Nothing better than learning popular sayings in a language to understand the culture and the grammar better.
The Portuguese language is full of figurative sentences that at first, may not make any sense to you but play a huge role when speaking the language.
Here I compiled the most used and the best Portuguese quotes to use. Most of these are famous Brazilian sayings, of course, since I’m Brazilian.
I translated every sentence to its literal meaning in English first, and then where it says ‘meaning’ I try to explain what the sentence means, or, in most cases, I mention an equivalent sentence in English. Despite the difference in expression, we do have a lot of sentences that have the same meaning or express the same ideas.
Best Quotes in Portuguese
Quem não pode como quer, queira como pode.
Meaning: Do as you may, if you can’t, do as you could
A pressa é a inimiga da perfeição
Haste is the enemy of perfection
Meaning: Haste makes waste
À noite todo gato é pardo
At night, every cat is brown
Meaning: All cats are grey in the dark
Seja a mudança que você quer ver no mundo.
Meaning: Be the change you want to see in the world.
Cor de burro quando foge
Color of a donkey when it runs away
Meaning: An ugly color
Quem ve cara, não ve coração
Who sees the face, doesn’t see the heart.
Meaning: Beauty is only skin-deep.
Quem não chora não mama
who does not cry does not breast
Meaning: The squeaky wheel gets the grease
Aqui se faz, aqui se paga
Here it is done, here it is paid
Meaning: Bad actions lead to bad karma
Deus ajuda quem cedo madruga
God helps who wakes up early
Meaning: The early bird catches the worm
Para bom entendedor, meia palavra basta
To a good ‘understander,’ half a word is enough
Meaning: Clever people don’t need a full explanation
Para baixo todo santo ajuda
Down, every Saint helps
Meaning: In a calm sea, every man is a pilot.
Quem com ferro fere, com ferro sera ferido
Who hurts with iron, with iron will be hurt
Meaning: Live by the sword, die by the sword
Quem não tem cão, caça com o gato
Who doesn’t have a dog, hunts with a cat
Meaning:There is more than one way to skin a cat
Saco vazio não para em pé
Empty bag won’t stand
Meaning: You have to eat, otherwise you won’t even be able to get up
Onde Judas perdeu as botas
Where Judas lost his boots
Meaning: In the back of beyond
Cada macaco no seu galho
Every monkey on its own branch
Meaning: Each one to his trade
Quem fala o que não deve, escuta o que não quer
Who says what shouldn’t listen to what they don’t want
Meaning: A closed mouth catches no flies
Just like the English phrase, in Portuguese you can also say: Boca fechada não entra mosca, which is the exact translation, of the English ‘meaning’ I just mentioned.
O sujo falando do mal lavado
The dirty talking about badly washed
Meaning: The pot calling the kettle black