Vietnamese nouns

So we have learned in the overview about Vietnamese grammar that it has the same Subject + Verb + Object (SVO) sentence structure as English. If you haven’t gone through that lesson, it’s highly recommended you read it before proceeding with this lesson because you can find there the big picture of Vietnamese Grammar as well as the most important differences from English.

The grammar of Vietnamese nouns is plain and simple. There is no singular and plural form: pen in two pen has the same form as pen in one pen: no adding of suffix –s whatsoever.

Continue reading Vietnamese nouns

Vietnamese verbs

After the lessons on Vietnamese nouns and adjectives, this express course now introduces you to the usage of Vietnamese verbs.

Before going into the details, the good news, again, is that verbs in Vietnamese is generally much simpler than their counterparts in English. Let’s see below why this is true.

Conjugation of Vietnamese verbs

First of all, while each verb in English has a singular form for the third-person case (she, he, it) by, generally, adding “s” to the base form, this isn’t a feature of Vietnamese. That is to say that you’ll use the same verb form đi(“go”) in Tôi đi(“I go”) and Cô ấy đi(“She goes”). How simpler this is for learning Vietnamese!

Vietnamese Verb tenses

The major simplification you’ll enjoy in learning Vietnamese verbs lies in its verb tense system. As a recap, we know that in English there are quite a couple of verb tenses, and for good reasons, such as past simple, past continuous, past perfect; the equivalents for the present and the future; …and more. You should then be very relieved to learn that the only major verb tenses in Vietnamese are: the present simple, the present continuous, the past simple and the future simple!

A possible question by the keen readers: How would we then express the equivalents of past continuous or past perfect? The answer for the absence of the past continuous tense is that Vietnamese “leverage” on the present continuous to express the past continuous. How about the past perfect? Well, that would not be expressed through verb tense, but the use of relative time indicators such as before and after.

Let’s go into a little more details about this interesting difference in verb tenses through a concrete example. Suppose that you want to ask a friend when she will come back home, you’d probably say something like When will you come home?. Similarly, if we want to ask when she came back: When did you come home?”. We can see from these two examples that in English we need to explicitly encode the notion of past or future time frame in the verb come by conjugating it in the past simple or future simple tense. Does Vietnamese share this way of time encoding with English?

Let’s imagine the situation: yesterday, you came home and saw your spouse at home to your surprise because she/he usually gets home from work later than you; then you remarked: You came home early today!, followed by the question When did you come home?. In this specific circumstance, it’s quite clear that the question of when refers to the past, which means we may not need to reflect that in the tense of the verb come. Or at least that’s the way we would use in Vietnamese: When do you come home?. Yes, the time frame is encoded not in the sentence but in the situation! Certainly, this feature of the language would potentially make it ambiguous in some situations and, should the confusion arise, time expressions such as yesterday or just now or tomorrow would be employed.

Now that the notions of the past and the future are encoded implicitly in dialogues’ settings and not in verbs, it’s no surprise that the present tense is the one that you would encounter most frequently. In order to express the present continuous, you add đang before the verb as in the following example.

Present continuous:

I am learning Vietnamese based on English
Tôi đang học tiếng Việt dựa trên tiếng Anh

The two remaining questions that need to be addressed are: how can we express the relative order of actions in relation to each other, which is expressed using the “perfect” tenses in English? And the second question is about redundancy: why is there still the past simple and future simple tenses in Vietnamese as mentioned above, if the notion of time is implicitly indicated by the circumstance?

In order to address the first question, let’s again use a concrete example:
When I came home, she had gone jogging.

The use of the English past perfect tense had gone is to indicate that the action of “going” took place before the action “came home”.

In Vietnamese, we’ll express this by using the word rồi, whose literal English translation is already. As such, we can rewrite this example in the Vietnamese way without the use of the past perfect tense by saying: When I came home, she already went jogging: this by the way is also an informal way of saying in English.

Combine this with our knowledge that the notion of time, in this case the past, is not usually encoded directly in verbs but in the setting itself, we’ll take away the past tense before doing a word-to-word mapping to Vietnamese: When I come home, she already goes jogging.

