EP words of the week (#55): imperial / fino

Summer temperatures call for cold beverages, and beer ([a] cerveja) is a perennial favourite thirst-quencher among many, many people (myself included). When outside (at bars, restaurants, or tascas), one can always order draft beer to help cool your body.

We like it so much we even have two different names for that kind of beer, taken directly from the tap (or keg) and commonly served in tall glasses (like the one you see below): [a] imperial in the South (including Lisbon) and [o] fino in the North (including Porto and, as far as I can tell, all the way down to Coimbra).

In Brazil, the word used is [o] chope.


P.S. Due to time constraints on my part, Words of the Week will become a weekly feature. New words will come out every Wednesday at 15:00 (3 pm) UTC.

Imperial and Fino/a are also used as adjectives, meaning imperial [pertaining to empires] and thin; slender; fine [of high quality], respectively.

Please be careful when using each of these terms; if you’re in Porto, using imperial may cause jeers and laughter [or at last some light banter] from the patrons (Northerners are known for their pride in their own words and traditions and for being outspoken enough to say it to your face).

P.S. Brands of beer take the feminine gender (since [a] cerveja is feminine); this eventually yields [a] Sagres, [a] Super Bock, [a] Guinness, [a] Heineken, etc. However, the actual article shouldn’t be used when the noun is being used as a partitive (for example, following copo de or garrafa de):

  • Vou beber uma Heineken ao jantar. I’ll drink a [glass/cup/bottle of] Heineken beer for dinner. but
  • Vou beber uma garrafa de Heineken ao jantar. I’ll drink a bottle of Heineken for dinner.

Here, the most important thing is not the gender of the beverage (since we’re not declining the article at all either way), but the fact that it’s a partitive following de; this works for every beverage: e.g. [a] garrafa de vinho/água[o] copo de vinho/água, etc. 

2 thoughts on “EP words of the week (#55): imperial / fino

  1. julkastarter August 12, 2016 / 11:01 am

    Hi, Luís! Thank you. I wonder if this draft beer is of different brends as well. If I ask for “o fino” what will I get? What are the most popular brends in Portugal?
    I hope to enjoy “o fino” in 4 days already. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • luisdomingos August 12, 2016 / 3:52 pm

      Hi! There are quite a few different brands of draft beer (just like there are different kinds of beer itself); the most common/well liked Portuguese brands are “Sagres” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_de_Cervejas#Brands) and “Super Bock” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bock#Brands) – you can find a list of beer sold under these brands below. When you ask for “uma imperial” ou “um fino” without specifying, they will probably offer you the pale lager kind (which is the most common for draft beer), but you can always ask to see what kinds of beer they have to offer. I hope you enjoy your vacation (:


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