How to Address Brazilians
Do you know how you should talk to Brazilians properly? In this article we will enlighten you about the uses of treatment forms in Brazil.
Communication is one of the most important things of the world. It's essential to communicate with people and even more essential to know how to do it properly, in order to avoid misunderstandings.
How to use treatment pronouns
In Brazil, the Portuguese language has its own treatment pronouns, just like the English language does.
To help you in your communication with Brazilians, here are some explanations for different terms that are used in the country.
Você is the informal way of addressing to people. It's usually said between people with a certain degree of familiarity, between family members, or in colloquial language in general. We don't often address by você neither people we don't know – or just met – or elderly people (even though some of them actually prefer to be called by você – and will probably tell you this when you call them by senhor or senhora).
Senhor, senhora and senhorita
Senhor is the formal way of treating men, whether they are married or not. It would be the equivalent in English to the form Mister. In written language, it can be abbreviated to Sr.
Senhora, in turn, is the formal way of treating women – but only married women. It's also used to talk to elderly women, even if they're not married. It's the most equivalent form to Lady or Mrs. that exists in Portuguese. Can also be abbreviated to Sra.
In this particular case, there is a catch: some women (a very large number of them, actually) don't like to be addressed as senhora. This happens because, in Brazil, this particular pronoun has a connotation of the woman as an old lady – and that's pretty much why women usually prefer to be called simply by você.
Senhorita is the Portuguese form for the English pronoun Miss; in other words, for addressing single and usually younger women. It's not very common though; if someone is going to talk to a young lady who probably isn't married, they are going to talk to her as você or, in a more formal context, as senhora.
An important difference between the treatment forms in both languages is that in English, these pronouns are followed by the person's last name, while in Portuguese they are followed by it's first name.
There is another way of referring to women: dona. Historically, it is the female version for Dom, which is a title given to members of the Royal Family (especially from Portugal and Spain), aristocrats, Benedictine monks and dignitaries from the church (from Bishops up). Dom and Dona (with capital letters) are comparable to Lord and Lady, but aren't exactly the same. Nowadays, dona (with no capital letter) is used to address any women, the same way "lady" is. It's followed by the woman's first name.
The last name (or any surname, considering that Brazilians sometimes have more than one) can be used to address people in some circumstances. For instance, if there is more than one Ricardo in your group of friends, you can call them by their last names. But even if there isn't more than one Ricardo, you can still call him by his surname. It's an informal, friendly and pretty common way of treating people that are close to you.
According to the Brazilian Constitution, Doutor, or simply Dr., is the person who has successfully completed the doutorado course. Doutorado is the highest degree that someone can get in a career, and can be done after a person completed the mestrado. Mestrado and doutorado take, after graduation, six years to be done.
In Brazil, however, there is a tradition of calling physicians, lawyers, judges, prosecutors and chiefs of police of doutores, even though they don't have a doutorado degree. It's a common practice that started when Brazil was an Empire, in 1827. It lasts until today because there still is a popular belief that these professions are highest authorities, and therefore, deserve the title of doutores.