Since much of Portuguese Blog is aimed at intermediate and advanced learners, I thought we’d do a post to help some of our readers who are just starting to study Portuguese. Still, this particular tip should be useful for everyone, since I’ve noticed this is a common mistake.
BEM VS. BOM
It’s important to remember that bem, which means fine or well, can be used as an adverb or adjective, whereas bom, which means good, can be used as a noun or an adjective. Since they can both be used as adjectives, it can get a little confusing. Let’s take a look at some examples to see when to use bem and when to use bom.
Correct: Eu não sinto muito bem. I don’t feel very well.
Incorrect: Eu não sinto muito bom.
Here, you use bem as an adjective to describe how you feel. This is a key one to remember, since you use it frequently in conversation:
Como você está? How are you?
Estou bem, e você? I’m fine, and you?
You would never say “Estou bom” or “Estou boa” in response to “How are you?
Correct: A comida é muito boa. The food is very good.
Incorrect: A comida é muito bem.
In this case, you need an adjective that means good, so you need bom (or boa).
Correct: Ela canta bem. She sings well.
Incorrect: Ela canta bom.
Here, you need a word to describe the verb (an adverb), so you know you’ll need bem.
Correct: O bom é que não precisa de visto. The good thing is that you don’t need a visa.
Incorrect: O bem é que não precisa de visto.
Here you need a noun, so you know you’ll need bom.
Do you have trouble distinguishing between bom and bem? What are some cases you find difficult to remember? If there are any other groups of similar words in Portuguese that get you confused please share them in the comments below. Thanks everyone!
Meanwhile, here are some other common mistakes made by Portuguese students: