I'm struggling to understand the bit in boldface below:

Pouco a pouco, palavra a palavra, que sintas o meu afecto por escrito se não o sentires por de mais [...] Decora o que te mais te diz, meu bem, e logo te darei mais que decorares...

My best guess is something like, 'more than describe to you, baby, and soon I'll give you more than descriptions',

But clearly there is some grammatical construction going on in the first half that I'm not getting... Can anyone explain to me the meaning and the structure here?


Based on comments, in this context, let us assume 'Decora' means 'memorize'. We'll presume the extra 'te' in the beginning is a typo. But how does the 'o que' part of the sentence work?

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    It sounds wrong to my ears. Without more context.it's hard to understand what you mean. "decora o que te mais te diz"... two personal pronouns (objective pronouns) .... te....te..... a typo? Could it be "decora o que mais te digo e logo te darei mais para decorares"?
    – Centaurus
    Sep 22, 2016 at 2:37
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    This expression is ambiguous and it's impossible to answer your question without the context. Decorar can be "to adorn" or "to memorize". We need more context to understand to which one are this sentence refers to. Sep 22, 2016 at 9:04
  • The first bit is clearly wrong. There's one te too many: it could be «decora o que mais te diz» or «decora o que te mais diz» (decorate/memorise that which is more meaningful to you/you relate more to). Or it could be something like «decora o que teu mestre te diz» (memorize what your teacher/master tells you). And yes, more context would help. And the source too.
    – Jacinto
    Sep 22, 2016 at 9:26
  • to know it could mean 'to memorize' is very helpful, given the context. I had assumed that the extra pronoun just meant something I didn't understand (spanish has some unusual-seeming [to an english speaker] usages of pronouns), but I guess I'll assume it was a typo. The author of it was a native portuguese (from portual) speaker, so I had assume dit wouldn't be a mistake.
    – Kyle Baker
    Sep 22, 2016 at 16:01
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    Some famous Brazilian writers have a peculiar way of writing that makes some sentences extremely hard to understand even to native Portuguese speakers, it seems to me you picked one of those. This is neither formal or informal way of speaking anywhere, and might require some familiarity with the work of this author to understand the message.
    – Havenard
    Sep 26, 2016 at 5:20

1 Answer 1


We have one te too many. We can delete either. I think que mais te diz is how most people would put it nowadays; so I’ll leave the que te mais diz, which has a quaint, 19th century feel to me, in keep with the rest of the sentence, I think:

Decora o que te mais diz, meu bem, e logo te darei mais que decorares...

This translates as:

Memorise that which you most relate to, my love, and then I’ll give you more to memorise.

Now the o que you stumbled on. You on can translate it simply as what, as in:

Faz o que quiseres (do what you want)
Come o que mais gostares (eat what you like best)
Diz o que tens a dizer (say what you have to say)

But we can look at the two words. The que is the relative pronoun equivalent to that, which, or sometimes to who, as in:

A carta que chegou hoje (the letter that arrived today)
O carro que eu vi (the car that I saw)

The o is here a demonstrative pronoun (Aulete 4) equivalent to aquilo; so that. So the whole thing is memorise that that means most to you. I wrote that which to avoid repeating that. Or you could say memorise what means most to you.

In the second bit — te darei mais que decorares — is rather unusual. I would say mais que decorar, not decorares. This que, is a relative pronoun without antecedent: it does not refer to anything mentioned earlier, unlike its cousin in a carta que chegou hoje. It is equivalent to coisas que, algo que: so que decorar = coisas que decorar. This construction was more common in the past, but I’ve never seen it with the personal infinitive (as decorares); always with the straight infinitive (as decorar). Nowadays people would more commonly say mais para decorares, which more closely matches the English more to memorise.

You had interpreted this bit, mais que, as more than. Well maybe that’s what was intended, and the author didn’t get it quite right. Maybe they meant to say mais (do) que coisas que decorar.

On a final note, the verb dizero que te mais diz — is being used idiomatically in the sense of (Aulete 11):

Provocar interesse, atração; ter significação para (alguém). [tdi. + a, para : Esse lugar lhe diz alguma coisa?]

[my translation:] To raise interest, cause attraction; to have meaning to (someone) [ […] Does this place attract/interest you in any way? Do you relate to this place in any way?]

So, memorise the words that mean the most to you, and soon you’ll have more. Lucky you!

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    You didn't address the second part. "te darei mais que decorares" is quite a strange construction to me. I would say "te darei mais para decorar(es)". The most similar example with que would require ter or haver: "haverá mais que decorar", "terás mais que decorar"
    – Artefacto
    Sep 22, 2016 at 22:43
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    @Artefacto I was hoping to get away without tackling it. It looks strange to me too. You find things like dar que comer, but always with the straight infinitive. A bit old fashioned, I think. Except for the somewhat fossilised dar que fazer.
    – Jacinto
    Sep 23, 2016 at 7:29
  • This is super helpful, thank you. Out of curiousity, is your background more Brazilian Portuguese, perhaps? (Trying to think of why the constructions would seem strange.) || I don't know your familiarity with Spanish, but it seems to me that 'o que' is essentially identical to 'lo que' in spanish (e.g., 'haz lo que quieras' -> 'do what you want') || There is the idiom in English, 'it speaks to me', e.g. in reference to an art piece that one feels emotion from. Would we say the usage of 'o que te mais diz' here is essentially 'that which speaks most to you'?
    – Kyle Baker
    Sep 23, 2016 at 15:34
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    @KyleBaker It's only the second bit -- te darei mais que decorares -- that sounds strange (I was replying to Artefacto). I've only ever seen things like darei mais que decorar, not decorares.; darei mais que decorar sounds only a bit 19th century to me. Nowadays you'd say darei mas para decorar or darei mais para decorares.
    – Jacinto
    Sep 23, 2016 at 15:51

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