Accent Marks in Portuguese

Portuguese has many sounds and accents alike. The names of the Portuguese accents are: agudo (é), grave (è), circonflexo (ê), til/tilde (ã) and cedilha (ç). The purpose of this post is to demystify the Portuguese accents and explain the pronunciation so you can start to incorporate them into your reading and speaking.

In a nutshell, here are all the Portuguese accent marks:

  • á,é,í,ó,ú - o acento agudo - acute accent
  • à - o acento grave - grave accent
  • â, ê, ô, - o acento circonflexo - circumflex accent
  • ã,õ - til/tilde - tilda
  • ç - a cedilha - cedilla

1. Acute Accent (O Acento Agudo)

O Acento Agudo is an upward slanting accent that can appear over any vowel and looks like this: é. Of all the Portuguese accents this one is by far the most important as it’s used very widely throughout the language and has a big impact on how the vowel is pronounced.

When saying a word in Portuguese that has this accent mark, make sure to pronounce the vowel that has this the mark with the most emphasis and open your mouth more when pronouncing it.

The acute accent is used heavily in Portuguese. Here are some examples:

  • máquina - 'machine'
  • útil - 'useful'
  • épico - 'epic'
  • íntimo - 'intimate'
  • óbvio - 'obvious'

Remember though, Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese from Portugal have their differences and sometimes spell their words differently. Por exemplo:

  • arquitetónico (PT) → arquitetônico (BR)
  • atómico (PT) → atômico (BR)
  • anatómico (PT) → anatômico (BR)

2. Grave Accent (O Acento Grave)

This is the downward sloping accent that appears only over the letter -à.

The accent grave is somewhat rare in Portuguese and is pronounced exactly the same way as the acute accent -á.

First we’ll take a look at how the accent grave is used over the letter -e and its effects on pronunciation.

The only difference between the acute accent and the grave accent is found in written form. The -à is either alone or accompanied by an 's' and means 'to or 'on' Here are some examples:

  • Eu como feijoada às quinta-feiras. - I eat feijoada on Thursdays.
  • Estou à espera! - I’m waiting!
  • Vou à Azerbaijão. (I will go to Azerbaijan.)
  • Fui à escola. - I went to school.

3. Circumflex (O Circonflexo)

The circumflex accent is the little hat (o chapeuzinho) accent that appears over the following letters: -â,-ê,-ô. The circumflex accent in Portuguese changes the sound of the vowel to make it sound more closed.

Try to keep your mouth more closed when pronouncing this accent mark, like the word 'flow' in English. Por exemplo:

  • experiência - 'experience'
  • você - 'you'
  • âmbito - 'scope'

4. Tilda (Til/Tilde)

Of all the Portuguese accents, this is probably the most unique. Pronouncing this accent requires a sound unique to Portuguese. It is 'nasaly' and is very important to the Portuguese language. Imagine you are humming as you pronounce the vowel. Here are some examples:

  • não - 'no'
  • estação - 'station'
  • coração - 'heart'

Making Words with Tilda the Plural

For words in Portuguese that end in either -ã or -ão in their singular form, to make them plural, the ending will change to either -ãs or -ões. Similarly, for singular words that end with -ãe, the plural form will be -ães. Some examples:

  • irmã → irmãs - 'sister → sisters'
  • coração → corações - 'heart → hearts'
  • mãe → mães - 'mother → mothers'.

5. Cedilla (A Cedilha)

The cedilla (a cedilha) is the little squiggly mark that appears under the letter -c. It looks like this: -Ç -ç. The function of the cedilla is to make the letter -c have a strong sound like -s as in Sam.

Portuguese words with cedilla:

  • Praça - 'Plaza'
  • relação - 'relationship'
  • maçã - 'apple'
  • esperança - 'hope'
  • canção - 'song'