Consonant clusters

Consonant clusters

The phonology of Brazilian Portuguese is such that two consonant sounds cannot fall together unless the first is [r] or [s/z] (written as s or x), or the second is [l] or [r]. The combinations [ks] and [kt] are also permissible, in words like táxi, ficção and conectar, as is the combination [ps] when spelt pç/pc in words like decepção, decepcionar, opção and opcional. Three-consonant combinations of the form [r] or [s/z] + consonant + [l/r] may also occur, as in words like perplexo, explícito, esdrúxulo etc. In words where the spelling presents consonant combinations other than those described above, an extra [i] sound is inserted between the two consonants when the word is pronounced. Examples:

pneu, psicologia, abdicar, abstrato, capturar, enigma, ignorar, significar, objeto, observar, obscuro, segmento, submeter, subscrever

When this extra [i] sound is inserted after d or t, it causes palatalization: admirar, adquirir, advogado, Edson, ritmo, etnia, tsunami

Word-final consonants

Word-final consonants

Native Portuguese words can only end in a vowel or the consonants l (pronounced [w]), m or n (merely indicating the nasality of the preceding vowel), r, s or z. With foreign words and names that end in a consonant other than these, Brazilian speakers automatically add an [i] sound to the end of the word, which also causes palatalization of the letters d and t. This phenomenon is reflected in the Portuguese spelling of words of foreign origin:

hip-hop, pop, Ford, internet, time, clube, recorde

Initial 's' + consonant

Initial s + consonant

The combination s/x + consonant is always preceded by a vowel sound in native words, so in non-native words beginning with an s + consonant combination, an [i] sound is inserted before the [s]:

scanner, spray, Sting

Different from spelling

Pronunciation different from spelling

In everyday Brazilian speech, there are cases where the pronunciation of certain sounds departs from the spelling. Most notable among these are:


Stressed final vowels followed by s or z are frequently diphthongized:

mas [mas/majs], gás [gas/gajs], rapaz [ha'paz/ha'pajz], vocês [vo'ses/vo'sejs] ‘you’, nós [nɔs/nɔjs], voz [vɔz/vɔjz], pus [pus/pujs], produz [pro'duz/pro'dujz] ‘(it) produces’


The diphthong ei is simplified to [e] before [r], [ʃ] and [ʒ]:

primeiro [pri'mero], deixar [de'ʃar], beijo ['beʒu]


The diphthong ai is simplified to [a] before [ʃ] (spelt x):

caixa ['kaʃa], baixar ['baʃar]


The diphthong ou is simplified to [o]:

vou ['vo], louro ['loru] ‘blond’


The oral vowels, especially a, are partially nasalized before m or n in the following syllable:

cama ['kãma], ano ['ãnu], sonho ['sõŋu]


The infinitive vir ‘to come’ is pronounced with a nasal i [vĩ]

Doubled letters

Doubled letters

The only doubled consonants that occur in Portuguese spelling are rr and ss. These only occur between vowels and contrast in pronunciation with the single letters:

caro ‘dear’ vs. carro ‘car’

casar ‘to marry’ vs. cassar ‘to suspend’

Doubled vowels are rare in Portuguese. Double e occurs in words beginning with e to which the prefix pre or re is added, such as: preencher ‘to fill out’, reescrever ‘to rewrite’ and in a group of verbs ending in -preender (corresponding to English -prehend) and words derived from them, such as: apreender ‘to seize’, compreensão ‘understanding’ etc. It also occurs in the third person plural verb forms deem, leem and veem, from dar ‘to give’, ler ‘to read’ and ver ‘to see’ respectively. The two vowels are pronounced separately:

preencher, reescrever, apreender, compreensão, deem, leem, veem

Double o occurs in words with the prefix co- before an o, such as cooperar ‘to cooperate’, coordenar ‘to coordinate’ etc. It also occurs in a few nouns, such as enjoo ‘nausea’ and voo ‘flight’, and in the first person singular present indicative of verbs with an infinitive ending in -oar, e.g. enjoar > eu enjoo ‘I get sick/nauseous’. The two vowels are pronounced separately.

