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learn vietnam too easy

Learn Vietnamese – Basic Phrases

November 16, 2018
Travel tips

Although in popular tourist destinations and larger cities it is just about possible to get by without knowing a word of Vietnamese, insisting on speaking your own language all the time will isolate you from the majority of Vietnamese people and leave you less likely to make friends and relationships you will remember from your travels. By learning to speak just a few words of Vietnamese you can greatly improve your experience, reduce misunderstandings and frustrations and have a chance to talk – however briefly – with individuals who work outside of the tourist service industry, giving you a far greater appreciation of the Vietnamese culture and outlook on life.

We think any responsible traveller should at a minimum learn how to meet and greet people and how to be polite, but taking the time to learn a few more phrases will certainly enhance your enjoyment – even if it just means you are able to recognise a few more items on that otherwise baffling Vietnamese menu.

Basic Vietnamese Phrases

Simplest Phrases

At the very minimum it is important to at least know how to say ‘Hello‘ and ‘Thank you‘ – it takes moments to learn yet can make a big impression, as you will already know more than 90% of travellers arriving in Vietnam.

  • Hello: Xin chào
  • Goodbye: Tạm biệt
  • Thank You: Cám ơn
  • I am sorry: Xin lỗi
  • No problem: Không sao

Hello in VietnameseAddressing people

For Vietnamese people it is important to use the correct form of address than signifies your age and relationship to the person you are speaking to. In general, when talking to someone younger than you you may call them ‘Em‘, or if you think you are younger than them you may call yourself ‘Em‘ and use a range of pronouns based on the other person’s gender and age.

As a traveller however it is acceptable to ‘cheat‘ and use a generic ‘Tôi‘ for ‘I‘ and ‘Bạn‘ for ‘Friend‘, rather than finding the correct form of address – this is not disrespectful and will help you make yourself understood.

  • I, me: Tôi
  • I am: Tôi là
  • You: Bạn
  • She, her: Cô ấy
  • He, him: Anh ấy
  • They, them: Họ
  • We, us: Chúng ta
  • It:

Basic Vocabulary

You may find some of the following vocabulary useful for forming simple sentences:

  • Like: Thích
  • Want: Muốn
  • Eat: Ăn
  • Drink: Uống
  • Like to eat: Thích ăn
  • I like to eat: Tôi thích ăn
  • What: Cái gì
  • What do you like to eat?: Bạn thích ăn cái gì?
  • I’m hungry: Tôi đói (bụng)
  • I’m thirsty: Tôi khát nước
  • I am sorry: Xin lỗi
  • No problem: Không sao
  • What is this? Cái này là cái gì?
  • Where is the nearest internet shop? Gần đây có internet không?
  • Where is the post office? Bưu điện ở đâu?
  • Where is the ATM? ATM ở đâu?
  • Yesterday: Hôm qua
  • Today: Hôm nay
  • Tomorrow: Ngày mai
  • To go: Đi
  • Bus: Xe Buýt
  • Station Ga I am going to the bus station: Tôi đi ga xe buýt
I love you vietnamese
I Like You.

Pronunciation, Tones + the Vietnamese Alphabet

Like the majority of South East and East Asian languages, Vietnam is a tonal language. This means that for each syllable there are six different tones that can change the meaning of a phrase.

This can be unusual for Westerners since there are times we have a natural inclination to change the tone of our speech – the most common is raisinng the pitch of your voice when asking a question. Don’t let it put you off though – once you have mastered the pronunciation, Vietnamese is a satisfyingly straightforward language, with a grammar system that is much easier than that of a language like French.

Another great advantage learners of Vietnamese have over those studying other Asian languages is that the Vietnamese alphabet is essentially a modified version of the Roman alphabet, making it easy to read signs and addresses when travelling around.

