Portuguese vs. Spanish: How Similar Are They?

Portuguese vs. Spanish: How Similar Are They?

Is Portuguese the same as Spanish?

Spanish language learners often hear this question.

Let’s break this myth right at the beginning.

No, Portuguese isn’t the same as Spanish. 

It’s an independent, different language.

However, it belongs to the same language family as Spanish (and French, Italian, Romanian as well), Romance languages, so it is understandable that those who don’t speak these languages are confused.

Besides many things Portuguese and Spanish have in common, there are many differences as well.

In the following lines, we will compare them and show you how similar they are. We’ll also see their main differences to understand these two languages better.

So, let’s dive in.

How Similar Are Portuguese and Spanish?

Is Portuguese similar to Spanish?

As we said, if you speak one language, you will be able to learn the other one faster. Moreover, without even knowing, you’ll be able to understand some parts of the other one, as well.

There’s even a name for those who mix up these languages, ‘Portuñol/ Portunhol.’

Let’s take a look at how similar are Portuguese and Spanish.

Language Origin

The similarity between Portuguese and Spanish started a long time ago.

Along with Catalan, French, Italian, and Romanian, these two languages belong to the Romance language family.

It means that all of them are the descendants of Vulgar Latin.

When Roman came to the Iberian Penninsula, they brought Latin with themselves. Over time, Latin started to change, and the language underwent some changes, which, in the end, resulted in several different languages.

Even though Portuguese and Spanish are different languages with their own grammar rules, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc., they share the same core, Latin.

The Most Spoken Languages

With more than 475 million speakers, Spanish is the second-most spoken language worldwide. There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries on every continent. And those are only the countries where Spanish is an official language.

A similar situation is with Portuguese, too. With more than 270 speakers, Portuguese takes sixth place in the world by its popularity. There are 10 countries where Portuguese is their official language.

As you see, both languages are quite famous and no matter which one you speak, it opens you many opportunities to travel and use the language, or even both of them.

History

Both Portugal and Spain are located on the Iberian Peninsula, which means that they are somehow isolated from other language relatives.

Due to their relative isolation from the rest of the continent, these two countries have close relationships culturally, economically, and historically. 

Even though they’ve had many battles during history, and each one of them created its own identity, that isolation affected their languages as well. 

Vocabulary

Interestingly, both languages look more similar in written than in spoken form.

If you know how to read in Spanish, you will, without much effort, manage to read Portuguese, too.

Take a look at these words: ‘información’ in Spanish is ‘informação’ in Portuguese or ‘primera’ in Spanish and ‘primeira’ in Portuguese, in the meaning ‘first.’

Even better, you can understand if you take a glimpse at the whole sentences, such as the following ones.

Spanish:¿Dónde me recomiendas que coma?

Portuguese: Onde você me recomenda para comer?

(translation in English: Where do you recommend I eat?)

Grammar

Since both languages are Romance languages, some of the main characteristics in grammar remained the same. Here are some of them:

  • The word order is the same.
  • Both languages use genders for common nouns.
  • The conjugation system follows the same logic.

5 Main Differences Between Portuguese And Spanish (That You Probably Didn’t Know About)

When two languages have the same origin, it’s not so hard to see how similar they are.

The challenging part is to find the differences.

However, knowing the differences between Portuguese and Spanish is an advantage that can help you separate these two and, therefore, learn both of them efficiently.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the main differences between Portuguese and Spanish. 

Regional Differences

Even though both languages belong to the same language family and share many similarities, even within one language, we have to keep in mind that there are different variants of Spanish and Portuguese.

Spanish has many different varieties. Mexican Spanish, for example, isn’t the same as Castellano or Chilean Spanish.

The same is with Portuguese. One of the largest Portuguese-speaking countries is Brazil, Portuguese spoken in Europe and Brazil differ a bit, mainly in using words, phrases, and slang.

So, if you compare, for example, Brazilian Portuguese and Castellano Spanish, there will be more differences than compared to the European Portuguese.

Moreover, in South Africa, where there are Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, the gap between the two languages is smaller.

