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Informal pronouns: VOCÊ, VOCÊS, and A GENTE

In Portuguese, verb conjugation is traditionally taught using the following pronouns:

Portuguese pronouns English equivalent
eu I
tu you (singular)
ele / ela he / she
nós we
vós you (plural)
eles / elas they (male) / they (female)

In Brazil, however, tu is only used in a few regions of the country (and usually incorrectly), and vós has practically gone out of use (much like thou or thee in English).

In practice, você and vocês have replaced tu and vós, respectively—despite the fact that tu and vós are still officially the pronouns used on verb conjugation tables. With that said, here’s how to conjugate the verb amar (to love) using the most frequently used pronouns today:

Portuguese pronouns English equivalent
eu amo I love
tu amas você ama you love (singular)
ele/ela ama he/she loves
nós amamos we love
vós amais vocês amam you love (plural)
eles/elas amam they love

Another pronoun that can be replaced is nós, the formal we. In informal settings, especially in spoken language, the two-word pronoun a gente is often used instead.

Even though a gente means the same as nós (we), verbs are conjugated with it in the singular form (exactly like você and ele/ela).

pronoun conjugation of amar
eu amo
você ama
ele / ela ama
nós (formal) amamos
a gente (informal) ama
vocês amam
eles / elas amam


  • The pronoun a gente can also mean us.

  • Even though it is often replaced by a gente in informal language, the pronoun nós is still very much in use today (unlike tu and vós).

Let’s Practice!

Choose a verb of you liking and conjugate it using the pronouns described above. Remember to share your work with other users in the comments section!

October 9, 2017



This article is very good, but I want to demystify some things. I would feel more comfortable knowing why I'm addressing someone in a certain way, than just knowing that I should because that's how it's done in that language. I'm not sure if this is useful for someone else, so I can only hope this helps someone.

"vós" is, indeed, almost dead. You probably won't hear it anywhere, except from some older people in Portugal. But it's still taught in schools. If you use it, people will find it weird, but will definitely understand. It's been replaced by "vocês" (plural form of "você").

"você" has its origin in "Vossa Mercê" (vossa mercê - vossemecê - vosmecê - você), which was just an honorific to refer to the king (similar to His/Her Majesty, or "Vossa Majestade", in Portuguese), and quickly fell into vulgarity. And that is why, when using "você(s)", the verb conjugates in the third person, instead of the second person. That applies to all titles/honorifics (despite "você" is not exactly one, it has its origins in one and the language treats it the same way). Referring to someone as "você" is not polite. When talking to an older person or someone of superior social status, you would use "O senhor"/"A senhora"; when referring to a doctor you would use "O doutor"/"A doutora" or, even more politely, "O senhor doutor"; when talking to a judge (mainly in court, of course), you would use "Vossa Excelência" (same as "Your Honour/Honor"); and so on. Learning how to properly and politely address everyone in every occasion is hard, since you need to know all the proper honorifics, but you can at least learn how to politely address almost everyone (as you do in English) - we will get there after the examples.

Here are some examples: (A) "Doutor, eu estou doente?" (Doctor, am I sick?) (B) "O doutor acha que estou doente?" (Do you [doctor] think I'm sick? -- the direct translation would be "Does the doctor think I'm sick?", but it doesn't make sense in English when "the doctor" is the person you are talking to; in Portuguese it's fine!)

(A) "Senhor, poderia me informar como chegar ao mercado por favor?" (Sir, could you please tell me how to get to the market?") (B) "O senhor poderia me informar como chegar ao mercado por favor?" (Could you [sir] please tell me how to get to the market?)

(A) "Vossa Excelência, trago documentos que comprovam o fato." (Your Honor, I bring you documents that confirm the fact.) (A) more formal (and correct): "Excelentíssimo senhor juiz, trago documentos que comprovam o fato." (B) "Vossa Excelência exige mais provas?" (Does Your Honor require more proof?)

Notice the difference between (A) when directly addressing the person you are talking to ("O senhor ...") vs (B) when calling that person ("Senhor, ..."). "Vosso(a)" is a possessive pronoun (same as "Your") and doesn't call for "O/A" before it (although you could use it).

Being polite is just a matter of pleasing the person you are talking to without sounding rude to them and/or those around them/you. To most people, it's okay to just use "você", and I use it almost every time. However, if you want to make sure you are not being rude, it's very common to just use "O senhor"/"A senhora". It's as polite as being addressed as "Sir" or "Ma'am" in English. Of course you wouldn't use it to address a judge in court, but except for those very special occasions that call for a more appropriate honorific, it's polite enough (and sometimes even too polite...). Addressing a stranger in the streets when you want to ask for information; addressing your professor; politely addressing your parents; in all these situations, and in many others, it would be polite enough.

Now, about "você" vs "tu". In Brazil, "tu" is almost gone, but it's a big country and it depends on where you live. I can only talk about where I live. I still hear a lot of "tu", but they do not conjugate it appropriately. Instead of "tu gostas" they would say "tu gosta" (as in "você gosta"), and they'd find it very weird if you conjugated it properly. I do not recommend that you do the same just to fit in. In these places, just stick to "você". I can't say much about Portugal (I'm Portuguese, but moved to Brazil 12 years ago). All I know is that 12 years ago you wouldn't hear people using "você", only "tu"; nowadays, you hear a lot of both. I was told that you use "tu" when talking to people you have some intimacy with (friends, family, ...), and "você" with others, but I can't confirm that.


Thank you for your explanation.


I didn't even know anything about "a gente" so far. Thank you very much for pointing this out as well. And also I have a question on this topic: In Portugal they still use "tu" (but not vós), right? Still when you are talking to a stranger it's impolite to use "tu", but at the same time it's impolite to use "você", as far as I understood. So can anyone from Portugal tell me, how you are supposed to talk to stranger in Portugal in a polite way?


I will copy another user's post here from another discussion for you:


The third person honorific with the definite article (O senhor, a senhora, and plural counterparts) act as the second person pronouns in European Portuguese. "Voce" and "Voces" are used (if at all) for those with whom one is acquainted; "tu" is for intimates. A lady would be addressed properly as "A senhora dona [first name], as in "Lady Diana".

I have heard sisters refer to each other as a senhora but obviously with some affection in those cases (and, numerous times I hear "a menina" to refer to women they do not know and who are far older than 18. :D).

O senhor, a senhora also use the the 3rd Person conjugations and declensions as você/s (whether talking about him/her or directly to him/her).

Just to be clear, tu is very common; it is used more now than ever before, and the stores even use tu in their advertising and in windows (as an example). Stiff formality is dissolving in Portugal, but older people can get cranky about it. :)

Generally, você is a Brazilian thing. The Portuguese avoid using it, but do not mind when Brazilians (and learners of Brazilian) use it because they understand that is the Brazilian way. But for the Portuguese it is a bit rude or low class treatment. Some people would be offended to be addressed by "você" in part because it is not an honorific but a distancing pronoun used with equals or those beneath you.

Instead the Portuguese (people in Portugal) would use your title (doutor for instance), or your name, as in: would Maria like some tea?/A Maria quer um chá?


Also vós is rarely used in Portugal these days (mostly close to the border with Galicia where the word is the same, and from whence Portuguese was born). Portugal does now use voces for the plural you (formal and familiar). But vos (without the accent) will get used all over outside of Brazil for reflexive/object plural you. And vosso/a(s) for the possessive plural your. So, it still a good idea to be familiar with the pronoun and how it is used.

In this way there is far less ambiguity than in the Brazilian version which is becoming a non-drop version of the language (like English) when almost everything conjugates to the 3rd Person (or to the "tu" version for other tenses like with the Imperative to avoid conjugating differently... :D)


Here is part of another comment by a former DL course coordinator of Portuguese, a Portugal native who now has a blog dedicated to European Portuguese (basically he is saying, use "você" but don't actually say it just use the 3rd Person conjugation (same as we would with o/a senhor/a):

In Portugal, you should use "você" (especially the 3rd person conjugations) for people you have to be formal with (shop/hotel/museum clerks, café owners, etc.) or people who are older than you. If you want to be extra polite, you can use "O senhor" (Mr.) or "A senhora" (Ma'am/madam). You can use "tu" conjugations with people who are the same age as you.

One quick note: when approaching someone for the first time, don't use the actual pronouns - people might find it rude if you start a conversation with "Tu" or "Você" (at least to me, it would seem as if someone was calling me like a lackey, which is not very nice). Always start with a pleasantry (Bom dia! and Boa tarde! are key) and if you want to ask questions, using the correct conjugation of the verb points people in the way of how cordial/formal you're being with them

See the comment for some examples:


Here is his blog:



UPDATE: This post by Luis is really good at explaining it all in Portugal:



I'm not from Portugal and don't know much about Portuguese from Portugal, but couldn't you use a senhora/o senhor for talking to strangers?