Tones

Description Diacritic Sample word Meaning
High rising Mother
Low falling That
Start in a low tone, go down, and gently back up (I tend to imagine a bored butler – ‘Ye-es M’lud?’ ) Mả Tomb
Start high, bring voice down, cut off and go back up* Horse
Bring voice down and cut off abruptly (imagine a parent firmly saying ‘No.’) Mạ Rice Shoots
Mid range voice, go flat and level (No mark) Ma Ghost

* This tone is very strong in the North around Hanoi where there is a perceptible ‘cut’ in the sound. In the South around Saigon people tend to speak in a more ‘smooth’ manner, and many would say this tone becomes almost identical to the low, rising tone above it (‘Ye-es, M’lud”)

Vietnamese Alphabet

Although the Vietnamese use the same alphabet as Latin languages such as English and French, some of the sounds are fairly different to their English equivalent. There are a few similarities with French, however.

Consonants

d Like ‘z’ as in zero
đ Like ‘d’ in English as do
g,gh Like ‘g’ in go
gi Like ‘y’ in yes
kh Like ‘Karen’
nh Like ‘n’ in Cognac
ng, ngh Like Singer
ph Like ‘f’ in forest
r Normal R in English
s Normal S in English
t As in Tan
th As in Thump
tr As in Train
v As in Violet

Vowels

One rule to pronouncing vowels in Vietnam that is very useful to remember is that whenever you get two vowels together – for example ‘ui‘ – the first vowel should have much more emphasis than the second – ‘ui

a As in father
ă like ‘a’ in “father”, except said very quickly
â As a in black
ai I
Ao Loud
au Ow
Âu As in go
ay As in day
ây As in David
e Like in America
eo Like meow-cat’s noise
ê Like in café
i Like in see
Ia Like in idia
Ie Like in yes
o Like in door
oa Like in Oasis
oai Like in Why
oay Like in Uruguay
oe Where
oi Coin
ô Joseph
ôi Like in toy
ơ Like in Burger
ơi ơi
u Like in Sue
ua Like Ecuador
ư fur
Like in ‘Question’
ui Like oo-ee
uy Like ‘oui’ in French
uya As French ‘Culture’
uyen when
y Like letter ‘e’
yeu Like in few

How hard is it to learn Vietnamese?

Vietnamese Phrases: Eating + drinking

One of the most enjoyable aspects to travelling in Vietnam is discovering the delicious, fresh and unique cuisine on offer – but for the less adventurous a foreign menu can be very off putting. Make the most of your meals by brushing up on your food vocabulary before you go, and avoid eating fried noodles in every restaurant along the journey!

At the restaurant

  • Restaurant: Nhà Hàng
  • Menu: Thực đơn
  • Food: Thức ăn
  • Drink (n): Đồ uống
  • A pair of chopsticks: Đôi đũa
  • I am a vegetarian: Tôi ăn chay
  • Not too spicy: Không quá cay
  • No chilli please: Không có ớt
  • No fish sauce: Không có nước mắm
  • Can I have the bill please? Tính tiền
  • Delicious: Ngon quá
  • I am full: Tôi no rồi
  • Medium: Vừa
  • Rare: Tái
  • Well-done: Chín
  • Without: Không có
  • A little: Ít
  • Sugar: Đường
  • One more: Thêm một
  • One more beer: Thêm một bia
  • Meat: Thịt
  • Chicken:
  • Beef:
  • Pork (South / North): (Thịt) Heo / Lợn
  • Seafood: Hải sản
  • Fish:
  • Squid: Mực
  • Prawns: Tôm
  • Crab: Cua
  • Soft shell crab: Cua lột
  • Steamed: Hấp
  • Fried / Deep Fried: Chiên
  • Stir fried: Xào
  • Grilled: Nướng
  • Stewed: Kho
  • With: Với
  • Fish sauce: Nước mắm
  • Stir fried chicken: Gà xào
  • Grilled chicken: Gà nướng
  • Morning glory: Rau muống
  • Water: Nước
  • Ice: Đá
  • Red wine: Rượu đỏ
  • White wine: Rượu trắng
  • Can I have the menu please? Có thực đơn không?
  • Can I have chicken sate please: Tôi muốn gà sa tế
  • Can I have a glass of red wine please? Tôi muốn một ly rượu đỏ

