LearningPortuguese

Diphthongs

Any pair of vowels that is pronounced as a single syllable is a diphthong. Not all diphthongs have accents on them – so don't be fooled into thinking that accents have anything to do with whether a vowel is part of a diphthong. Where two vowels have one sound, they form a diphthong. That's it.

Note: In all the following examples, ‘ow’ should be pronounced as in ‘cow’, not as in ‘throw’

ão
ow[ng]
au ow
ao
ow (there is no discernable difference between the pronunciation of ‘au’ and ‘ao’)
õe
oi[ng]
oi
oi
ãe
aye[ng]
ai
aye (note, ‘ai’ is not always a diphthong.  It is not a diphthong if it appears before a ‘z’ at the end of a word, before an ‘nh’ anywhere in a word, or before ‘l’, ‘r’, ‘m’ or ‘n’ if the consonant does not start a new syllable – don't worry too much about that though, I'm just being pedantic!)
ou
‘o’ like in ‘hot’, but a little bit more drawn out (tending towards the ‘o’ in ‘flow’).  Note: This is very often mispronounced by the English!  The temptation is to pronounce it like ‘oo’ in ‘food’, but this is wrong!
ei
‘a’ like in ‘hay’

The following two diphthongs are only used to affect the pronunciation of a preceding consonant ‘g’; or ‘q’. Where a different consonant precedes the vowel pair, or a diaeresis (2 little dots) is used over the ‘u’, they are not diphthongs – both vowels must be pronounced.

ui
same as the pronunciation of the Portuguese vowel ‘i’ (only a diphthong when used straight after a ‘g’, or ‘q’)
ue
same as the pronunciation of the Portuguese vowel ‘e’ (only a diphthong when used straight after a ‘g’, or ‘q’)

Note: Technically ‘eu’ and ‘iu’ are regarded as diphthongs, but personally I prefer to think of them as 2 separate vowels because they sound more like 2 separate syllables to me – albeit they are slurred together (e.g. ‘eu’ is pronounced almost like ‘ayu’).

The following words include some vowel pairs which are not diphthongs – to give you practice in both.

então foi mãe mau mão Paulo pai
entow[ng]
foy
my[ng]
mow
mow[ng]
Powlu pie

 

falei
falay
ohtru
poysh
apoyu
kai[ng]sh
relizhiow[ng]

 

rainha raiz confusões
ruim[ng]
rainya
raeezj
confuzoy[ng]sh
pohku

The words ‘rainha’ and ‘raiz’ use the ‘ai’ pairing, but are not diphthongs (were you paying attention?). There are not many words like that, so I’m being a bit mean really by throwing those two in! Most of the time that you come across ‘ai’, it will be pronounced like the ‘ie’ in ‘pie’.

The Portuguese language also contains a few triphthongs – three vowels pronounced as a single syllable. Usually this is in the form of ‘uei’ following a ‘g’ or ‘q’ (eg. ‘queijo’), where the sound is the same as the diphthong ‘ei’.

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