Depending on stress and intonation, a sentence can have several different meanings. The above sentence in written Portuguese and without any supporting context, would certainly be ambiguous. In the spoken language, however, stress and intonation help clarify what is meant by the speaker, even without any context. What different meanings can we have from "você não quer me emprestar o carro." by changing stress and intonation?


2 Answers 2


The meaning of the sentence can be changed by stressing almost all words (for instance for correcting information). In your sentence:

você não me quer emprestar o carro. (É você quem não me quer emprestar o carro.)

você não me quer / quer emprestar o carro. (É vontade que lhe falta.) This reading is more salient with the stress just on "quer".

você não me quer emprestar o carro. (É emprestar que você não quer.)

você não me quer emprestar o carro. (um carro notável em específico.)

você não me quer emprestar o carro. (O que você não me quer emprestar é o carro.) The stress begins on o.

The pronoun "me" cannot be stressed, but you can say:

você não me quer emprestar o carro a mim. (É a mim a quem você não quer emprestar o carro.)

  • It would be useful for those who are still learning the language if you could add a possible alternative for each example, i.e., "não quer emprestar mas provavelmente quer alugar", "você não quer mas teu marido quer", etc. –
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 2:37
  • "você não quer me emprestar o carro" is current usage in pt-BR.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 12:48
  • ou "você não quer emprestar o carro pra mim" Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 15:26

If you don't put any stress, it turns out to be a simple statement. If you said all the sentence out loud in a flat tone, it could potentially indicate some disappointment of yours towards the person (try to say it as flat as possible with a little decrease in the tone at the last word; it mostly works in English too I believe).

In case you raise your tone at the end, it is a question that could mean various things, like @Artefacto pointed out in his great answer.

I find it somewhat difficult to give a simple response without some context, because there could be so many...

For instance, giving the first word (você) the stress in the sentence, I could imagine a scenario where you ask someone how you probably would expect to lend you the car, but surprise surprise, that person actually, for whatever reason he/she might have, won't do you this favour.

Based on Artefacto's answer, I believe the meanings could be thought just as if the sentence were in English.

I mean, sure you change the meaning depending on which word you stress the most, but I am pretty convinced it would, in your example, be very or equally similar to an English speaker saying the same sentence in each possible word where tone can be stressed.

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