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I am a Catholic, and recently I had wonderful opportunities to listen to hymns in Brazilian Catholic mass.

I love their music (and of course, themselves too!), and so it has occurred to me that I might try to understand the meanings of their songs, learning their language on my own.

So here is one question about the song Oração pela familia.

In this song, I see many instances of the word que. For instance,

Que nenhuma familia comece em qualquer de repente

My question is, what role does this que play?

Does it work like, say, the word may in May God bless you?

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You’re on the right track. I'll start with simpler sentences:

Que Deus te abençoe = May God bless you

but that que does not translate as may. It translates as the conjunction that, as in:

Eu desejo que Deus te abençoe = I wish that God shall bless you

It just so happens that in Portuguese you can express a wish that something shall happen, starting the sentence with the conjunction que, and omitting eu desejo. Note that this is just to explain the meaning of that que; I am not claiming that sentences like que Deus te abençoe arose as shortened versions of eu desejo que

You don’t use this structure for all types of wishes. It is used mostly for things outside your control, as if you were appealing to higher power to make it so, as in:

Que eles sejam muito felizes (may they be very happy)
Que consigas tudo o que desejas (may you achieve all you desire)
Que cheguem todos bem (may you all arrive safely)

It can be used for commands or exhortations as well. Again, to understand the que you can imagine that there is a eu ordeno missing―eu ordeno que = I command that:

Que ninguém mexa nestes papéis! (let no one touch these papers!)
Que ninguém desanime! (let no one lose heart!)
Que haja luz! (Genesis 1:3, NTLH ; let there be light!)

The lines in the song are a combination of wish and exhortation:

Que nenhuma família comece em qualquer de repente =
May/let no family start in some “all-of-a-sudden” (out of an impulse or some “contingency”)

In many such sentences you actually can drop the que: Que Deus de abençoe = Deus te abençoe, and que haja luz = haja luz. But often, if you drop the que, it will sound better if you place the verb before the subject. You could do that with most, if not all, verses in the song:

E que os filhos conheçam a força que brota do amor! = E conheçam os filhos a força que brota do amor! (may/let the children know the strength that comes out of love!)

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  • Thanks for your translation on the part. I was not sure if brota is meant to be "comes out of" or "sprouts". sprouts of love, what is that. – NJS Jun 18 '19 at 1:29
  • Great answer, especially pointing out that the que isn't necessary, even if far less common in the modern language. – user0721090601 Jun 18 '19 at 1:57
  • @NJS, brotar does mean 'to sprout' as in leaves sprouting from trees; and figuratively it means 'to develop, grow (from); come out of', as in strength out of love. I actually considered "the strength that sprouts from love", whihc I think would be ok, but went for the safer "comes out of" in the end. – Jacinto Jun 18 '19 at 7:25
  • @guifa, yes, some sentences may sound a little weird without that que. Consigas tudo o que desejas ? sounds better with the que, I think. Camões had no problem dropping all these ques though. – Jacinto Jun 18 '19 at 7:36
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There are many meanings and grammatical functions of "que" in the Portuguese language. In that case means 'that' or as you guessed 'may'.

In your example, it can be translated as: "that/may no family starts suddenly, in a mishap".

below you can check the various functions of "que" extracted from wiktionary.org:

Alternative forms

q (abbreviation)
q̃ (abbreviation, obsolete)

Etymology

From Old Portuguese que, from Latin quid (“what”), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷid, compare *kʷis. Pronunciation

(Portugal) IPA(key): /kɨ/
(Brazil) IPA(key): /ki/
    Homophone: qui
(South Brazil) IPA(key): /ke/
    Homophone: quê
Hyphenation: que

Conjunction

que

that (connecting noun clause) quotations ▼
that (introducing the result of the main clause)

    Está tão frio que os canos congelaram.

        It is so cold that the pipes froze

than (used in comparisons, to introduce the basis of comparison)

    O inverno é mais frio que o verão.

        Winter is colder than summer.

(only in subordinate clauses) seeing as; since; for; because (introduces explanatory clause). quotations ▼

    Espere um pouco que a chuva já vai parar.

        Wait a little: for the rain is about to stop.

(only in subordinate clauses) and (indicating the consequences of an action, often threateningly)

    Quebre as regras que você será punido.