Translating the past perfect

Original English sentence When I came home, she had gone jogging
Rearranged for translation When I come home, she goes jogging already
Vietnamese translation Khi tôi về nhà, cô ấy đi chạy bộ rồi

Please take note that rồi must put after the verb phrase go jogging in Vietnamese.

Secondly, let’s address the second question of why we still need the past simple and future simple tenses in Vietnamese, given our knowledge that the notion of time is already indicated by the setting and not through verbs?

The first reason is that in isolated sentences, especially in writing, where the context doesn’t provide enough information about the time setting of actions (present, past or future), explicit use of the past simple or future simple is warranted.

Another instance where these tenses are used is for emphasis purpose: when we want to emphasize (for example, in making promises) that something actually did happen or will definitely happen. The past simple and future simple tenses are expressed by prefixing verbs with “đã” and “sẽ”, respectively.

Examples are given in the following table:

Examples:

Tôi (đã) đọc bài báo này hôm qua
I read this article yesterday
Tôi (sẽ) về nhà vào lúc 5 giờ chiều nay
I will come home at five o’clock this afternoon

As indicated in the table, the use of đã and sẽ are optional with regards to expressing time. They are needed, however, if we want to put an emphasis on the time.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the very often used tense: the present perfect. As we’ve known, the two most prevalent uses of this tense is 1).to refer to actions that took place and have completed in the past without a definite point of time or 2). to indicate that an action, which took place some time in the past, is still continuing at the point of speaking.

Consider the first example in the above table. If we just want to say I’ve read this article, the Vietnamese translation would be Tôi đã đọc bài báo này. In this usage of the present perfect, there is no mention of time so that the use of đã in the Vietnamese translation is compulsory because without it we would fail to express the notion of the past. We could also have said Tôi đọc bài báo này rồi, whose literal translation to English is I read this article already. The word rồi(“already”), while signalling that the action “read” already took place and completed, also puts emphasis on the completion aspect of the action.

The second use of the present perfect tense, as in I have lived here for 2 years, is expressed in Vietnamese through the word được. In this usage, this word carries the meaning of for. The complete translation is given below.

Example:

I have lived here for 2 years
Tôi (đã) sống ở đây được 2 năm

We can see that in this usage, the word đã is optional. This is because the action live in the sentence is unmistakably understood to have started in the past based on meaning. Also, the word được in this usage also carries with it the notion of something that has lasted for some time.

If the sentence has been written (more correctly) in the present perfect continuous tense: I’ve been living here for 2 years to put more emphasis on the time duration, the Vietnamese translation remains the same. Don’t you agree Vietnamese verb tenses are simpler? Agree…grudgingly?!?

Vietnamese Phrasal verbs

Last but not least, it seems necessary to have a short discussion about phrasal verbs, which are used very extensively in (especially informal) English. To clarify, by “phrasal verbs”, we’re referring to such verbs as look after and boost up, which are comprised of a verb and a particle.

The good news is that there is almost no notion of “phrasal verbs” in Vietnamese. The Vietnamese translation of look after is chăm sóc, which has two words but you should think of it as one “unit” verb. It’s definitely not a verb + a particle. To digress a little bit, some Vietnamese grammarians may argue that chăm sóc is one word, and not two words. For our purpose of learning Vietnamese, the answer doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference. And to make it familiar, we’ll stick to spaces as the demarcating unit of words, as in English. In this light, we’ll say chăm sóc is a unit verb made up of two words.

Certainly, there are Vietnamese equivalents of English prepositions such as in and on; but they are not combined with verbs to form phrasal verbs. They can, however, be used compositionally with verbs to add meaning. For instance, consider the English sentence He’s walking up the staircase.

Preposition example:

He is walking up the staircase
Anh ta đang đi lên cầu thang

We can see that up is used to indicate the direction of the verb walk and there is no special meaning when combining walk with up. The Vietnamese translation is therefore a combination of the translation of walk, which is đi, and that of up: lên.

So much for our discussion on verbs. Let’s review the gist of this lesson.

Summary

This lesson on Verbs has demonstrated the simplicity of Vietnamese Verb tenses. In particular, we’ve learned:

  • The notion of time is expressed either implicitly in the context or explicitly through time expressions, not in verb tenses.
  • The two most frequently used tenses in Vietnamese are the present simple and the present continuous.
  • There is no notion of “phrasal verbs” in Vietnamese
  • Though Vietnamese verbs may consist of two or more words, they should be treated as a unit in that the verb’s meaning can not be immediately derived from constituent words’ meanings.
  • There is no conjugation for third-person subject. This is in accord with the general rule we’ve previously learned: there is no inflection of any kind on Vietnamese words.

