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I live in São Paulo although I'm an American and teach English here. One of my most troublesome questions is how to translate "pois é"?? Google gives me YEAH, or IT IS. Are there broader or more subtle translations? More idiomatic usage?

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  • Yes, well [rest of sentence]. Yes, right, [rest of conversation. It does NOT translate to YEAH or IT IS. That is just crap. Think of this: Mario: Eu fui a praia com ele ontém. João: Pois é, foi o que pensei. Right, that's what I thought. Most of the time, it just means WELL. Well, that's what I thought [too].
    – Lambie
    Oct 16, 2016 at 15:09
  • Sometimes, it is also used to mark a difference with what the first speaker is saying. Then, it's translated as WELL. Porqué você chegou atrasada na festa? [seg. pessoa] Pois é, não cheguei atrasada, só que você não mi viu. Well, I didn't get there late, you just didn't see me.
    – Lambie
    Oct 16, 2016 at 22:07
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    @Lambie I strongly disagree: "<A> O Presidente do [clube de futebol] é um corrupto... <B> Pois é!".
    – ANeves
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:00
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    @Lambie Please avoid answering in comments. Use the comments to ask for more information or to suggest improvements to the question.
    – ANeves
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:02
  • @ANeves Yes, but that is at the end of a sentence. B) So he is! I didn't cover every single case.
    – Lambie
    Dec 30, 2021 at 21:57

3 Answers 3

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"Pois é" is an interjection phrase and its translation depends pretty much on context. Basically it expresses confirmation or resignation, or both simultaneously. Sometimes it's just a filler. Other times you'd better ignore it in a translation work. In pt-BR you're likely to find it in sentences such as:

  1. (a) "Não se pode mais fazer bater nos filhos?"
    (b) "Pois é, agora as coisas mudaram." ("That's it", "that's true", "yes, you're right" or simply "yes").

  2. (a) "Vamos ou não vamos ter um aumento salarial?"
    (b) "Pois é, conforme eu havia dito na reunião anterior, a situação financeira da empresa está indefinida no momento e..." ("pois é" here sounds more like a filler, something like "vejam só" or "olhem". It may be translated as "you see", "look here", "well").

  3. (a) "Que droga de tempo. Chuva o tempo todo."
    (b) "Pois é". (agreed, I agree, exactly, said with regret) — In this example, intonation is everything so that it may even sound like "told you" or "too bad".

  4. (a) "Você está dizendo que ele morreu?"
    (b) "Pois é, morreu ontem". (exactly, yes, that's it).

As I've said before, "pois é" is an interjection phrase that expresses confirmation or resignation. More frequently it can be translated into English as "yes", "agreed", "exactly", "it's true", "you're right", that's it". Remember that interjections are unique in that more often than not you can hardly find a perfect translation, especially in the written language where stress and intonation are absent.

NB

  1. When in Portugal, beware of "pois", "pois é", "ora pois", "ora pois pois". These are used much more frequently in pt-PT than in pt-BR, sometimes as a filler, and with different meanings.
  2. Don't confuse "pois é" (interjection) with "pois é" (two words meaning "porque é"). Example:

"O empreendedorismo é essencial nas sociedades, pois é (porque é) através dele que as empresas buscam a inovação."

To be more precise, "pois é", the same way as "muito bem!", "que alívio", "é isso aí, mano", "nossa mãe!", "de jeito nenhum", etc. is an interjection phrase, in the sense that it has the meaning of a complete sentence and is thus understood.

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  • Frankly, Pois é is mostly the idea of /Well, the thing is that/. In English, we don't start sentences "in response" with some of the words you have given. Pois é can be: Well// or /Well, the thing is that//Yes, that's right [not you're right] or /well, right/ I would not say exactly for it in English. It is not an interjection. It is a conversational discourse marker re the other person. Sometimes, it does not even require translation.
    – Lambie
    Oct 16, 2016 at 15:02
  • @Lambie In a particular context "póis é" can be translated as "you're right". You've also mentioned that it isn't an interjection. "You're right", I wasn't accurate enough. In Portuguese it is "uma locução interjetiva".
    – Centaurus
    Oct 16, 2016 at 20:52
  • Póis é, geralmente não quer dizer você está certo ou você tem razão. So se diz póis é respondendo a outro falante. Pouco importa a gramática em si para poder traduzir a expressão. As vezes se usa até para completar ou adicionar um ideia completamente diferente....
    – Lambie
    Oct 16, 2016 at 22:04
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    @Lambie De acordo com seus relatos, o Sr. é intérprete. Fala inglês e português fluentemente. Conhece bem tanto o portugues falado no Brazil quanto o português Europeu. Sabe perfeitamente o que quer dizer "pois é". Então, porque não contribui com uma resposta? Certamente terá muito a acrescentar àquilo que eu pude escrever.
    – Centaurus
    Oct 17, 2016 at 21:37
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    @Lambie não discordo que o "pois é" seja mais usado no Brasil, ou que cá em Portugal usemos mais "pois" do que "pois é". Mas usamos (ex. 1, ex. 2, etc) de facto essa expressão. Adiciona uma resposta alternativa, mesmo que seja incompleta, que eu acho sempre bom ter visões complementares ou alternativas.
    – ANeves
    Oct 18, 2016 at 14:12
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I think we use "It is what it is" the same way folks use "pois é". Literally it doesn't mean much, but it's used to signal resignation.

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Pois e....means "yeah", but in the sense of "yeah, yeah,that's the way it is, what can you do?" It's almost like saying "that's life". My grandma used to use the expression a lot.

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