Don’t Be a Cara De Pau in English: Brazilian Expressions That Don’t Translate Literally

cara de pau cover

Don’t be a cara de pau podcast  (18:40)
Download this audio and learn Reallife English anywhere

When you’re speaking English, are you being a “wood face” (cara de pau) without even knowing it?

Relax, I ‘m sure you’re not really being that bad or offending anyone, but if you don’t know how to use expressions correctly, or if you translate them literally, it could sound a little strange to the person you’re talking to.

Listen to more podcasts | Join the RLE International Community

An incorrect translation of “cara de pau” could put you in an unpleasant or embarrassing situation.

Learning colloquial English is a very difficult process. As a native speaker and English teacher, I am very impressed when I meet someone here in Brazil who uses these kinds of expressions. Being able to use these expressions shows that the person has had a lot of exposure to the language, and I feel like they have a better understanding of the culture.

Imagine how you feel when you hear a Gringo using expressions like: e ai mano? Colê vei? Estou de cara, matou a saudades? etc…

I assume you would really appreciate it, and be very impressed with the amount of knowledge this gringo(a) has about your country.

Well, If you’d like to do the same and impress someone with you fluent English skills and use of colloquial expressions, then read on and learn about five more expressions that don’t translate literally into English.


Meaning- An inconvenient person who doesn’t have a good sense of common etiquette or consideration for other people.

To have the/some nerve – When someone does something intentionally even though they know it is morally or ethically incorrect.

“He has some nerve coming to my party, even though I didn’t invite him.”

Jerk- Someone who is disrespectful and thinks more about themselves than they do others.

“Hey can you give me a ride home, it’s on your way?”
“Nah, take the bus.”
“You’re such a jerk.”
– When someone is disrespectful and rude but in a smart and sometimes funny way. This expression is prominent in British English and is commonly used with the word bastard, but in an endearing way.

“Did you get a haircut?”                              
“Yeah, what do you think?”
“I hope you didn’t pay for it.”
“ Ahh, you cheeky bastard!”

Check out our article about the word BITCH


Meaning- Something can be done very easily with no stress or effort.

A piece of cake– It was really easy to do.

“How was your test last week?”
“Piece of cake!”

A walk in the park– To express facility and no stress.

“Was it difficult for you to adapt to Brazil?”
“No way! It was a walk in the park.”


Meaning- Someone who is extremely nice in order to gain some kind of benefit or privilege.

Suck up Give someone compliments to make that person like you more.

“Did you hear her telling the boss how good he is looking today?”
“Yeah, she’s such a suck-up.

Ass kisser/kiss ass- An analogy implying that a person is trying really hard to make a good impression and that they are kissing the ass (bottom) of the person they are trying to impress.

“I’m going to pick up my boss’s kids from school because he’s really busy.”
“Man, you’re such an ass kisser/kiss ass.”

Brown Noser- This expression means exactly the same as “ass kisser,” just using a different analogy.

“How did she get the promotion? You’re so much better for the position.”
“Well, she’s a really big brown noser.”

Teacher’s pet
– Only used in classroom situations to achieve an advantage with grades and test scores.

“I’m going to give my English teacher some chocolates for her birthday.”
“Oh, so you’re going to be the teacher’s pet.”


Meaning – I was just thinking or talking about you.

Speak of the devil – This expression comes from the saying “speak of the devil and he shall appear.” This is an old expression that has become a common thing to say when someone arrives or calls you when you were just talking about that person.

“Did you hear that Josh is making another video?” (Josh arrives)
“Hey, guys!”
“Speak of the devil!”

Were your ears burning? – To tell someone that they were the subject of a recent conversation.

“Were your ears burning this morning because the boss was telling everyone how valuable you are to the company?”


Meaning – Someone who has extremely good luck with everything they do.

Fall into your lap – If something good falls into your lap, it happens to you without any effort on your part.

“Did you hear Bob just got a promotion and started dating a supermodel?”
“That doesn’t surprise me, everything falls into his lap.”

Lucky bastard –  A positive way to compliment someone for being lucky (another endearing way to use the word bastard).

“I just found 50 bucks on the ground!”
“You lucky bastard!”

Born with a silver spoon in your mouth – To be born into a family of wealth and privilege.

“He had the best of everything growing up, schools, university, and always a nice car.”
“Yeah, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”

Get away with murder – To be able to do whatever you want without being punished for it.

“This guy always arrives to work late and the boss never says a thing to him.”
“Yeah I know, he can get away with murder here.

Call to Action

Are you using idiomatic expressions with your English, or are you still speaking with all the boring textbook language you learned at school? Learning to use this kind of vocabulary is going to make you sound like a natural English speaker, and it makes the process fun and interesting.

Take action now and evolve you vocabulary with these 5 new expressions so you can speak more like native speakers.  If you haven’t read our other Articles about expressions that don’t translate literally from Portuguese, check them out now.

How can I learn more?

Join the Real Life English Facebook community, where you’ll learn a new expression every day and listen to our weekly podcast based on the expressions of that week. If you are also interested in learning more about slang expressions, you can get the first chapter of 101 words you won’t learn at school.

  • Steven says:

    Hi guys

    Could we not translate literally cara-de-páu as “dickhead” as páu is used to mean “dick” in portuguese, and as I understand “dickhead” means conducting oneself in an inappropriate manner to the annoyance of others.

    Or a “a dick of a guy” , as “cara” can mean “guy” as well as “face” and “dick” be used in the sense of “jerk” in this case.

    • St. Juib says:

      Hey man!

      Those aren’t appropriate.
      Pau means wood. It is a slang for the peepee, but not always!

      The meaning here is that the guy has a wooden face, as a plank.

  • Simone says:

    Thank you. It was a very nice post