Hope you'll soon get answers from someone who was raised or lives in Portugal :-)


I think it is kind of sad to eliminate the "tu" conjugations since there are an awful lot of people (including myself) who are learning Portuguese here though would prefer the European version (that encompasses all the other Portuguese speaking areas of the world) yet just does not have the resources (anywhere) that the Brazilian version has (this despite DL has programs for Irish, Greek, Danish, Norwegian, Welsh and a few more – including Klingon – that all have less native in-country speakers than just Portugal (not including Asia and Africa which follow EU PT conventions) and I have not even touched on the Portuguese diaspora... (I could go on here).

Plus Duolingo has touted that they are teaching Portuguese to Angolans and Mozambicans but the official language in those countries (and often taught in surrounding countries) is not Brazilian PT but rather European PT so Duolingo is deliberately teaching them the wrong syntax, spellings, and words.


No, the interest would be higher if Duo were teaching the correct form of Portuguese for those countries. ={

For the record, tu is very much in use in Portugal and the other countries and territories that speak Portuguese and, as I understand it, used correctly in at least some parts of Brazil as well (covering some 27+ million people just in Brazil alone).


Another issue that is not well addressed is using A gente and possessives/reflexives (for instance, We want our MTV or, They want to visit us or We need to seat ourselves).

Then there is the numbers. How do we say these? Only a few of us will be going back to our hotel tonight... or, Two of us drink beer, three of us drink wine, while we four drink tea.

It is also my understanding that a gente means everyone in some cases (toda a gente), at least in EU PT, but confusingly Duo has been teaching that a gente means the people then later pulls that rug out and says it only means, we/us.

So a little more clarity would be appreciated. Making things, "simple" is not always, nor is it always helpful.


"Gente" has many meanings, but in simple terms, it just refers to a group of people. Exactly as "people".

You could say "A gente daquela cidade é estranha" (The people from that city is weird). This is the usage you see in the image you posted, and "a gente" is actually used a lot in this context. You could also say "A minha gente quer paz" (My people wants peace). In both previous cases "gente" would mean "povo". If you are not aware of the meaning of "povo", it just means "people" when people is in the singular (my people is cool would be "meu povo é legal").

When you don't specify what "people" you are referring to, it depends on the context. If you were in a war, went out to protest and started screaming "The people want(s) peace", it would just mean that... your people (yourself included) wants peace. And in Portuguese, it would have the exact same meaning ("A gente quer paz"). But notice how in this case, even in English, you could use "We want peace" with the exact same meaning! In some occasions, "the people" and "we" just refer to the exact same group of people.

However, if someone told you "The people are going to have lunch" in English, you would ask "what people?". And here is where we finally find the difference between them. In Portuguese, you could just assume "the people" ("a gente") refers to whoever said that phrase plus some others - aka "we". As with "we" you might not know who are the "others", but you do know it includes whoever said it plus others.

Notice "a gente" doesn't always include the person who used the word! For example, if a king wanted to say the people are hungry, he could say "A gente está faminta" (with "a gente" meaning "o povo", but not including himself). It is ambiguous in this case - one might just assume he actually meant "nós" (we) here, when it's not the case, so it is indeed weird that at some point we started using "a gente" (a group that includes other(s) and possibly myself) to mean "we"/"us" (a group that includes other(s) and definitely myself). Somehow that happened and it became usual in Portuguese, so now we should just get used to it.

Just in case someone is confused about why it is used both for "we" and "us", notice that "a gente" isn't really a pronoun, it just performs the function of a pronoun. "I talked to the people" could be "I talked to them"; "The people talked to me" could be "They talked to me". So, as you can see, depending on where "the people" is on the phrase it would be replaced by "they" or "them" (for "a gente", it would be "we" or "us").


So does that mean that only 3 verb conjugations are required (eu, ele/ela/você/a gente, and eles/elas/vocês), but nós is still used?


Yes, nós is still widely used. It is slightly more formal than "a gente", but can pretty much be used in any situation.


So, when I want to ask the way to a random person on the street in Lissabon or ask for the menu in a restaurant in Porto, I have to say "senhor" or "senhora" (is there a difference between the "senhor" and "o senhor" or are they irreplaceable?). When I ask the way to a child, I have to/can say "tu". "Você" is impolite. "Vós" isn't used anymore. "A gente" is is very impolite us. Instead of "vós" I have to say "vocês".

Is that right?

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