Drinks / Fruit Juices / Fruits

  • Lemon Juice: Nước Chanh
  • Pashion Fruit Juice: Nước Chanh Dây
  • Orange Juice: Nước Cam
  • Coconut Juice: Nước Dừa
  • Apple Juice: Nước Táo
  • Mango Juice: Nước Xoài
  • (green) Tea: Trà
  • Iced Tea: Trà Dá
  • Black (Lipton) Tea: Trà Lipton
  • Black Coffee (hot): Cà Phê Đen (Nóng)
  • Ice Black Coffee: Cà Phê Đá
  • White Coffee: Cà Phê Sữa (Nóng)
  • Iced White Coffee: Cà Phê Sữa Đá
  • Condensed Milk: Sữa
  • Fresh Milk: Sữa Tươi
  • Do you have fresh milk? Bạn có sữa tươi không?
  • Fruit Shake: Sinh Tố
  • Vietnamese Desert: Chè

Vegetables

  • Vegetables Rau Morning Glory (water spinach): Rau Muống
  • Aubergine / Eggplant: Cà tím
  • Tomato: Cà Chua
  • Mushrooms: Nấm
  • Sweet Basil: Rau thơm
  • Coriander: Ngò
  • Mint: Bạc Hà
  • Onions: Hành
  • Spring Onions: Hành Lá
  • Garlic: Tỏi
  • Chilli: Ớt
  • Spicy: Cay

Vietnamese Phrases: Getting Around

Taxis + Motorbike Taxis

  • Do you use the meter? Bạn có chạy theo đồng hồ không?
  • I like to go the cinema, please: Tôi muốn đi rạp chiếu phim
  • Motorbike Driver: Xe Ôm
  • Bicycle Rickshaw (Cyclo): Xích Lô
  • Bus Station: Trạm Xe Buýt
  • Train Station: Ga Xe Lửa
  • Airport: Sân Bay
  • How much is it to go from here to Russian Market? Đi chợ Nga bao nhiêu tiền?
  • That’s expensive, I pay 30,000 VND ? Mắc quá, tôi trả ba mươi ngàn đồng?
  • I’m in a hurry: Tôi đang vội
  • Please slow down! Đi chậm lại!
  • I don’t want to die: Tôi không muốn chết!

Directions

  • Go straight: Đi thẳng
  • Turn left: Quẹo trái
  • Turn right: Quẹo phải
  • Next to, by: Bên cạnh
  • Left hand side: Bên Trái
  • Right hand side: Bên phải
  • Stop here please: Dừng lại ở đây

Vehicles

  • Motorbike: Xe Máy
  • Motorbike Taxi: Xe Ôm
  • Bicycle: Xe Đạp
  • Bus: Xe Buýt
  • Car: Xe Hơi/ Xe ô tô
  • Taxi: Taxi
  • Train: Tau / Xe Lửa (old)
  • Boat: Thuyền
  • Aeroplane: Máy Bay

Tickets

  • Ticket:
  • One Way: Một Chiều
  • Return Ticket: Khứ Hồi
  • I would like a ticket to Nha Trang: Tôi muốn mua vé đi Nha Trang
  • How much does a ticket to Hanoi cost? Vé đi Hà Nội bao nhiêu tiền?
  • How far is it (Km) to Phan Thiet: Đi Phan Thiết bao nhiêu cây số?
  • How long is the journey to Hoi An? Đi Hội An bao lâu?
  • That’s a long time! Lâu Quá!
  • That’s quick! Nhanh quá!
  • That’s expensive! Mắc Quá!
  • That’s cheap! Rẻ Quá!
  • Is it faster to go by train? Đi tàu có nhanh hơn không?
  • Is it cheaper to go by bus? Đi xe buýt có rẻ hơn không?
  • Is the bus direct? Xe buýt có đi thẳng không?
  • Seat: Ghế
  • Reclining Seat / Soft Seat: Ghế Nằm / Ghế Mềm
  • Bed: Giường

Hiring vehicles

  • For Hire: Cho Thuê
  • I want to hire a motorbike: Tôi muốn thuê xe máy
  • I want to hire a bicycle: Tôi muốn thuê xe đạp
  • I want to hire a car with a driver: Tôi muốn thuê xe hơi với tài xế .. To go to Dalat Tôi muốn thuê xe hơi với tài xế đi Đà Lạt
  • How much to hire it for an hour? Thuê một giờ bao nhiêu tiền? .. For two days? Thuê hai ngày bao nhiêu tiền?
  • How much to hire for a week? Thuê một tuần bao nhiêu tiền?
  • Do you have a helmet: Bạn có nón bảo hiểm không?