cooperar, coordenar, voo, enjoo

Doubled vowels also occur in some words of foreign origin, such as:

graal ‘grail’, iídiche ‘Yiddish’, Saara ‘Sahara’, Teerã ‘Teheran’

Word-final elision

Word-final vowel elision

Unstressed word-final [a] is elided (i.e. not pronounced) before another word beginning with any unstressed vowel, oral or nasal, and the two words are run together:

rosa amarela [rɔzama'rɛla], fala errado [fale'hadu], o dia inteiro [udʒiĩ'teru], liga o ar [ligu'ar], raça humana [rasuˈmana]

This rule does not apply if the final [a] or the following vowel is stressed:

sofá estofado [so'fa esto'fadu], faça isso ['fasa 'isu], pega uma ['pɛga 'uma]

Similarly, unstressed word-final [i] and [u] are run together with a following unstressed [i] and [u] respectively, with a slight lengthening of the vowel sound:

me identifiquei [mi:dẽtʃifi'kej], faço um bolo [fasũ:'bolu]

Nasal liaison

Nasal liaison

When stressed word-final [ẽ], [ẽj] or [ĩ] is followed by another word beginning with any vowel sound, stressed or unstressed, the sound [ỹ] (equivalent to nh) is inserted to make a liaison between the two vowels:

vem amanhã [vẽ(j)ỹama'ỹã], vim hoje [vĩ'ỹoʒi]



Metaphony is a phonological phenomenon whereby there is an alternation between the close [e] and open [ɛ] sounds, both spelt e, and between the close [o] and open [ɔ] sounds, both spelt o, in different inflected forms of the same word. Metaphony occurs in the following cases:


In a small group of nouns, where the tonic vowel is pronounced [o] in the singular and [ɔ] in the plural, e.g.:

ovo ['ovu] > ovos ['ɔvus], olho ['oʎu] > olhos ['ɔʎus], posto ['postu] > postos ['pɔstus]


In  nouns and adjectives ending in -eu(s) ['ew] in the masculine and -eia(s) ['ɛja] in the feminine, e.g.:

europeu [ewro'pew]  > europeia [ewro'pɛja], europeus [ewro'pews]  > europeias [ewro'pɛjas], ateu [a'tew] > ateia [a'tɛja], ateus [a'tews] > ateias [a'tɛjas]


In certain adjectives, namely those ending in -oso, posto ‘placed’ and derivatives (disposto, oposto etc.), grosso ‘thick, coarse, rude’ and novo ‘new’, where the masculine singular form has the close [o] sound while the feminine singular and both masculine and feminine plural have the open [ɔ] sound, e.g.:

gostoso [gos'tozu] > gostosa [gos'tɔza], gostosos [gos'tɔzus], gostosas [gos'tɔzas]


In the third person personal pronouns ele(s)/ela(s) and the demonstratives este(s)/esta(s), esse(s)/essa(s) and aquele(s)/aquela(s), where the masculine singular and plural forms have the close [e] sound while the feminine singular and plural forms have the open [ɛ] sound, e.g.:

ele ['eli] > ela ['ɛla], eles ['elis] > elas ['ɛlas], esse ['esi]essa ['ɛsa], esses ['esis]essas ['ɛsas]


In certain -ar verbs with -e- or -o- in the stem where the vowel is close when unstressed and open when stressed, e.g.:

levar [le'var] ‘to take’ > levo ['lɛvu] ‘I take’, leva ['lɛva] ‘(he) takes’, levam ['lɛvãw] ‘(they) take’

tocar [to'kar] ‘to touch’ > toco ['tɔku] ‘I touch’, toca ['tɔka] ‘(he) touches’, tocam ['tɔkãw] ‘(they) touch’


In certain -er verbs with -e- in the stem where the vowel is close except in the third persons singular and plural of the present indicative, e.g.:

dever [de'ver] ‘to owe’, devo ['devu] ‘I owe’ > deve ['dɛvi] ‘(he) owes’, devem ['dɛvẽ] ‘(they) owe’