        Break the rules and you will be arrested.

Quotations

For quotations of use of this term, see Citations:que. Synonyms

(than): do que
(because): por causa que, porque

Derived terms

é que
por causa que
por que
porque
que nem
que tal

Pronoun

que

(interrogative) what (used to ask for a specification)

    Que livro é esse?

        What book is this?

(relative) which; that; who (of those mentioned)

    Li uma notícia que era muito desagradável.

        I read news that was very unpleasant.

(indefinite) what thing
what a (preceding nouns); how (preceding adjectives) (indicates surprise, delight, or other strong feelings)

    Que jogador!

        What a player!

    Que belo!

        How beautiful!

Synonyms

(what thing): o que
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  • pode copiar a referencia que citou para a tua resposta? Coloca como uma citacão. Evita que perdemos a info, – Peixoto Jun 17 '19 at 10:55
  • coloquei um link abaixo da resposta – Edmilson Junior Jun 17 '19 at 21:47
  • Thanks! Now I completely understand on this. – NJS Jun 18 '19 at 1:24
  • sim, mas o link pode ' quebrar' , se puder copiar o conteudo como citacão para a tua resposta, garente q não perdemos o conteúdo. – Peixoto Jun 18 '19 at 7:47
  • Pronto @Peixoto. Embora eu acredite que o wikcionário(wikipédia) não vá acabar e o texto pode continuar evoluindo lá. Mas... – Edmilson Junior Jun 18 '19 at 12:57
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In Portuguese (and other Romance languages), you can begin a sentence with que followed by a subjunctive to create sentences of the following type:

  • May God bless you! Que Deus te abençoe !
  • Have a great day! Que tenha un dia maravilhoso !
  • Let the party begin. Que a festa comece !

These are used for blessings (either formal or informal) or exhortations meaning: I hope that x happens for you/to you, I hope that you [verb]. They are more common than in English, where sentences beginning with May x [happen] or Let [x] happen are much more formal.

A repente according to the HOUAISS Dictionary, a Brazilian online dictionary, is:

Comportamento ou ação sem reflexão; o que se faz sem pensar.

and the Online Priberam Dictionary, an Iberian Portuguese dictionary:

1. Acto espontâneo e irreflectido (ex.: teve um repente colérico e abandonou a reunião). = ÍMPETO, IMPULSO

So, the two basically point to the same thing: act or action performed without thinking; an impulsive action or act.

  • Que nenhuma familia comece em qualquer de repente thus would mean:

  • Let no family be started on an impulse or without giving thought to having a child. [Thank you Edmilson!!]

That is a translation for the meaning, not for singing the song in English.

The phrase is from the poem by Padre Zezinho, a Jesuit priest and, therefore, a Catholic. So, he is not one of these fundamentalist money-grubbing persons. [I apologize for my misplaced comment.] He is a musician and he wrote the song. It is not a formal part of Catholic liturgy or teachings per se.

When uttered by priests these phrases beginning with que + subjunctive are a form of prayer where the priest is calling on God to do something for people.

Oração pela familia

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    The meaning for "que nenhuma família comece", must convey the idea of "the start of a family", Father Zezinho is talking about having children only after marriage. – Edmilson Junior Jun 25 '19 at 22:33
  • Oh: right: Let no family be started on an impulse. You are RIGHT. Caí do bonde, né? Muito obrigada. Credo,sabia que algo não soava bem. – Lambie Jun 25 '19 at 22:40
  • Ok Lambie, estamos aqui para ajudar uns aos outros :) – Edmilson Junior Jun 25 '19 at 22:54
  • @EdmilsonJunior "The meaning for "que nenhuma família comece", must convey the idea of "the start of a family"= Foi exatamente o que eu disse. Tem algudem votando um negativo porque não sabem inglés. – Lambie Aug 23 '19 at 17:18
  • @Lambie,o voto negativo não foi meu. Se ainda cá voltares hoje podes verificar no meu perfil que eu hoje não dei votos nenhuns, e o teu negativo foi hoje, há 12 horas. Eu hoje também recebi um voto negativo na minha resposta, exatamente 2 minutos antes de tu escreveres o teu comentário acima. Portanto, quer-me parecer que foste tu. Podes explicar porquê? – Jacinto Aug 23 '19 at 20:44

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