How to use the cedilha

The cedilha is a hook placed under the letter “c” to indicate that it is pronounced like an [s].

So, for example, if we take the word “faca” (knife), where the letter “c” sounds like a [k], and add a cedilha under the “c” it becomes “faça”, the imperative of the verb fazer (to make) and it is pronounced like an [s].

Note: The cedilha is never used at the beginning of a word and it is only used when followed by the vowels a, o and u – never before e or i because with these vowels the c is already pronounced as an [s].
For example:
bagunça (mess, disorder) / bagunceiro (disorderly, the person who makes the mess)

braço (arm) / bracinho (little arm)

 

Other examples of when the cedilha is used:

 

  • Words of Indigenous, African or Arabic origin:

Indigenous origin:

açaí (berry native from the Amazon region),

araçá (Brazilian guava)

African origin:

caçula (the youngest child of a family)

miçanga (bead, glass pearl)

Arabic origin:

açúcar (sugar)

muçulmano (Muslim)

açafrão (saffron)

 

  • After diphthongs (union of two vowels pronounced in one syllable)

feição (feature, aspect, appearance, look)

louça (crockery)

traição (betrayal)

 

  • In nouns derived from the verbs ending in ter

abster (v. to abstain) > abstenção (n. abstention)

obter (v. to obtain)  > obtenção ( (n. obtainment)

conter (v. to contain)  > contenção (n. contention)

deter (v. to detain)  > detenção (n. detention)

reter (v. to retain) >retenção (n. retention)

 

  • In the suffixes (endings of a word)  aça, aço, nça, iça, iço, uça, uço.

barcaça (barge)

ricaço (coloq rich person, moneybag, loaded)

criança (child)

carniça (cattle for slaughtering, meat, bloodshed)

caniço (fishing-rod)

dentuça (female with big teeth, big-toothed)

buço (fluff on the upper lip)

 

  •              In the correlation t > ç

absorto (absorbed) > absorção (absorption)

canto (song) > canção (song)

exceto (except) > exceção (exception)

isento (exempt) > isenção (exemption)

ato (act) > ação (action)

 

  •  In the suffixes –ação and –ção in nouns derived from verbs.

exportar (v. to export) > exportação (n. exportation, export )

reparar (v. to repair) > reparação (n. reparation, repair)

construir (v. to construct) > construção (n. construction)

destruir (v. to destruct) > destruição (destruction)

formar (v. to form) > formação (n. formation)

 

Now that you know how to use and pronounce words that contain the cedilha, check out some other posts about pronunciation:

Difficult Sounds in Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation

How to Pronounce the Letter O in Brazilian Portuguese

How to Pronounce ÃO

How to Pronounce the Letter R

 

 

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