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Basic Portuguese–Positive and Negative Adjectives

The act of evaluation–saying whether you think something is good or bad–arises all the time in casual conversation, whatever the language. If you’re trying to get to know a Portuguese speaker, you can guarantee that there will be a moment when you need to express your opinion about something, whether it be a piece of music or art, a film, a politician, or simply the weather. To do that, you’ll need to know some basic Portuguese adjectives that will enable you to express a positive or negative opinion about the subject.

In this post, we’ll list 10 basic Portuguese adjectives–5 positive and 5 negative–to help you get started. Learning basic Portuguese adjectives like the ones in this post is a start, but to get your opinion across accurately you’ll need fluency and confidence. The best way of gaining these is to practice this kind of conversation with a tutor.

Portuguese adjectives usually inflect for gender and quantity. Where appropriate, masculine inflections are labelled (m), feminine inflections are labelled (f), and plural inflections are labelled (p).

5 Positive Adjectives

Bom (m) / Boa (f) / Bons (m,p) / Boas (f,p)

Bom is a basic Portuguese word meaning “good.” If no other word comes to mind when you want to compliment something, use this and you’ll be understood. The word can also be used to describe moral goodness, as in ele é uma pessoa boa (he is a good person).

Bonito (m) / Bonita (f) / Bonitos (m,p) / Bonitas (f,p)

Bonito literally translates as “beautiful,” but it does not just describe physical beauty. If you see somebody do something generous, for example, you might say que coisa bonita! (What a beautiful thing!)

Ótimo (m) / Ótima (f) / Ótimos (m,p) / Ótimas (f,p)

This word is something of a false friend or false cognate, because it sounds a lot like the English word “optimum.” However, the real meaning is more like “great,” as in meu computador novo é ótimo (my new computer is great).

Legal / Legais (p)

Legal could be considered another false cognate. The meaning usually has nothing to do with the law (although it can be used in that sense as well), and is closer to the English word “cool.” Que legal! is a common Portuguese expression meaning something like “awesome” or “that’s great.”

Excelente / Excelentes (p)

Excelente, on the other hand, is a true cognate. In almost all cases, it can be used in the same way as the English word “excellent.”

5 Negative Adjectives

Ruim / Ruins (p)

Ruim is a basic Portuguese word meaning “bad.” However, unlike bom, it is not usually used in a moral sense. If you’ve seen a bad play, you might say que peça ruim (what a bad play), but if you want to say a person is morally bad, the adjective you want is mau.

Feio (m) / Feia (f) / Feios (m,p) / Feias (f,p)

Feio means “ugly.” As well as physical ugliness, it can also be used to describe ugly behavior. If somebody shouts down the phone at a customer service assistant, you might say isso é feio, conveying the sense that you find it to be unbecoming behavior.

Péssimo (m) / Péssima (f) / Péssimos (m,p) / Péssimas (f,p)

Use Péssimo when ruim is insufficient to convey just how bad you think something is. If you’ve just seen the worst film ever, you could say aquele filme foi péssimo (that film was dreadful).

Terrível / Terríveis (p)

Terrível can be used in the same sense as péssimo, but it’s more usually reserved for sad or shocking events, or extremely bad behavior. If somebody were to tell you they’d lost their job or crashed their car, you might say isso é terrível (that’s terrible).

Chato (m) / Chata (f) / Chatos (m,p) / Chatas (f,p)

Chato means boring, but also tiresome or annoying. If you’ve just taken a half hour to get off the phone with your chatty friend, you might say que cara chato (what an annoying guy).

The basic Portuguese adjectives listed in this post are just a start. Portuguese is particularly expressive when it comes to adjectives, with a wide variety of excellent words. The more of them you pick up, the more your conversational ability will shine through. After helping you get to grips with the basic Portuguese words, our expert tutors will enable you to widen your repertoire.

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