portuguese vs spanish

What’s the difference between Portuguese and Spanish?

What’s the difference between Portuguese and Spanish?

(Last Updated On: April 18, 2023)


Portuguese is a Romance language, while Spanish is a European language. As such, Portuguese and Spanish speakers will have certain variations in their pronunciation. Regarding Portuguese pronunciation, native speakers will pronounce words with an unstressed vowel sound and usually omit definite articles in a formal situation. They will also replace an auxiliary verb with a reflexive pronoun and often use nasal sounds instead of oral vowels. European Portuguese tends to have more unrounded vowels than its counterpart.

Meanwhile, Spanish speakers pronounce words with a rounded vowel sound and always use a definite article in formal situations. They will use the auxiliary verb, not the reflexive pronoun, and they typically use oral vowels instead of nasal sounds. Additionally, Spanish verbs are conjugated in different ways than Portuguese verbs. Overall, native Portuguese and Spanish speakers can often understand each other due to the similarities between the two languages, but the differences in pronunciation remain. Whether it’s a slight change in a vowel sound or a subtle alteration in verb conjugation, specific differences set Portuguese and Spanish apart.

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When it comes to grammar, the Portuguese language and the Spanish language share many similarities, but there are some crucial distinctions. In terms of verb conjugation, for example, Portuguese verbs tend to be conjugated according to the person and number. In contrast, Spanish verbs are conjugated in three groups (first, second, and third person). Additionally, the tenses and moods used in Portuguese differ slightly from those used in Spanish. In Portuguese, the simple past tense is conjugated differently than the past perfect tense, while in Spanish, they are both expressed using the same form.
Another significant difference between the two languages is that Portuguese has two different forms of the pronoun “you” – tu and você – depending on the level of formality. In Spanish, however, the informal “you” (tú) is only used in the singular form, while the more formal “you” (usted) is used in both singular and plural forms.
Finally, Portuguese is an official language in nine countries, while Spanish is an official language in 20 countries. This means that Portuguese has a smaller pool of native speakers than Spanish.

Read more about why Portuguese sounds like Slavic.

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One of the most significant differences between Portuguese and Spanish is their vocabularies. Portuguese has adopted words from other languages, such as French and German, while Spanish has adopted more words from Arabic and indigenous languages of the Americas. Portuguese has a much wider variety of dialects than Spanish, with Brazilian Portuguese having an entirely different vocabulary and accent than European Portuguese. Some words used in one language are absent in the other, making it difficult for people to understand each other without knowing both languages. For example, Portuguese does not use the verb “tener” (to have) but instead uses the verb “ter”.

Additionally, some words are spelled differently in either language, such as the Spanish word “gato” (cat) being spelled “gato” in Portuguese. Despite these differences, the two languages share many cognates or words with similar spelling and meaning, such as “sí” in Spanish and “sim” in Portuguese. Knowing both languages will help you to be able to recognize these similarities.


The spelling of Portuguese and Spanish are pretty different, though they share some similarities. Portuguese generally follows a phonetic spelling system, meaning words are spelled as they sound. This makes it easier to learn and pronounce new words. Spanish, however, has some silent letters and extra letters that can change the pronunciation of a word, making it more challenging to learn and pronounce. Another difference between the two languages is that Portuguese often uses single letters to represent sounds, like “s” for a softer sound.

In contrast, Spanish often uses combinations of letters like “ll” or “ch”. Additionally, Spanish uses the letter “y” more frequently than Portuguese. Finally, Portuguese and Spanish have their own set of accent marks, which indicate how certain words are pronounced. In Portuguese, accent marks are found on vowels to denote stressed syllables, while in Spanish, they are used on vowels and consonants to mark different pronunciations.


When comparing Portuguese and Spanish, the pronouns are pretty different. In Portuguese, the subject pronouns (e.g. I, you, he/she/it) are gender-specific, meaning there are different versions of the same pronoun depending on whether the subject is male or female. For example, in Portuguese, the subject pronoun for ‘he’ is ‘ele’, and the subject pronoun for ‘she’ is ‘ela’. Additionally, object pronouns (e.g. me, you, him/her/it) in Portuguese require special treatment when the verb comes before them, requiring them to be placed after the verb. This is unlike in Spanish, where object pronouns go before the verb regardless of where they are placed in a sentence.

Furthermore, when using direct object pronouns in Portuguese, there is a difference between “o/a” and “lo/la”. The former refers to an animate object, while the latter refers to an inanimate object. In Spanish, these two pronouns are the same.

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Prepositions are words that indicate the relationships between other words in a sentence. They are often used to describe time, place, or direction. While Portuguese and Spanish use prepositions, there are slight differences in usage. In Spanish, a preposition must always be used when referring to location and direction. For example, when saying “I am going to the store”, the preposition “to” must be used. In Portuguese, however, prepositions are not required when referring to location or direction. For example, “Eu vou à loja” (I’m going to the store) is translated as “Eu vou loja”. In Spanish, the preposition “de” expresses origin and possession. For example, the phrase “el libro de mi hermano” (my brother’s book) would require the use of “de”. In Portuguese, however, the preposition “do” expresses possession. For example, “o livro do meu irmão” (my brother’s book) would require the use of “do”.

Overall, Portuguese and Spanish use prepositions but with slight differences in usage. It is essential to be aware of these differences when learning either language.