Issues

  • Excuse me: Xin Lỗi
  • Help me: Giúp tôi với
  • My bicycle has a puncture: Xe đạp của tôi bị xì lốp
  • My motorbike has broken down: Xe máy của tôi bị hư
  • I’ve run out of petrol! Tôi hết xăng rồi
  • Where can I buy more petrol? Đỗ xăng ở đâu?
  • You’re too drunk to drive: Bạn quá xỉn để lái xe!

Vietnamese Phrases: Making Friends

When you meet someone it is natural to ask their name and where they are from, as these are great ice breakers. Please note though there are some differences between Vietnamese and Western cultures that may come as a surprise!

Basic Greetings

  • Hello: Xin chào
  • Hi: Chào
  • How are you? Bạn có khỏe không?
  • Fine. And you? Khỏe. Còn bạn thì sao?
  • I am happy: Tôi vui
  • I am sick: Tôi bệnh
  • I am tired: Tôi mệt
  • What’s your name? Bạn tên gì?
  • My name’s John: Tôi tên là John
  • It’s lovely to meet you: Rất vui được gặp bạn
  • Where are you from? Bạn từ đâu đến?
  • I am from England: Tôi đến từ nước Anh
  • France: Pháp
  • America: Mỹ
  • Australia: Úc
  • Canada: Canada
  • Spain: Tây Ban Nha
  • Japan: Nhật
  • Korea: Hàn Quốc
  • China: Trung Quốc
  • Goodbye: Tạm biệt
  • See you later: Hẹn gặp lại
  • Goodnight: Chúc ngủ ngon

Age

In Vietnam it is also perfectly normal and polite to ask someone’s age, as for the Vietnamese to be polite it is very important to know someone’s age know how to address someone correctly, so please don’t be offended if someone asks your age and don’t be afraid to ask somebody else’s.

If you feel a little put out by the question, just remember – in Vietnam the older and wiser you are the higher your status and the more respected you are – people are only asking so they can show you the appropriate level of respect and reverence.

  • How much / how many: Bao Nhiêu
  • How old are you? Em/Anh/Chị bao nhiêu tuổi?
  • I am 23 years old: Tôi hai mươi ba tuổi
  • He is 46 years old: Anh ấy bốn mươi sáu tuổi

Money

Likewise, despite the taboo nature of directly asking someone’s salary in the West, in Vietnam it is a perfectly normal question and in no way impolite. If you do not wish to answer you may demur but please do not take offense should the question arise, as the person asking will have no idea it could make you feel uncomfortable.

Family

The family is held in very high regard in Vietnam, and so people will be delighted if you take an interest in theirs, and eager to know about your own family back at home. They will be even more delighted to meet them, and love to see families travelling together.

  • Family: Gia đình
  • Parents: Ba mẹ
  • Mother: Mẹ
  • Brother (older): Anh trai
  • Brother (younger): Em trai
  • Sister (older) Chị gái
  • Sister (younger) Em gái
  • Children: Con
  • Do you have any brothers or sisters? Bạn có anh chị em không?
  • Yes, I have an older brother and younger sister: Vâng, tôi có một anh trai và một em gái
  • Do you have any children? Bạn có con không?
  • Yes, I have a little boy and two girls: Vâng, tôi có 1 cậu con trai nhỏ và hai con gái
  • How many people are there in your family? Có bao nhiêu người trong gia đình bạn?
  • Where do your parents live? Ba mẹ ạn sống ở đâu?

Marriage & Relationships

It is common for people in Vietnam to marry young, and highly unusual for couples to live together before marriage, so you may find when travelling people assume you are married or find it unusual if you are not – particularly if you are over twenty five. Boyfriend and girlfriend suggest a casual relationship so if you are with a long term unmarried partner you may find it easier to state you are married, particularly in more rural, traditional areas.

