Learning Portuguese with the Girl from Ipanema

Almost everybody knows the 1962 hit A Garota de Ipanema (ah – gha WRO tah – dee – ee – pah – NUH –ma], The Girl from Ipanema by Tom Jobim. It has been adapted from its original bossa nova style into other rhythms and translated into as many languages as there are in the UN. It was made famous in the U.S. by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Stan Getz. The Portuguese lyrics by the Rio de Janeiro-born poet, Vinicius de Moraes, were translated into English by Norman Gimbel in 1963.


Gimbel’s translation became as popular as the original lyrics and is often sung together with the Portuguese words, but it is not a literal translation, it was adapted to take into account things like beat, rhythm and rhymes. Below you’ll find the literal translation, and although it isn’t as poetic and elegant, you can use it to compare the words and increase your Portuguese vocabulary. Note that the underlined verbs are in the present tense.


Olha que coisa mais lindaLook what a beautiful thing

Mais cheia de graçaReally full of grace

É ela meninaIt’s she the girl

Que vem e que passaWho comes and goes

Num doce balanço – In a sweet sway

A caminho do marTowards the sea

Moça do corpo douradoGirl of the golden body

Do sol de Ipanema – From Ipanema’s sun 

O seu balançado é mais que um poemaHer sway is more than a poem

É a coisa mais linda que eu já vi passarIt’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen go by

Ah, por que estou tão sozinho?Oh, why am I so lonely?

Ah, por que tudo é tão triste?Oh, why is there so much sadness?

Ah, a beleza que existeOh, the beauty that exists

A beleza que não é só minhaThe beauty that isn’t only mine

Que também passa sozinhaThat also goes by alone

Ah, se ela soubesseOh, if only she knew

Que quando ela passa – That whenever she goes by

O mundo inteirinho se enche de graçaThe whole world fills up with grace

E fica mais lindo  – And becomes more beautiful

Por causa do amorBecause of love

The underlined verbs above fall into the four categories of Portuguese verbs:

1st: regular verbs ending in –ar – passar / to pass

2nd: regular verbs ending in –er – encher / to fill, to complete

3rd: regular verbs ending in –ir – existir / to exist

4th: irregular verbs – (é) ser / to be, (vem) vir /to come, (estou) estar / to be, (fica) ficar / to become, to stay

The following table helps you compare the endings of the regular verbs:

-ar – passar    -er – encher      -ir – existir
eu (I)  passo      encho        existo
você (you)  passa      enche        existe
ele / ela (he/she)  passa       enche        existe
nós (we) passamos        enchemos        existimos
vocês (you) passam      enchem       existem
eles /elas (they m./f.) passam      enchem       existem

Notice that the verbs in the first person all end in –o, and that for each ending the second and third persons singular as well as the second and third persons plural are the same.

As for the irregular verbs, you’ll need to memorize them as you go along. Singing really helps with this part since it makes memorization fun.

The last tidbit about A Garota de Ipanema is that the girl was real! Her name is Heloisa Pineheiro and when she was young, her strolls to beach inspired the singer/songwriter Tom Jobim, who saw her from a restaurant he used to go with friends. Guess what this restaurant is called now?

A Garota de Ipanema