If you were to think of similar languages, you’d probably never think of these two. Portugal and China could hardly be further from each other and so we could guess the two languages wouldn’t have any similarities. And yet, as a Portuguese native who’s been learning Mandarin for a very long time, I can safely say the two languages have similarities that are not found in English. 

This means that if your first language is Mandarin and not English, you can use it as a reference point to learn Portuguese, rather than translating everything into English first. 


  1. Ser and estar – 是 and 在

– Check this blog post to know the differences between ser and estar – 

In European Portuguese, the verb “to be” has two translations: Ser and estar. 

Ser is used to qualify or identify something, or talk about something that cannot change easily. 

Estar is used to describe a current state or location, or something that is temporary. 

In Mandarin Chinese, something similar happens. 

Eu sou professor. 
I am a teacher.

是 and ser here act as the verb to be, to describe an identity, aka someone’s job.

Eu estou em Portugal.
I am in Portugal. 

Although in English both sentences use to be, in Chinese 在 and in Portuguese estar describe a current location which can change at any point. 

However, when we want to talk about something that cannot change, for example that someone is Portuguesel, aka an identity, we can use ser in Portuguese and 是 in Mandarin.

Eu sou português.
I am Portuguese. 

Note that estar can also be 了 in Chinese. 

Eu estou com fome. 
I am hungry.

Tu estás cansado?
Are you tired?


  1. “To have” to say there is haver / 有

– Check this blog post to learn more about the verb haver – 

Continuing with the verb to be, the idea of existence, there is or are in both Portuguese and Mandarin will use the verb to have rather than to be as in English. 

Há duas quartos nesta casa.
There are two rooms in this house. 

Note: Although haver is not technically to have in the sense of possession, it is still closer to to have in its definition than to be. 


  1. Not calling everyone “you” 

– Check this blog post to learn about formal and informal in Portuguese – 

In English, regardless of one’s status, they will be addressed the same way, with the pronoun “you”. Even when addressing two or more people at once, we still use “you”. In Portuguese and Mandarin however, this is not the case. 

It is very common for people to be addressed in the third person as a form of respect. 

A senhora está bem? 
Are you okay? 

The English form doesn’t express who we are talking about, an older lady, nor that we are trying to show respect to that person. 

Onde (vocês) estão?
Where are you?

In both Portuguese and Mandarin, it is clear that we are talking to more than one person. The pronouns vocês and 你们 indicate that we are addressing at least two people if not more. While in English if not given any context, this would be unclear. 


  1. The word for tea. 

This one is a bit more random than the rest, and not as useful, but just a fun thing to finish with. The word chá in Portuguese comes from the mandarin 茶 chá. Although the pronunciation of the two words is different, their spelling (in pinyin) is the same and it is very clear that they are rooted in each other. 


Did you know these similarities? Are there any others you can think of? Comment them below

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