  • Boyfriend: Bạn trai
  • Girlfriend: Bạn gái
  • This is my boyfriend: Đây là bạn trai của tôi
  • Wife: Vợ
  • Husband: Chồng
  • Are you married yet? Bạn đã kết hôn chưa?
  • Yes, for three years already: Có, được ba năm rồi
  • We are engaged: Chung tôi đã đính hôn
  • When is your wedding? Khi nào bạn đám cưới?
  • Next year: Năm Sau
  • We are on our honeymoon: Chúng tôi đang hưởng tuần trăng mật

Vietnamese Phrases: Numbers, times + dates

Vietnamese numbers are quite easy to follow, as higher numbers use the same words as lower – for example, twenty five would be expressed as ‘Two Ten Five‘, or 365 as ‘Three Hundred Six Ten Five’. This means that once you have learnt to count from one to ten other numbers are pretty easy.

There is one irregularity with numbers: since the word for 5 (Nam) is the same as for year(s) (Nam) it changes to ‘Lam’ avoid confusion, for example:

  • 5 – Năm
  • 20 years – Hai Mươi Năm
  • 25 – Hai Mươi Lăm
  • 55 – Năm Mươi Lăm
  • 55 years – Năm Mươi Lăm Năm
0 Không
1 Một
2 Hai
3 Ba
4 Bốn
5 Năm
6 Sáu
7 Bảy
8 Tám
9 Chín
10 Mười
11 Mười một
12 Mười hai
13 Mười ba
14 Mười bốn
15 Mười lăm
16 Mười sáu
17 Mười bảy
18 Mười tám
19 Mười chín
20 Hai Mươi
21 Hai Mươi Mốt
30 Ba Mươi
32 Ba Mươi Hai
100 Một Trăm
1,000 Một Nghìn
100,000 Một Trăm Nghìn
1,000,000 Một Triệu
1 bn Một Tỷ / Tỉ

Money

Since money in Vietnam is demarcated in thousands it is acceptable to skip the ‘thousand dong’ when negotiating prices, or to use slang. Do note though that ‘Chục‘ is used more in the south and may not be recognised in the north.

1 $ Một đô
1 £ Một bảng
1,000 Dong Một Nghìn Đồng
50,000 Dong Năm Mươi (Nghìn đồng)
20, 000/ Twenty bucks (slang) Hai Chục
50,000 / 50 bucks (slang) Năm Chục

Units of Time

  • Minute: Phút
  • Hour: Giờ
  • Day: Ngày
  • Week: Tuần
  • Month: Tháng
  • Year: Năm

Days of the week

  • Monday: Thứ Hai (Day 2)
  • Tuesday: Thứ Ba (Day 3)
  • Wednesday: Thứ Tư (day 4)
  • Thursday: Thứ Năm (day 5)
  • Friday: Thứ Sáu (day 6)
  • Saturday: Thứ Bảy (day 7)
  • Sunday: Chủ Nhật (God’s day)

Months of the year

  • January: Tháng Một(Month 1)
  • February: Tháng Hai (Month 2)
  • March: Tháng Ba (Month 3)
  • April: Tháng Bốn (Month 4)
  • May: Tháng Năm (Month 5)
  • June: Tháng Sáu (Month 6)
  • July: Tháng Bảy (Month 7)
  • August: Tháng Tám (Month 8)
  • September: Tháng Chín (Month 9)
  • October: Tháng Mười (Month 10)
  • November: Tháng Mười Một (Month 11)
  • December: Tháng Mười Hai (month 12)

Time of day

  • Morning: Buổi Sáng
  • Afternoon: Buổi Chiều
  • Evening: Buổi Tối
  • Night: Tối/Đêm
  • Lunch time: Bữa Trưa
  • Midday: Giữa Trưa
  • Midnight: Nữa Đêm
  • Rush hour: Giờ Cao Điểm

