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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Langhammer


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Do you know what is the difference between the verbs FALAR (talk/speak), DIZER (say/tell) AND CONTAR (tell)?

The verbs FALAR, DIZER and CONTAR have different meanings, but in colloquial language in Brazil, these verbs are often used as if they were synonyms, especially the verbs FALAR (speak/talk) and DIZER (say/tell).

It’s very common to use the verb FALAR in place of the verb DIZER, but the opposite is not common. The verb FALAR is much more used than the verb DIZER. I’m talking about the use of these verbs in Brazil, in Portugal it’s different.

The verb FALAR is used to refer to the ability to speak, or the act of expressing oneself through words. On the other hand, the verb DIZER is used in the sense of informing or communicating something.

When I hear someone talking about something for a long time, but without clearly communicating an idea, I usually say:

- Essa pessoa fala muito, mas não diz nada. (That person talks a lot but doesn’t say anything.)

What does that mean? It means that the person has the ability to speak, to produce sounds through speech, but she/he is not communicating anything, she/he is not passing on information.

Let’s talk about each one of these verbs separately so you can better understand how to use them.

Let's start by talking about the verb FALAR (talk/speak).

This verb can be used in many different contexts. We’ll study the most common uses.

1. Express yourself through words.

For example:

- João não fala muito. (João doesn't talk much.)
- Maria fala demais. (Maria talks too much.)
- Pedrinho começou a falar com 2 anos. (Pedrinho started talking at the age of 2.)

2. Talk about a subject.

For example:

- Eles estão falando sobre o trabalho. (They're talking about work.)
- Ana gosta de falar sobre livros. (Ana likes to talk about books.)

3. Express yourself in any language.

For example:

- Ana fala inglês e português muito bem. (Ana speaks English and Portuguese very well.)
- Falar alemão é muito difícil. (Speaking German is very difficult.)

4. Communicate with someone.

For example:

- Eu falo com minha mãe uma vez por semana. (I talk with my mom once a week.)
- Maria precisa falar com seu chefe. (Maria needs to talk with her boss.)

5. Maintain a social relationship.

For example:

- Mariana não fala com Pedro. (Mariana and Pedro are not talking.)
- Mariana e Pedro fizeram as pazes e voltaram a se falar. (Mariana and Pedro made up and are talking again.)

6. Common expressions with the verb FALAR: to say good things or bad things about someone, to tell the truth.

For example:

- Ana fala muito bem da vizinha. (Ana says good things about the neighbor.)

- O candidato fala mal de seu adversário. (The candidate says bad things about his opponent.)

- Eu sempre falo a verdade. (I always tell the truth.)

Now let's talk about the verb DIZER.

This verb can also be used in many different contexts. We’ll study the most common uses.

1. Communicate or affirm something.

For example:

- Maria disse que vai se mudar na próxima semana. (Maria said she'll move next week.)
- João disse que não quer ir ao cinema. (João said he doesn't want to go to the movies.)

2. Narrate, report or describe something.

For example:

- Ela disse várias coisas boas sobre você. (She said a lot of good things about you.)
- Ela me disse as novidades. (She told me the news.)
- O que ela disse para ele? (What did she say to him?)

3. Direct and indirect speech.

For example:

- O réu disse: “Sou inocente!”. (The defendant said: "I’m innocent!".)

- O réu disse que era inocente. (The defendant said he was innocent.)

Now let's talk about the verb CONTAR.

This verb is less used than the verbs DIZER and FALAR, but it’s also very common.

We often use this verb in place of the verb DIZER.

For example:

- Ela me contou o que aconteceu. (She told me what happened.)


- Ela me disse o que aconteceu. (She told me what happened.)

We use the verb CONTAR a lot in order to tell the news or something that happened.

For example:

- Me conta! Como foi sua viagem? (Tell me! How was your trip?)

The most traditional use of the verb CONTAR is in the sense of telling a story.

For example:

- Minha avó adorava contar histórias. (My grandmother loved to tell stories.)

Now it's homework time. Write a comment below using these three words. Write a sentence with each verb to practice.

Até a próxima!

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