Meaning of “Assim”

If you look up assim in a pocket dictionary you’ll see translations such as “so”, “thus”, “therefore”, “so that”,…  The most useful translation, in my opinion, is probably “in this manner”.  To start off, let’s think about what we’re really saying in English when we use certain phrases.  Think about the phrases:

  • It can’t last that long.
  • This way?
  • Even so
  • …do it (this way, that way, like thus).
  • so to speak.

The words I’ve underlined can be thought of as a reference to some agreed-upon-understanding between yourself and the listener.  When we ask “This way?” we are asking “In the way that I think we both understand this, am I doing this as you expect?“.  And when we say “…so to speak” we are saying “…in the manner of which I’ve just described to you”.

Now look at the translations of the phrases above utilizing the word “assim”:

  • Não pode durar tanto assim.
  • Como assim?
  • Mesmo assim…
  • …fazê-lo assim.
  • …por assim dizer.

Does it help to think of assim as some agreed-upon-understanding?  It doesn’t always work, but try to keep this concept in mind when you look at the additional phrases and conjunctions below:

  • …assim como… = …as well as…, …just like…, …like as…
  • Não é assim? = Isn’t it like this?, Is it not so?
  • Mesmo assim… = Even so…, Never the less…, But still…
  • É assim que… = This is how…, This is the way that…, It is like this that…
  • …ser assim = …to be like this, …to be that way
  • Ainda assim… = And yet…, But still…, Even so…
  • Assim espero. = I hope so.
  • …e assim por diante = …and so on
  • Fique mais um dia, assim ele também fica. = Stay one more day, that way he will stay as well.
  • Por assim ser,… = For this to be,…, For that to be,…
  • Foi assim? = Was it like that?, Did you?
  • Como assim? = How come?, What do you mean?, Like this?

Assim has a slightly different meaning when used in the conjunction:

  • assim que = as soon as

which may seem a bit confusing, but probably no less confusing than when you here someone say “I’ll get back to you just like that.” where “…just like that” means “…as soon as I can”.

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One thought on “Meaning of “Assim”

  1. Great article! I’m Brazilian and it hadn’t occured to me that it would be so hard to understand this word until I had to explain it to an American.

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