Difficult English Idioms When Translating from Portuguese

Idioms are sayings or expressions with meanings that cannot be guessed from the words that comprise them. Idioms should not be taken literally, since they are just alternative ways to say something differently. People who are learning English as a second language may need to take a little more time to learn the meanings of these idioms. If you are traveling to the United States from Brazil, these expressions may sound odd or weird to you, but they will make sense once you understand their underlying meanings. If you speak Portuguese, here are ten translated challenging English idioms, their meanings, and examples of how they can be used in everyday conversation.

  1. A bola está do seu lado – The ball is in your court
    This saying is similar to the saying “the situation is in your hands” meaning that it is up to you to make a decision.

    “What do you think we should do about the funds?”
    “Since you are treasurer of the committee, the ball is in your court.”

  2. Quebrar uma perna – Break a leg
    This expression should not be taken literally since it is just a common way to tell someone else good luck.

    “I’m playing my first show tomorrow.”
    “Break a leg!”

  3. Custa um braço e uma perna – Costs an arm and a leg
    This idiom is used to say that something is very expensive.

    “Look at the price of that.”
    “Wow that costs an arm and a leg!”

  4. Não julgue um livro pela sua capa – Don’t judge a book by its cover
    This commonly used expression means to not judge someone or something by outward appearances.

    “He looks like a very shy person.”
    “You just have to get to know him first. Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

  5. Não deixe o gato fora do saco – Don’t let the cat out of the bag
    This strange saying is just another way of saying to keep a secret or to not tell anyone else a secret.

    “I’m taking Mary to Brazil for our surprise honeymoon. Don’t let the cat out of the bag!”

  6. Não se preocupe ou sem sour – Don’t sweat it or no sweat
    “Don’t sweat it” is an alternative to saying “don’t worry about it.” You would use this saying if you do not want someone to be troubled by something. “No sweat” is another way of saying that something, usually a task, is easy to do.

    “Are you sure you can finish this extra paperwork?”
    “Yeah, don’t sweat it.”

    “You are really good at your job.”
    “Thanks it’s really no sweat.”

  7. Levantar-se do lado errado da cama – Get up or woke up on the wrong side of the bed
    You would use this saying if you feel cranky or uncomfortable. People typically use this saying if they are having a bad day.

    “You seem very irritable. Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed today?”

    “I’m feeling awful today. I must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.”

  8. Concluir apressadamente – Jump to conclusions
    This expression means to makes an assumption without first knowing all of the facts.

    “The Brazil team is so good I think they might win the World Cup!”
    “The finals are not until next week! Don’t jump to conclusions.”

  9. Matar dois coelhos com uma cajadada só – Killing two birds with one stone
    This odd idiom is commonly used when you can accomplish two things with one effort. You would use this saying if you can use one action to finish two tasks.

    “I’ll be killing two birds with one stone by buying my groceries while waiting for my photos to be printed at Costco.”

  10. Fala do diabo e ele aparece – Speak of the devil
    This expression is used when somebody you were speaking about shows up.

    “Has anybody seen Erika?”
    “I’m over here! Sorry I’m late.”
    “Well, speak of the devil!”

Photo Credit: Ted Major

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