How to Pronounce the letter R in Brazilian Portuguese

In this post, you will learn the different ways the letter R can be pronounced in Portuguese words.

In order to know how to pronounce the letter R in Brazilian Portuguese, we need to understand that there are two main distinct sounds which occur depending on whether it's a double-R or a single R, which will also depend on whether it's at the beginning, middle or end of a word!

It's also important to note that the R is sometimes pronounced slightly different in certain regions of Brazil, but we're not going to go over that now. What we're interested in here is a more neutral and standard way to pronounce the R that is correct and will be understood by Brazilians wherever you are. Let's start by breaking it down into four sections - by the end of this article, you'll know exactly how to pronounce the letter R in Brazilian Portuguese!

1. A double-R will always make you happy! 

What do I mean by that? It's just a way to remember that whenever a double R appears in a word, the sound you're aiming at is the 'h' sound as it occurs in 'happy' (or horse, house, etc.) or the Scottish 'ch' in Loch. For Spanish speakers, the equivalent is the 'j' at the beginning of a word ('José', 'jamón', etc.).
Some examples:

Eu corro (I run)
 (little/small car/toy car)

2. A single R at the beginning of a word always makes you happy too!

rato (rat) 
rua (street) 
Rio (the short for Rio de Janeiro, and also 'river') 

3. A single R in the middle of a word most of the time will make you trill but sometimes will make you happy.

This is where it gets a bit tricky, but let's see

  • As a general rule a single R in the middle of a word is pronounced with a light trill:

coro (choir) 
caro (expensive) 
carinho (tenderness) 
muro (wall) 

** Did you notice anything here? Compare these words with the examples with a double-R in number 1. This shows how important it is to get the pronunciation of the R just right because if you get it wrong it might have a totally different meaning than what you originally intended to convey.

  • When the R in the middle of a word is preceded by the consonants N or S (and sometimes L - but they're not very common words) it makes you happy:

enredo (plot) 

4. But what about when the R is at the end of the word - I hear you ask!

Well, it varies quite a lot, you might not hear it at all:

You might hear it like a light trill:

or you might hear it like the English h sound in some English words like we saw before. This is how Cariocas (Brazilians from Rio) will normally pronounce it a the end of a word.

It's up to you which one to choose! But personally, I would suggest a more neutral 'trill'.

Now here's a challenge for you!

Try to say the following words aloud:

  1. aranha (spider)
  2. churrasco (barbecue) 
  3. cachorro (dog) 
  4. fora (out) 
  5. marido (husband)
  6. tesoura (scissors) 
  7. cara (face)
  8. barriga (belly)
  9. genro (son-in-law) 
  10. enraivecid(enraged)

Categories: Pronunciation