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What's the way to say "I don't understand" in European Portuguese?

I found 2 ways to say it and I'm not sure what's more appropriate and natural for European Portuguese:

  • Não percebo!
  • Não entendo!
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    "Não percebo" would sound very strange in PT-BR if you wanted to say "I don't understand", but since I don't have that much expertise with PT-PT, I'll leave it up to someone who does to write an answer.
    – gmauch
    Dec 23 '20 at 14:12
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    This needs more context. If you're in the middle of a conversation and you didn't hear well what was said to you the most common thing to say would be you "não percebi". If you didn't comprehend, then there are more options but one of the most common is probably "não estou a perceber"
    – Artefacto
    Dec 23 '20 at 21:17
  • Hello, would you mind accepting the answer by clicking the green check mark on the left side?
    – bad_coder
    Dec 31 '20 at 3:31
  • Sure, but if you can make it clearer regarding the most common in use in European Portuguese. Dec 31 '20 at 3:36
  • Iberian Portuguese.
    – Lambie
    Aug 26 at 16:39
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There are 3 main ways to say: "I don't understand". You already found 2 of them, and I quote:

Não percebo!

Não entendo!

The other 1 that would commonly be used in European Portuguese is:

Não compreendo.

You can check the list of possible synonyms for compreendo.

Much less frequently but of valid use, you may find in books:

Não alcanço (com a inteligência)

This is equivalent to saying: "Beyond my grasp (of my intelligence)".



Some objections were raised on the comments saying it's important to expand the answer for completeness. The above forms would be said using present tense (pretérito presente) or past tense (pretérito perfeito) during a conversation, but the use of the infinitive form together with the auxiliary verb (verbo auxiliar) specifically "estar" is also common (and sums up the vast majority of practical everyday uses.)

So, summarizing, it would be:

Eu compreendo. (Present tense)

or

Eu compreendi. (Past tense)

or

Eu estou a compreender. (Infinitive with auxiliary verb)

The negative forms would simply add a not (não) between the personal pronoun and the verb, eg:

Eu não compreendo.

or

Eu não estou a compreender.

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    I'd add what Artefacto mentions in his comment to the OP: we often use the past in Portuguese in such cases. So "Não entendi." etc, are also important options.
    – stafusa
    Dec 23 '20 at 23:57
  • Os brasileiros não usam "Não percebo" para "Não entendo".
    – Lambie
    Aug 24 at 13:24
  • pretérito presente??
    – Lambie
    Aug 26 at 14:26
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The most common uses are very simple.

The Portuguese tend to say "Não percebo" where Brazilians would say "Não entendo". This is for the common expression: I don't understand.

In fact, they both also put the verb at the end of a sentence: Blah blah blah, percebes? And: Blah blah blah, entende?

I know this from direct experience and don't want to bother "doing research" for something I know in my bones. I think this kind of thing can only be perceived (no pun intended) by spending time in Brazil and Portugal and actually hearing people going about their daily lives and speaking. My experience of this predates the Internet by many years and is not something you can really tell from online sources, other than in interviews, etc. The problem is that hearing it once is not enough to cement it in your mind.

One of the first things a Brazilian Portuguese speaker notices when spending time in Portugal and having conversations with Portuguese speakers is precisely this use of perceber. The other salient feature is also the use of the infinitive in lieu of the present continuous. As in: Estou à fazer a cama rather than: Estou fazendo a cama. The opposite would be true for a Portuguese speaker going to Brazil. I rest my case. :)

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Other valid way of saying is:

  • (Eu) Entendo nada

Which means "I understand nothing (of this/that)".

It is a kind of sharp/more agressive/to the point way of communicate misunderstanding.

The more common way of saying, inside of Portugal, is: "(Eu) Não entendo" which means "I don't understand".

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    Bem vindo Alexandre! Ia ser interessante se além da 3a sugestão que deste, que esclarecesse qual das 2 opções citadas na pergunta original é mais natural em PT-PT (se possível) já que este é o foco da pergunta inicial!
    – gmauch
    Dec 28 '20 at 18:00

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