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  • Writer's pictureSpeaking Brazilian


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Do you know what is the difference between the words MAL (with L) and MAU (with U)?

MAL (badly) is an adverb, that is, it modifies a verb or adjective. In Portuguese, adverbs are invariable, so the word MAL does not vary in gender and number.

The word MAL can be used in many different contexts. Let's study the most common uses:

1. MAL means without comfort or well-being, or bad health: - Carolina está se sentindo mal hoje. (Carolina is not feeling well today.)

2. MAL means cruelly, inhumanly: - Eu não gosto de pessoas que tratam mal os animais. (I don't like people who treat animals badly.)

3. MAL means low quality, or imperfectly: - João dirige muito mal. (João drives very poorly.)

4. MAL means quickly, barely, as soon as: - Mal chegou em casa, Maria foi se deitar. (As soon as she got home, Maria went to bed.)

5. MAL means incorrectly and unfairly: - Ele agiu muito mal. (He acted very badly.)

6. MAL means unfavorably: - Não devemos falar mal de pessoas que não estão presentes. (We must not speak ill of people who are not present.)

7. The word MAL can also be a masculine noun: - Todos sabemos o mal que o cigarro faz. (We all know the harm that cigarettes do.) - Não quero o mal de ninguém. (I don't want anyone's harm.)

The word MAU (bad) is an adjective, that is, it modifies a noun. In Portuguese, adjectives are variable, so the word MAU varies in gender and number: MAU, MÁ, MAUS, MÁS.

In Brazil, we rarely use the adjective MAU, as it is much more common to use the adjective RUIM. Let's study the most common uses: 1. MAU or RUIM means evil, someone who does bad deeds, who doesn't have good feelings: - Aquele homem é mau e perigoso. (That man is evil and dangerous.) - Aquele homem é ruim e perigoso. (That man is evil and dangerous.)

2. MAU or RIUM means poorly made or of poor quality: - Estes filmes são maus. (These movies are bad.) - Estes filmes são ruins. (These movies are bad.)

3. MAU or RUIM means lack of talent or competence: - Ele é um mau motorista. (He's a bad driver.) - Ele é um motorista ruim. (He's a bad driver.)

4. MAU or RUIM refers to someone who does not fulfill their duties or obligations: - Elas são más alunas. (They're bad students.) - Elas são alunas ruins. (They're bad students.)

5. MAU or RUIM means inconvenient or inopportune: - Esta é uma hora para falar sobre este assunto. (This is a bad time to talk about this topic.) - Esta é uma hora ruim para falar sobre este assunto. (This is a bad time to talk about this topic.)

6. MAU or RUIM means unpleasant: - Este lugar tem um mau cheiro. (This place smells bad.) - Este lugar tem um cheiro ruim. (This place smells bad.)

7. The word MAU can also be a masculine noun: - Às vezes os maus também ganham. (Sometimes the bad guys win too.) - O mau do Brasil é a burocracia. (The bad thing about Brazil is the bureaucracy.)

To summarize:

MAL (badly) with L is an adverb and is the opposite of the word BEM (well).

- Ele é bem-humorado. Ele é mal-humorado. (He's good-humored. He is ill-humored.)

MAU (bad) with U is an adjective and is the opposite of the word BOM (good).

- Ela está de bom humor. Ela está de mau humor. (She's in a good mood. She is in a bad mood.)

Common examples with these four words:

- Este computador é bom. Funciona muito bem. (This computer is good. It works very well.) - Este computador é ruim. Funciona muito mal. (This computer is bad. It works very badly.)

- Ela é uma boa aluna e muito bem educada. (She is a good student and very well behaved.) - Ele é um mau aluno e muito mal educado. (He is a bad student and very ill behaved.)

That's it, guys! Now you know how to use the words MAL (badly) and MAU (bad).

Now it's homework time. Write a comment below using the words MAL (with L) AND MAU (with U). Write one sentence with each word to practice.

Até a próxima!

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