valuable alternatives.

4 Alternatives to “Você” and “Vocês”

As a non-native speaker, it is crucial to know how to use the appropriate polite forms in both informal and formal situations. Our Ultimate Guide on How to Address a Portuguese addresses everything you need to know about this subject. It explains the levels of formality in Portuguese from Portugal and how you can know when to use the second person and the third person. 

Ultimate Guide on How to Address a Portuguese

Suppress The Pronoun

The simplest way to not use “Você” and “Vocês” and maintain formality in conversation is to suppress the pronoun. Conjugate the verb according to the appropriate form of address to avoid the awkwardness of choosing the wrong pronoun.

This way, “Tu falas Inglês?” becomes “Falas Inglês?” and “Você fala Inglês?” turns into “Fala Inglês?”. For the plural, instead of “Vocês falam Inglês?” you can say “Falam Inglês?”

In this last case, you use an equivalent of the second-person plural. But remember that you must conjugate the verb in the third-person plural. Doing so ensures you keep the distance necessary for the other person to feel respected.

Use “O senhor”/”A senhora” And “Os senhores”/”As senhoras”

If you are speaking with a single person, you can use “o senhor“/”a senhora” (Gentleman or Mister/Ladie or Miss) depending on the gender. For example, you might ask: “De onde vem o senhor?” (Where do you come from, mister?). If you are waiting in line and want to give way to the lady behind, you can say: “A senhora pode passar.” (You can go ahead, miss.)

In this case, the plural forms would be “Os senhores” for groups of only men or men and women and “As senhoras” for groups of women. You might hear someone at a restaurant ask: “Os senhores vão querer água?” (Would the gentleman like some water?) Like with “Vocês,” you should apply verbs in these cases according to the third-person plural conjugation.

For Ladies, Use “Dona” or “Menina”

These two forms are just for women. “Dona” is usually for ladies older than you, and you should follow it with the person’s name. Contrarily, “Menina” is a standard way to address any young woman in certain Portuguese regions. In both these cases, you should keep the verb in the third-person singular conjugation.

Use The Person’s Name

For a less formal address that still uses the third person, you can substitute the pronoun for the person’s name. For example, you can say: “Joana, fala Inglês?” (Joana, do you speak English?). Eliminating the pronoun establishes some level of confidence.

use the persons name in formal situations
use the person’s name in formal situations

At the same time, it maintains a proper distance and respect. Besides, you won’t have to choose a specific label that could be incorrect or offensive. So, it also facilitates your communication.

What if You Get It Wrong?

There will be times when you make mistakes. Yes, you should know the different forms of formal and informal addresses. You must also learn to conjugate Portuguese verbs correctly. But you need to maintain reasonable expectations.

Even natives get pronouns and forms of address wrong once in a while. They will understand you are a language learner doing your best. If they correct you, it might leave you a bit embarrassed, but it will help you remember the right words for next time.

The truth is, you will only truly learn Portuguese from the moment you start using it. You are bound to get things wrong now and then. Think of it as being all part of your journey. Plus, you will have lots of funny stories to tell when you are fluent!

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 several iterations, we think we’ve got it! 😉

At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learned instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help you 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!

Conclusion on How to Address Someone in European Portuguese

Forms of address are some of the most paramount elements in conversation. They are crucial features with the power to win over or deeply offend those you interact with. Thus, you must learn to use them confidently and to your advantage.

For example, the pronouns “Tu” and “Você” are a part of Brazilian and European Portuguese. But they have different applications in both languages. Thus, their use varies with the variant you are learning and your current location. But it also depends on the type of relationship you have with the person you are speaking to.

Now, there are no more misunderstandings! You have learned to use them properly and be respectful while interacting with Portuguese speakers. Besides, you have also explored all eight forms to address someone in an informal or formal context.

Was this article helpful for you? Do you have any other questions about how to say “You” in Portuguese? Let us know through the comment section below!

At Portuguese With Carla, we have created a unique free resource to help you learn Portuguese from Portugal. Our Podcast is available on most platforms and presents dialogues spoken by natives. 

Each episode was written and recorded so you can progressively apprehend our beautiful language. With clear explanations and cultural details, you will learn to speak and understand Portuguese in a natural way. Happy listening!

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