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Regarding consonants, Portuguese and Spanish share many similarities; many of the same letters are used in both languages, with only a few exceptions. In general, both languages’ consonants are articulated the same way. The main difference is that Portuguese has a phoneme, represented by the letter “r”, that is not found in Spanish. The Portuguese “r” is usually pronounced further back in the throat than its Spanish counterpart.

Additionally, Portuguese has several pairs of consonants, such as “lh” and “nh”, which are not found in Spanish. The pairs are often pronounced as one single sound, but in some cases, the two consonants can be pronounced separately. Finally, there are some instances where the same letter has different pronunciations in Portuguese and Spanish. For example, the letter “b” is pronounced differently in both languages; in Spanish, it is always pronounced as a “b”, while in Portuguese, it can also be pronounced as a “v”. Similarly, the letter “c” can be pronounced as an “s” or a “k” depending on the language.


Using articles is one of the most distinguishing features between Portuguese and Spanish. In Portuguese, every noun has a definite article (the equivalent of “the” in English) and an indefinite article (the equivalent of “a/an” in English). The definite article changes based on the gender and number of the noun it is attached to, so there are six different forms of it:
Masculine singular – o
Masculine plural – os
Feminine singular – a
Feminine plural – as
Neuter singular – o (or, sometimes, lo)
Neuter plural – los
In Spanish, only masculine singular nouns have a definite article (el). All other nouns, regardless of gender or number, do not have a definite article. For example, in Portuguese, we would say “o livro” (the book), and in Spanish, it would be just “Libro”.
The indefinite article also behaves differently in each language. In Portuguese, the form of the indefinite article changes depending on the word’s last letter. If the word’s last letter is a vowel, then the indefinite article is “um”. The indefinite article is “um” if it is a consonant. In Spanish, however, the indefinite article is always “un”.
For example, in Portuguese, we would say “Um livro” (a book), and in Spanish, we would say “Un libro”.


When it comes to Portuguese and Spanish, the two cultures have a lot of similarities. Both countries have had a long and complicated history, with colonization and immigration leaving their marks on the societies. Many aspects of culture, such as food, music, and literature, are shared between the two cultures. However, there are some critical differences between the cultures of Portugal and Spain. Portugal has unique cultural traditions that make it stand out from its Iberian neighbor. These include various art forms, from traditional fado music to contemporary films. Portugal also has a rich literary tradition with renowned authors like Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago. Spain is known for its vibrant culture, with flamenco music and dance, tapas, and bullfighting being some of its most recognizable features. Spanish literature is also acclaimed, with writers like Miguel de Cervantes and Federico García Lorca widely praised for their works.
In conclusion, Portuguese and Spanish cultures share many similarities but also have unique elements that distinguish them. By understanding these cultures and their differences, one can appreciate the unique beauty of both countries.


When it comes to accents, there is a noticeable difference between Portuguese and Spanish. Portuguese has a more staccato sound, shorter syllables, and a punchy cadence. On the other hand, Spanish tends to flow more, with longer syllables and a more melodic sound. This is due to differences in how certain letters are pronounced in each language. For example, the letter “r” is rolled in Portuguese, while in Spanish, it is not. Additionally, Portuguese speakers tend to use a wider variety of intonations and tones than Spanish speakers, which can contribute to the difference in accent.


When comparing Portuguese and Spanish, it is essential to remember that although there are a few similarities, they are still two distinct languages. There are differences in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, pronouns, prepositions, consonants, articles, and culture. The accents of both languages also vary significantly. Although it may be tempting to think that one language is more complicated than the other, both are complex languages with rich histories and cultures. Learning either language can be a rewarding experience. By taking the time to understand the differences between them, you will be better equipped to appreciate the beauty of both languages.


Are there any differences in the use of accents and special characters in Portuguese and Spanish?

Yes, Portuguese and Spanish use different accents and special characters. For example, Portuguese uses the tilde (~) to indicate nasalization, while Spanish does not. Portuguese uses accent marks on vowels to indicate stress, while Spanish uses them to distinguish between similar words.

What are some cultural differences between Portugal and Spain that are reflected in their respective languages?

Portugal and Spain have distinct cultural traditions that are reflected in their languages. Portugal has a strong maritime history reflected in its seafaring vocabulary. Spanish culture is famous for its flamenco music and dance, influencing the language through expressions and idioms.

What are some common misconceptions about Portuguese and Spanish?

A common misconception is that Portuguese is a dialect of Spanish or that the two languages are interchangeable. In reality, they are distinct languages with unique characteristics. Additionally, many people assume that Spanish is easier to learn than Portuguese, but this is not necessarily true for everyone.

What are some resources for learning Portuguese and Spanish?

Many resources are available for learning Portuguese and Spanish, including textbooks, online courses, language schools, and immersion programs. Numerous language exchange programs and language learning apps can help learners practice speaking and listening skills.

Can Portuguese speakers understand other Romance languages, such as Italian or French?

Portuguese speakers may have some understanding of other Romance languages due to their common Latin roots. However, the level of mutual intelligibility varies depending on the language. For example, Portuguese and Italian have similar grammar rules and vocabulary, making it easier for speakers of one language to understand the other. However, the pronunciation and spelling of French are pretty different from Portuguese, making it more challenging for speakers to understand.

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