The Portuguese words por que literally translate into English as “for what.” As such, the phrase por que can be used in a variety of contexts, usually translating either as “why” or “because.” However, por que can also be written as porque, por quê, or porquê, and each different version of the phrase (or, in two of the cases, the single word) has its own distinct usage and meaning. Practice with an expert tutor to learn how to use por que and its different versions correctly, and to develop all your Portuguese writing skills.
In this post, we’ll look at the four different Portuguese words (or phrases) and how they are used.
The simplest of the “four porques” for an English speaker to learn is porque, the single word without accents. Porque simply means “because,” and it is used in responses or explanations rather than in questions, as illustrated below.
I speak Portuguese very well because I learned with a tutor.
Eu falo muito bem o português porque aprendi com um tutor.
Porquê, the single Portuguese word with the circumflex on the final letter, is a noun that can be translated into English as “reason” or “cause.” It is usually preceded by the definite article o, as in o porque, meaning “the reason” or “the cause.” This can be used either in questions or in responses, depending on the context; however, when it is used in questions, the questions tend to be indirect. Two examples follow:
Please tell me the reason for this decision.
Por favor, me diga o porquê desta decisão.
There are three reasons for this decision.
Existem três porquês desta decisão.
Por Que and Por Quê
The other two Portuguese phrases both translate as “why.” They are usually, but not exclusively, used interrogatively, in a direct or indirect question.
Por que: This is used at the start or in the middle of a sentence.
Por quê: The meaning of por quê is essentially the same as that of por que; the circumflex is added when it appears at the end of a sentence, or as a stand-alone sentence fragment.
Below are five examples of how the two words work in practice.
I don’t know why.
Eu não sei por quê.
Why is the sky blue?
Por que o céu é azul?
The sky is blue—but why?
O céu é azul—mas por quê?
I’d like to know why you did it.
Eu gostaria de saber por que você fez isso.
Learn More With a Tutor
The usages describes above constitute the basics of how to use these Portuguese words. However, there are a number of subtleties, regional variations, and common non-orthodox usages of por que and its derivatives. If you want to know more, you’d be well advised to work with an expert tutor on the subject. Our tutors are knowledgeable, great communicators, and able to accommodate your schedule.