Say Thank you in Vietnamese

Thank you in Vietnamese

The Vietnamese translation of thank you or thanks is cám ơn. The phrase thank you in English already has the you inside, but the phrase cám ơn doesn’t. So usually, to say thank you in Vietnamese, we say cám ơn + [the appropriate word for you].

Say thank you in Vietnamese

Thank you/Thanks = Cám ơn + [Word for You]

If you want to review how to say you in Vietnamese, here is the lesson. As some examples, you would hear people say cám ơn anh (anh is for male, older than you) and cám ơn chị (chị is for female, older than you), among other cases for the word you.

It’s worth noting that saying just cám ơn is okay grammatically, but probably not so fine in practice. The reason is that saying cám ơn without the word for you is considered to be either too formal, in some situations, or more frequently, unfriendly. As such, as a friendly person, you would use cám ơn + [word for you].

Thank you very much in Vietnamese

The Vietnamese word for very much is rất nhiều with rất being the translation of very and nhiều the translation of much.

Say thank you very much in Vietnamese

Thank you very much = Cám ơn + [Word for You] (Optional) + rất nhiều.

For instance, saying thank you to an older lady would be: cám ơn chị rất nhiều and cám ơn ông rất nhiều is used to thank you very much a male about the same age as your grandpa. (Review why ông is used here).

Different from the case of cám ơn discussed above, it’s perfectly fine to use just cám ơn rất nhiều with thout the word for you.

You’re welcome in Vietnamese

In English, one can choose to say you’re welcome or no problem without any practical difference (there is, but for most situations they are 100% synonymous). In Vietnamese, it’s simpler as there is almost only one phrase:

Say You’re welcome/No problem in Vietnamese

You’re welcome/No problem = Không có gì/chi

The literal translation of không có gì or không có chi is there isn’t any problem. You may have noted that there is no Vietnamese word for problem in không có gì/chi. Indeed, the longer phrase is không có vấn đề gì/chi where vấn đề is the Vietnamese word for problem But since it’s longer, you would virtually always hear the phrase không có gì/chi as the answer for thank you.

Note that sometimes không sao is used as an alternative to không có chi/gì. In practice, this phrase, as well as không có chi/gì, is often used to respond to someone saying sorry: Someone says Xin lỗi and you reply Không sao, which means the same as no problem in English.

Summary

  • To say thank you: cám ơn + [word for You]
  • To say thank you very much: cám ơn + [word for You] + rất nhiều or just cám ơn rất nhiều
  • To say the equivalent of you’re welcome: không có gì/chi

Say Colors in Vietnamese

Asking about Color in Vietnamese

The Vietnamese word for color is màu. Sometimes, you would also hear its related word màu sắc, which can, in many cases, be used as the equivalent of màu. However, màu sắc also subtly implies the general look-and-feel of the item as a result of its color.

Below are the various ways you can use to enquire about colors. For each question, you would see the literal mappings to English.

Màu yêu thích của bạn là gì?
Your favorite color is what?
Bạn thích cái váy (có) màu gì?
You like the dress (has) what color?
Quần jean của anh ta (có) màu gì?
His jeans (has) what color?

If you need an explanation on why your favorite color is translated into Màu yêu thích của bạn in Vietnamese, you can take a look at the tutorial on how to say my, your, etc in Vietnamese.

In the last 2 examples, màu acts as if it were a verb: cái váy màu gì?. This can be explained by saying that the word , which means have in English, is being omitted. You can ask with or without the word , but most people would omit it.

Ask about the color of an item

[Item] + màu gì?

Colors in Vietnamese

The following table shows you how to say various colors in Vietnamese

blue: xanh dương
(also: xanh da trời)
green: xanh lá cây
(also: xanh da trời)
red: đỏ purple: tím
yellow: vàng orange: (da) cam brown: đà (also: nâu) black: đen
pink: hồng white: trắng grey: xám

The only point you need to note is that xanh is a generic color word that can refer to either blue or green. So saying xanh is ambiguous without the context. The word for blue in Vietnamese is xanh dương or xanh da trời, refering to the color of the sky. Green in Vietnamese is xanh lá cây, literally refer to the color of leaves.

