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Vocabulary & Pronunciation

How to pronounce Avô and Avó

Yes Portuguese
Escrito por Yes Portuguese em novembro 26, 2021
How to pronounce Avô and Avó
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Today you will learn once and for all how to pronounce avô and avó. And I know that this difference in sounds between these two words is one of the most difficult things for anyone learning Portuguese, especially if you are a Spanish speaker, because Spanish speakers have more difficulties in perceiving these two sounds.

But before we start, Comment down here if this is really difficult for you! This tip I’ll give you now is very important for anyone who wants to speak Portuguese naturally! In our Youtube Channel, you will find a video about the pronunciation of Ó and Ô. Click here to watch it! In addition to this one, you will find several super interesting video that will help you improve your Portuguese even more!

Portuguese vowels

Let’s start by understanding a little bit about vowel sounds in Portuguese.
In Portuguese, we have the oral vowels: A, É, Ê, O, Ô, I, U.
And the nasal vowels: ã, en, in, õ, un
(I know nasal vowels can be pretty tough too, but that’s not what we’re going to talk about here today. I promise that in another post, I’ll explain everything about them and teach you how to pronounce them once and for all.)

The sounds of letter O

But today, let’s talk about oral vowels. More specifically, let’s talk about vowel sounds Ó and Ô. As you can see, the letter O has two sounds in Portuguese. An open sound and a closed sound. And this is what causes great confusion among foreign students of Portuguese.

Avô and the closed sound of O

When we pronounce the vowel O with a closed sound, our lips are rounded and our tongue goes to the back of our mouth. Say Ô and notice where your tongue is in your mouth.
Some words will have the circunflex accent above them in writing to indicate that the sound is closed. But that doesn’t happen with all words.

The pronunciation of this Ô approximates to English words like: cold, old, go, no. And it’s the same sound as the O in Spanish.

So “avô”, which means “grandfather”, is pronounced like that, with a closed sound. When writing the word, there is an accent called caret over the letter O, which indicates that the sound is closed, Ô.
Other words that sound similar in Portuguese are: por, tô, robô, metrô, amor, flor, olho.

Avó and the open sound of O

Now, let’s look at the open sound of the vowel O. When we pronounce the vowel O with an open sound, our lips are rounded and our tongue goes to the bottom and front of our mouth. Do the exercise there with me and notice your language where it will be. Some words will have an acute accent above them in the writing to indicate that the sound is open. But that, again, doesn’t happen with every word.

The pronunciation will be similar to English words such as: law, shot, pot, not, nothing.

So, see: “avó” means “grandmother”. It has an acute accent in the O which tells us that the sound is open, Ó.
Other Portuguese words that have the same sound are: só, avó, nós, próximo, história, ótimo.

To help you out, you can also compare avó to rock and avô to roll. Rock and roll. Avó and avô.

Open and closed sounds and the gender of words

Let’s look at something else very interesting here: as you can see, “avô” is a masculine word and “avó” is a feminine word. We notice that in Portuguese it is quite common for masculine words with the letter O in the penultimate syllable to have a closed sound, while female words have an open sound. It’s not a rule, but it’s very common. So, it’s worth it for you to learn this, because it can help you.

See the examples:
sogro X sogra (father-in-law X mother-in-law)
porco X porca (male pig X female pig)

This works even with adjectives:
morto X morta (man dead X woman dead)

It even works with nouns that are very similar but have completely different meanings that do not relate, such as:
porto X porta (port X door)

That’s cool, isn’t it?

Open and closed sounds and the plural of words

Now let’s look at something else very interesting. Many words in the singular have a closed sound, but when we change to the plural, they start to have an open sound.

See the examples:

olho X olhos
morto X mortos
posto X postos
osso X ossos
povo X povos
tijolo X tijolos
corajoso X corajosos

I know it’s not very simple, but practice makes perfect! Therefore, repeat these sounds several times.

Now I strongly suggest you watch the video to hear the pronunciation and clarify any doubt you may have! And to learn even more, click here to read other articles in our blog!

And don’t forget to share this post with the people you think will benefit from this content too!

See you next time!


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