The reason is simple. As much as these languages are different, their geographical position determines the similarities and differences.

Common Replacements 

In both languages, you can come across some common substitutions in words. Precisely, many words may sound similar at first, but then the difference is pretty obvious because of the letters in these words.

Some words that begin with ‘h’ in Spanish, in Portuguese, begin with ‘f.’

Those are words such as ‘hacer’ in Spanish, and ‘fazer’ in Portuguese, in the meaning ‘to do.’

Here’s another example: the verb ‘hablar’ in Spanish, or ‘to speak,’ in Portuguese is ‘falar.’

Pronunciation

You’ve already seen that Portuguese and Spanish have a similar vocabulary.

When it comes to pronunciation, however, they are different.

Let’s take a look at the example we’ve used to explain similarities in vocabulary.

The word ‘información’ in Spanish is, indeed, similar to ‘informação’ in Portuguese. But, they are pronounced differently.

Or the word ‘carro’ in Spanish is the same as ‘carro’ in Portuguese, but only in written form. 

The word is pronounced as it is written, with double’ r’ in Spanish, while Portuguese pronunciation would be ‘caho.’ 

False Friends

False friends are words that look and sound the same in two different languages because of their mutual origin, but they have different meanings.

Unsurprisingly, Portuguese, and Spanish share many false friends, even 89% of the words.

Here are some of them:

  • Polvo. In Portuguese, it means ‘octopus,’ and in Spanish, it is ‘dust.’
  • Rojo. This word means ‘red’ in Spanish, but not in Portuguese. The word ‘rojo’ in Portuguese means ‘purple.’ Red color, on the other hand, in Portuguese is ‘vermelho.’
  • Estar embarazada/ embaraçada. The word ‘embarazada’ is one of the most famous false friends between English and Spanish. Interestingly, the situation is similar to Portuguese, too. While in Spanish, ‘estar embarazada’ means ‘to be pregnant,’ in Portuguese, ‘estar embaraçada’ can be translated as ‘to be embarrassed.’
  • Salada. In Portuguese, ‘salada’ means ‘salad,’ but in Spanish, it means ‘salty.’

Grammar

While some of the basic grammar rules between Portuguese and Spanish are similar, it is vital to mention some significant differences:

  • Muy/Mucho vs. Muito. In Spanish, ‘muy’ is used before adjectives and adverbs and ‘mucho’ before nouns. In Portuguese, there is only one word that is used, and it is ‘muito.’
  • Ñ vs. Nh.  The Spanish alphabet is famous for the letter ‘Ñ.’ On the other hand, the Portuguese alphabet doesn’t contain it. In Portuguese, it becomes ‘nh.’ So, if you want to say ‘Espana’ in Portuguese, you say ‘Espanha.’
  • Yo/Me vs. Eu. These pronouns express the singular form of the first person. While in Spanish, we use ‘yo,’ or ‘me’ in Portuguese is used ‘eu.’

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Portuguese and Spanish are different languages, but similar, too. Although knowing Spanish can help you learn Portuguese faster, it doesn’t mean that you will be fluent in it one day.

If you are already familiar with Spanish, listening to Portuguese podcasts can help you see the main similarities and differences. You can also start with some common Portuguese phrases, perhaps compare them to the Spanish equivalents, and not only learn one language, but master both at once.

Can Portuguese speakers understand Spanish?

Portuguese speakers who have never heard Spanish before will have a hard time understanding it. They might find it easier to read in Spanish, though.

What are the main differences between Portuguese and Spanish?

Regional Differences, Common Replacements, Pronunciation, False Friends, Grammar

What are false friends in Spanish and Portuguese?

False friends are words that look and sound the same in two different languages because of their mutual origin, but they have different meanings. Unsurprisingly, Portuguese, and Spanish share many false friends, even 89% of the words. Here are some of them: Polvo. In Portuguese, it means ‘octopus,’ and in Spanish, it is ‘dust.’ Rojo. This word means ‘red’ in Spanish, but not in Portuguese. The word ‘rojo’ in Portuguese means ‘purple.’ Red color, on the other hand, in Portuguese is ‘vermelho.’

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