Talk about colors in Vietnamese

Having learned the color words in Vietnamese, we can now answer the questions about color in the first section.

Question: Màu yêu thích của bạn là gì?
Answer: Mày yêu thích của tôi là màu xanh da trời

Question: Bạn thích cái váy màu gì?
Answer: Tôi thích cái váy màu hồng

Question: Quần jean của anh ta (có) màu gì?
Answer: Quần jean của anh ta màu xám.

Saying the color of an item

[Item] + màu + [Name of the color]

To refer to a color as a noun, you would use màu + [Name of the color] such as đỏ/xanh/vàng, etc. However, when the color is used as an adjective, màu is often, but not always, omitted.

cái áo sơ mi đỏ trông rất đẹp
the red shirt looks very nice
Cái khăn choàng xám rất hợp với em
The grey scarf suits you nicely

Summary

  • The word for color in Vietnamese is màu. Names of various colors in Vietnamese are given in the Color Table.
  • To about the color of an item: [Item] + màu gì?
  • To tell the color of an item: [Item] + màu + [Name of the color]

Say Dates in Vietnamese

In this lesson, we’d learn to say dates in Vietnamese, such as 12/09/2012.

This lesson would rely on our previous lesson on how to say days of the week in Vietnamese so
if you are not very confident yet, do take a quick review that lesson before continuing with this lesson.

Saying Month in Vietnamese

The Vietnamese word for month is tháng.

And similar to the way we say days of the week, months are also numbered from 1 to 12 with
January assigned number 1, February: 2 and so on till December: 12.

Months in Vietnamese

January Tháng giêng (also: tháng một)
February Tháng hai
March Tháng ba
April Tháng bốn (also: tháng tư)
May Tháng năm
June Tháng sáu
July Tháng bảy
August Tháng tám
September Tháng chín
October Tháng mười
November Tháng mười một
December Tháng mười hai

As can be seen from the above table, there are only 2 notes to take.
The first one is about January, which some people, usually the older generations,
call tháng giêng.
Saying tháng một for January is perfectly fine.

The other small note is about April: which can said tháng bốn or tháng tư.
This is not really an exception because the number 4 in Vietnamese can be referred to as
bốn or, less commonly these days, .

Saying Day of the month

To say the 23th of a month in Vietnamese: simply use the wordy for day, which is ngày, + [number]

Day of the month in Vietnamese

Ngày + [Number (1 – 31)]

Saying Year in Vietnamese

The word for year in Vietnamese is năm.
So to say 2012: năm 2012

Saying Date in Vietnamese

Having learned how to say day of the month, month and year,
you’re now completely ready to say dates in Vietnamese.

How do we say 12/09/2012 in English?
Well, before we can say it, we need to know what it means by writing “12/09/2012”.

It seems that in Britain or Australia, “12/09/2012” refers to September, 9th, 2012 while
in America this would refer to December, 09th, 2012.
In Vietnamese, we’ll interpret a date using the format: dd/mm/yy(yy), the same as the British/Australian way.

While we can say interchangeably the twelveth of September, 2012 or September, the twelveth, 2012 in English,
in Vietnamese it’s almost always said in the order of [day of the month], [month], [year]

Saying Dates in Vietnamese

Ngày + [Number (1 – 31)] + tháng + [Number (1 – 12)] + năm [Number]

Let’s doing some exercises.
How do you say “12/09/2012” in spoken form?
It’s ngày mười hai tháng chín năm hai nghìn không trăm mười hai.
The table below shows you the details.

12 /09 /2012
ngày mười hai tháng chín năm hai nghìn không trăm mười hai

If you need to review how to say numbers in Vietnamese,
the automatic Vietnamese number speller is always there to help.

How about “Wednesday, 04/July/2012”? It’s thứ tư ngày bốn tháng bảy năm 2012.

Summary

  • To say month in Vietnamese: tháng + [a number from 1 – 12]
  • To say day of the month: ngày + [a number from 1 – 31]
  • To say date in Vietnamese: [day of the week] + [day of the month] + [month] + [year]