Hello in Vietnamese
First & Second Singular Pronouns
Vietnamese grammars overall are quite easy. However, Vietnamese personal pronouns is a pretty complicated topic and causes lots of confusion to many learners. Why so?
First of all, there are many pronouns in Vietnamese language. How you address yourself and another person would depend on your and that person's age (generation), gender, occupation, closeness or dialects.
Some common Vietnamese singular first-second pronouns are tôi, tớ, cậu, mình, bạn, tao, mày, anh, chị, em, ông, bà, cô, chú, bác, nó. In English, however, it is much simpler to address yourself and someone using I and You.
Secondly, not only are they used to refer to the participants in the conversations, Vietnamese pronouns are also used to express different attitudes and emotions of the speakers.
For instance, when you are being friendly, you would use one pair of pronouns I-you (e.g. mình-bạn). When you are angry and being aggressive, you would use a different pair of pronouns (e.g. tao-mày).
The below table shows some of the most common first-second singular pronouns that are often seen in daily conversations. Some pronouns are only used as the first person, some only used as the second person, and some can be used for either the first or second person.
|-||First Person||Second Person|
|[VIE]||tôi / mình / tớ / tao||bạn / cậu / mày|
|anh / chị / em / cô / chú / bác / ông / bà / con|
In Vietnamese language, (1) you must use pronouns AND (2) use the appropriate ones. For examples:
- (1) Saying "anh ngồi xuống" = you sit down, is more polite than saying, "ngồi xuống" = sit down, without the pronoun.
- (2) For an older male who is in your generation, you must address him as anh, and not em to show respect.
The way you use Interchangeable Pronouns is similar to English pronouns. To address yourself as "I", you would use the pronoun mình. To address the other person as "you", you would use the pronoun bạn. The other person would also address himself or herself as "I" using mình and address "you" using bạn.
| First person
| Second person
|When to use|
|mình||bạn|| used with someone who is of same age
as you (Southern dialect)
|tớ||cậu|| used with someone who is of same age
as you (Northern dialect)
|tao||mày|| used with a close friend who is of same age |
as you or when being rude & aggressive
Non-interchangeable pronouns can either be used to address the first or second person and will stay fixed like so throughout the conversation.
For instance, when you are talking to a female elder (old enough to be your grandparent), you would address her as bà, and address yourself as con (old enough to be her grandchild). She would in turn, still address herself as bà and address you as con, since the roles stay the same.
|When talking to someone who is ...||Address the person as||Address yourself as|
|Old enough to be your grandparent||ông||bà||con|
|Old enough to be your parent||chú||cô||con|
|Old enough to be your older sibling||anh||chị||em|
|Young enough to be your younger sibling||em||anh||chị|
|Young enough to be your grandchild||con||ông||bà|
| Young enough to be your |
child / niece / nephew
Other pronouns that you may also encounter that are not in the above table.
|bác||(Norhtern) to address a man or woman who is older than your parent|
|dì||(Southern) to address a woman who is old enough to be your aunt|
|thầy||to address a male teacher|
|cô||to address a female teacher|
Some might be wondering which pronoun should be used, anh, chị or em, to address a person in your generation but you don't know the person age.
In this case, to be polite you would always address the person as if they are older than you. For example, when talking to a male Grab driver, you would address him as anh and address yourself as em. That person in turn, being respectful, would address you as anh (if you're a guy), and address himself as em.
If you are confident with the first and second singular pronouns and want to take one step further on this topic, check out our in-depth article on Vietnamese third person singular and plural.
Vietnamese Common Greetings
After learning about a bit about the first and second personal pronouns, now you are ready to greet someone appropriately.
Vietnamese greetings are generally start with the word chào.
|Structures||When to use||Examples|
|(1)||Chào + pronoun||most common way
to greet anyone
|(2)||Chào + name||only to someone younger||Chào Ly|
|(3)||Chào + pronoun + name||only to someone older
(more polite & intimate)
|Chào chị Mai|
|(4)||Pronoun 1 + chào + pronoun 2||only to someone older
|Em chào chị (Mai)
Con chào chú
You may have seen or heard of the words xin chào. However, this way of greeting is usually used in more formal situations. A reporter or a TV presenter may say xin chào to the audiences, or an event host may use it to greet the attendees.
Good Morning / Evening / Night
Besides all the Vietnamese common greetings mentioned above, you also can greet people based on the time of the day.
|Chào buổi sáng||Good morning||commonly used, but mostly used
to greet a group of people
|Chào buổi tối||Good evening||rarely been used in daily conversations
& mostly to greet a group of people
|Ngủ ngon||Good night||commonly used|
How are you in Vietnamese
If you learn Vietnamese through textbooks, most likely they will teach you the phrase Bạn khoẻ không? as How are you?. However, it's not that often used in daily conversations. So how do Vietnamese say How are you to each other?
Vietnamese people don't say Bạn khoẻ không? or any other phrases to a stranger! They normally would greet that person with Chào + pronoun, and then proceed to ask for whatever info they want to know, such as name and age.
When greeting someone you know, after saying Chào + pronoun, you can proceed to ask these How-are-you-like phrases.
Dạo này + pronoun + thế nào ?
This phrase literal translation would be How are you these days?
|Ask|| Dạo này
| thế nào ?
| vẫn bình thường /
bận lắm / không tốt lắm
still normal / very busy / not so good
Example: Dạo này em thế nào? -> Em vẫn bình thường.
People can also ask you about the specific topics such as job and fammily. For instance:
(a) Dạo này công việc của em thế nào?
: These days your job how?
(b) Dạo này gia đình của em thế nào?
: These days your family how?
Pronoun + đang đi + đâu ?
This phrase literal translation would be Where are you going?. When you suddenly see a friend or an acquaintance, you definitely can use this sentence.
| đang đi
| đâu ?
To answer this question, of course you can say something like I'm going to work / school / supermarket / etc.
Saying Goodbye in Vietnamese
Here are some common ways that you can use to say goodbye in Vietnamese.
|Bái bai (casual)||Bye bye|
|Ngày mai gặp||See you tommorrow|
|Gặp lại sau||See you later|
|Hẹn gặp lại (formal)||See you again|
Common Wishes in Vietnamese
Here are some common wishes used in certain occassions and holidays in Vietnamese.
|Giáng sinh vui vẻ||Merry Christmas|
|Chúc mừng năm mới /
Năm mới vui vẻ
|Happy New Year
(also used for Tết)
|Chúc mừng sinh nhật /
Sinh nhật vui vẻ
|Cuối tuần vui vẻ||Happy weekends|
|Chúc may mắn||Goodluck|
|Chúc sức khoẻ||Cheers|
|Những lời chúc tốt đẹp nhất||Best wishes|
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