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The Many Brazilian Portuguese Dialects

As you might expect from the language of the fifth-largest and sixth-most-populous country in the world, Brazilian Portuguese is far from uniform. Brazil has a population of more than 200 million people, spread over an area of more than 3.2 million square miles. Consequently, a wide variety of different accents and dialects of Brazilian Portuguese have evolved; far wider than in Portugal, which despite possessing a North-South divide is relatively uniform in terms of pronunciation and grammar.

Fortunately for the learner, the various dialects of Brazilian Portuguese are mutually intelligible. This means that when you learn Brazilian Portuguese from a tutor, you’ll be able to make yourself understood anywhere in Brazil. Nevertheless, it’s good to be aware of the different accents and dialects, especially if you’re planning to travel or move to Brazil, so that you know what to expect.

Below is a brief introduction to 16 of the most widely spoken Brazilian Portuguese dialects:

Baiano: Spoken in and around the state of Bahia in the southern part of the Northeast region, Baiano is similar in pronunciation to accents elsewhere in the Northeast. A peculiarity is that they tend not to use the definite article before proper nouns. For example, “Maria is happy” is Maria está feliz, not a Maria está feliz.

Brasiliense: Spoken in Brasília. The second-person pronoun tu is more common here than most other regions of Brazil, and pronunciation is more neutral and less heavily accented.

Caipira: Originates from the state of São Paulo and is spoken in the Southeast and Center-West regions. The letter “r” is pronounced heavily, and they tend not to pluralize nouns, i.e. “the cars” is os carro instead of os carros.

Carioca: Spoken in and around the state of Rio de Janeiro in the Southeast region. Carioca is a specific variant of Fluminense (see below) distinguished mostly by its slang, such as the use of the word conto instead of reais to describe units of currency.

Costa norte: Spoken in the northern part of the Northeast region, particularly in the state of Ceará and state of Piauí. A distinctive characteristic is the indiscriminate use of the second-person pronoun tu without regard for formality.

Cuiabano: Spoken in the Center-Western city of Cuiaba and the surrounding area. An eccentric mix of Caipira (see above) and Sertanejo (see below).

Fluminense: Widely spoken in and around the Southeastern states of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo. The letter “r” is pronounced with a rasp, similar to French.

Gaúcho: Spoken in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in the far South. The second-person pronoun tu is unusually common, and is paired with verb conjugations more commonly associated with você. For example, “you think” is rendered as tu pensa rather than the more “correct” tu pensas or você pensa.

Mineiro: Spoken in and around the state of Minas Gerais, in the Southeast region. Speech is unusually rapid and can be difficult to understand.

Nordestino: Spoken in the Northeast region. Nordestinos have a distinctive way of placing equal stress upon vowel sounds, giving the dialect a pleasant, musical quality which is sometimes seen as rustic by other Brazilians.

Nortista: Also known as Amazofonia and spoken in the North region. Has fewer deviations from European Portuguese than other dialects due to the heavy Portuguese colonial influence.

Paulistano: Spoken in and around the city of São Paulo. Has a heavy Italian influence and a colorful variety of slang created by the numerous waves of immigration into Brazil’s most cosmopolitan city.

Recifense: Spoken in and around the city of Recife in the Northeast of Brazil. A variant of the Nordestino accent, distinctive for the hissing of the letter “s.”

Serra amazônica: Spoken in recently deforested parts of the Amazon region in the North. Known as the “accent of the migrants,” it has more in common with Southern dialects than with its Northern neighbors.

Sertanejo: Spoken in and around the Center-West region. A descendent of the Caipira dialect with its roots in westward migration, it combines elements of various dialects from the Southeast and South regions.

Sulista: Spoken in the South region and in parts of southern São Paulo state. Sulista pronunciation has a nasal quality, and consonant sounds are harder than elsewhere in Brazil; for instance, “qu” is pronounced with a hard “k” sound.

It’s Simpler Than You Think

Regardless of these differences, there is far more uniting the various dialects of Brazilian Portuguese than there is dividing them. Gaúchos speak to Nordestinos and Cariocas to Mineiros all the time, and they understand each other just fine. When you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese with a tutor, your instructor can help clear up any doubts you have about the different dialects, and give you guidance if you’re planning to travel to Brazil.

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