one (in the sense of "no one in particular")

I was told that there is no real word for "one" in Portuguese, and that they usually use nós.

"One" is used to express general things that apply to no person in particular.

Example: one has to study in order to receive a good grade.

Should I use nós? Are there other words I can use?
  • barrosangelina

    New Member

    Considering the context you want to use the word,
    "One" can be translated by ""VOCÊ" ( more informal conversation ).

    Also, although the literal translation for "One" would not be " Nós", usually we find in Brazilian Portuguese, in the same sense of the sentence you gave as example, the use of "nós".

    I will give you three options of translating that sentence. The first option is more formal, the other two are more informal:

    " One has to study in order to receive a good grade"
    More formal option:

    Para obter boas notas é necessário estudar ( or Para obter boas notas é preciso estudar.

    Informal :
    Para obter boas notas, você precisa estudar.
    Para obter boas notas, precisamos estudar.


    Moderesa de Beagá
    Português/ Brasil
    Also if we want a formal usage we can use se or use some expressions like É necessário/ é preciso and others...
    One has to study in order to receive a good grade.
    É preciso/ é necessário estudar a fim de ter/ alcançar uma boa nota.
    Deve-se estudar a fim de ...

    Well, there is some explanation here on how to transform the subject into an indefinite (indeterminado) own (but it is in PT).

    Dona Chicória

    Senior Member
    Brazil, Portuguese
    esqueceram do a gente?

    In Brazil a gente is used very frequently instead of nós (as you will notice), as in :

    Para obter boas notas, a gente tem de/que estudar.
    A gente luta para aprender uma língua.

    It has the meaning of us/ one ("on" in French) but it is used as the third person singular.

    Ele gosta de música. He likes music.
    A gente gosta de música. We like music.

    Nós gostamos de música. We like music.

    I hope it is not too confusing



    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    As you can see, it's not so much that Portuguese does not have a way to say "one", but that there are various possible translations, with a different syntactic behaviour than "one" has in English. They may also have somewhat different nuances of meaning, or be characteristic of different registers.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    US english
    Short note on the English use of 'one' in the context provided above:

    English has no distinction between singular and plural 'you'. It's problematic to the extent Southerners have adopted "you all" or "y'all" to define plurality--though it's also used informally as singular, and may not be accepted as formally correct (say, in English class) even though it might be found in some dictionaries.

    Therefore, oddly as it seems, we use 'one' in formal writing--even though, what could be more singular than 'one'?--to mean everyone or anyone or people in general. I feel that when I use the word 'you', it is most likely to be interpreted as applying to the specific reader or listener. So I use 'one' to mean 'the global you rather than you the specific individual'.

    Such use is particularly effective in cases of admonition, when one wishes to engender the acquiescence rather than the hostility of a reader or listener. Example: "You are well advised not to make sweeping assumptions" is almost an indictment, to which the reader/listener might react defensively. "One is well advised not to make sweeping assumptions" is global, a neutral observation about sweeping assumptions in general rather than an indictment of a person having done so.

    I'm going to invent a part of speech and call 'one' used in this context a bluntive, in that it takes the sharp edge off of what follows.


    Senior Member
    Brazil, Portuguese
    Not that this topic needs even more options, but I have to add that in Brazil we use você in a similar way, in informal contexts (as in, you shouldn't consider this alternative for a written production). Example:

    Para vencer no circuito profissional de tênis, você precisa ter muita garra.

    This sentence could be said to anyone, even somebody who's never played tennis before. I'd say the word você is pretty close to one here, but I could be wrong... confirmations, anyone? :D

    Dona Chicória

    Senior Member
    Brazil, Portuguese
    Sim, Desastre, sua poderação realmente procede, tanto que já havia sido feita por barrosangelina no ínício do thread.

    However using "você" to mean "no one in particular" might be very confusing: I've just witnessed a funny dialogue today, at the bank , caused by this sort of use.
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