Meals of the day

  • Breakfast: Ăn Sáng
  • Lunch: Ăn Trua
  • Dinner: Ăn Tối

Telling time and numbers

  • What time is it? Mấy giờ rồi?
  • It’s 1 o’clock: Một giờ rồi
  • Now: Bây Giờ
  • Now it is ten past three: Bây Giờ là ba giờ mười phút
  • Today: Hôm nay
  • Tommorow: Ngày mai
  • Yesterday: Hôm qua
  • Next / Before: Trước
  • Last / after: Sau
  • Last week: Tuần trước
  • Next year: Năm sau
  • Before five pm: Trước năm giờ chiều
  • After 7 am: Sau bảy giờ sáng
  • After dinner: Sau ăn tối
  • Between … And .. / From … to: Từ…đến
  • Breakfast is between 7 and 9 am: Ăn sáng từ bảy giờ đến 9 giờ
  • How long? Bao Lâu?
  • How long have you been in Vietnam? Bạn ở Việt Nam bao lâu?
  • Since February: Từ Tháng Hai
  • When: Khi Nào?
  • When will you go home? Khi nào đi về nhà?
  • Until: Đến
  • I’m in Vietnam until March: Tôi ở Việt Nam đến tháng Ba
  • Already: Rồi
  • I’ve been in Vietnam 2 weeks already: Tôi ở Việt Nam hai tuần rồi

Special occasions

  • Birthday: Sinh nhật
  • Today it is my birthday: Hôm nay là sinh nhật của tôi
  • Tet (Lunar New Year): Tết
  • Western New Year: Tết Tây
  • Party: Tiệc
  • Full Moon Festival / Mid Autumn Festival: Tết Trung Thu
  • Full moon: Trăng Rằm
  • Christmas Noel Anniversary: Lễ kỷ niệm Noel
  • Wedding: Đám cưới

Vietnamese Phrases: Shopping

Shopping

A favourite activity for many travellers to Vietnam is shopping. With a huge range of unique crafts available Vietnam is a great place to find souvenirs, and thanks to cheap prices and very talented tailors it is also a popular place to have clothes made. By sprinkling some Vietnamese into your shopping not only will it be easier to get things you want but you may even get some better bargains too. Don’t forget to take a look at our section on dates, numbers and money too.

  • Where: Ở đâu
  • Where is Ben Thanh market? Chợ Bến Thành ở đâu?
  • Where can I buy sun cream? Tôi có thể mua kem chống nắng ở đâu?
  • How much is it? Bao nhiêu tiền?
  • It is too expensive: Mắc quá
  • Do you have something cheaper? Bạn có cái nào rẻ hơn không?
  • Can I pay by card? Tôi có thể trả bằng thẻ tín dụng không?
  • Can I pick it up later? Tôi có thể lấy nó sau được không?
  • Can you ship it overseas? Bạn có gởi hàng ra nước ngoài không?
  • Can I have a receipt please? Tôi muốn hóa đơn
  • Can I try it? Tôi có thể thử nó được không?
  • It doesn’t fit: Nó không vừa
  • Do you have a bigger one? Bạn có cái lớn hơn không?
  • Do you have a smaller one? Bạn có cái nhỏ hơn không?
  • It’s perfect: Rất tốt

Shops

  • Market: Chợ
  • Night market: Chợ đêm
  • Food market: Chợ thức ăn
  • Pharmacy: Tiệm thuốc tây
  • Clothes shop: Cửa Hàng quần áo
  • Computer shop: Cửa Hàng Vi Tính
  • Electronics shop: Cửa Hàng ĐIện
  • Supermarket: Siêu Thị
  • Bookstore: Nhà sách
  • Department store / Mall: Khu mua sắm
  • 24 hours: Hai mươi bốn giờ / Siêu thị mini

Clothing

  • T-shirt: Áo thun
  • Shirt: Áo sơ mi
  • Suit: Áo vét
  • Trousers: Quần
  • Jeans: Quần Jean
  • Shoes: Giày
  • Sandals: Xang Đan
  • Dress: Áo đầm
  • Skirt: Váy
  • Jacket: Áo khoát
  • Rain Coat: Áo mưa
  • Handbag: Giỏ
  • Sunglasses: Kiếng mát Hat Nón (Mũ in Hanoi)
  • Helmet: Nón bảo hiểm
  • Jewellery: Nữ Trang
  • Watch: Đồng Hồ
  • Ring: Nhẫn
  • Necklace: Dây chuyền
  • Bracelet: Vòng tay, Lắc tay

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