The table below shows the building blocks of counting, i.e., numbers from 0 to 10 in Vietnamese, which are used to construct bigger numbers.
|4||four||bốn (also: tư)|
In English, one would need to remember additional 2 numbers before there is any rule: eleven, twelve. In Vietnamese, you can already start to compose numbers from 11. What a good news!
So how would you say 11 in Vietnamese? 11 = 10 + 1 = mười + một = mười một! How about 19? Please compose it and if your answer is mười chín, congratulations!
How would you say 15 then? Is it mười năm? Unfortunately it’s not. If we think about English, while we say 16 as six + teen, 15 is fif + teen, not five + teen! In Vietnamese, a strange thing also happens with 15: the correct answer is mười lăm, and not mười năm. This is the only exception in the range from 11 to 19, which would fall under a rule mentioned in the next section.
In order to say 20, you would say 2 + mươi = hai + mươi. This same rule applies to 30, … until 90, with no single exception. Hey, even 50 still conforms with this rule: 50 = năm + mươi.
Next, let’s tackle numbers such as 29. In English, this is said as 20 + 9 = twenty + nine. Vietnamese shares the same rule so that 29 is written and spoken as 20 + 9 = hai mươi + chín! How would you then say 83? Is ist 80 + 3 = tám mươi + ba?
There are 2 exceptions that you need to take note: for number 1 and 5. 1 is một in the number 1 and combinations 01 and 11. In other 2-digit numbers such as 21, 31 till 91, it becomes mốt. For instance, 31 = 30 + 1 = ba mươi + mốt; 61 is sáu mươi mốt.
Similarly for 5: it’s năm when stands alone or in 05 combination. In all other combinations, 15, 25, till 95, it’s lăm. For example, 55 = 50 + 5 = năm mươi + lăm.
It’s worth noting that in spoken Vietnamese (but not in writing), the word mươi is often omitted in saying 2-digit numbers. As such 29 becomes hai chín, which is essentially saying the number 2 and 9 separately. Likewise, 83 becomes tám ba. Of course, when the number is 40, which is bốn mươi, you can’t omit the mươi. Or you’d be referring to the number 4!
Before we can say any number in Vietnamese, we need to learn the last piece: the hundreds. The Vietnamese word for hundred is trăm. To say 300: it’s simply ba + trăm; 500: năm trăm. Exactly the same as in English.
In English, the number 152 is: one hundred and fifty two, where the and between the hundred-unit and the rest is normally used in British English but not in American English. In Vietnamese, it’s truely up to you: not unusual to use it and not unusual not to use it. So 152 is một trăm năm (mươi) hai, with or without the word mươi.
How would you say 103? It’s one hundred and three, right? The same rule as for saying 152 above. In Vietnamese, however, we need to insert the word lẻ before the number 3 so that it’s said: một trăm lẻ ba. This is due to the 0 before the number 3. How about 105?
(Note: As pointed out by Grant Smith in a comment below, in the Northern area of Vietnam, people may also use the word “linh” in the place of “lẻ” above: “linh” is a word adapted from Chinese).
Let’s practice a little. How would you say 190? It’s 100 + 90 = một trăm + chín mươi.
What about 111? Let’s break it down the same way you speak in English: 100 + 11 = một trăm + mười một. Please be reminded that 1 in the last digit becomes mốt, except when it appears alone as number 1 or in 11 as in the above example.
Why not finish this section with the biggest 3-digit number 999? How would you say it? The table below shows the answer.
|English||nine hundred||and ninety nine|
|Vietnamese||chín trăm||chín mươi chín|
By now, you have known all the necessary pieces to say any number. Are you aware of it?
Let’s do just that by first giving the words for the bigger units we’d play with in this section:
|1000||thousand||nghìn or ngàn|
Now, how would you say a number like 15603? It’s not difficult: say it in English and then simply translate the English units and numbers you’ve learned in the previous 2 sections to Vietnamese. This works simply because Vietnamese and English share the same way of saying number.
Let’s take a drill. How to say 15603 in Vietnamese?
|Vietnamese||mười lăm||nghìn||sáu||trăm||lẻ ba|
The only note here is that due to the 0 before the last digit 3, we need the word lẻ.
You can also check your answer using the automatic numbers speller. It also contains the mapping between English and Vietnamese.
How about 5063? Tread carefully here.
|English||five||thousand||and sixty three|
|Vietnamese||năm||nghìn||không trăm||sáu mươi ba|
As we’ve already learned, there is no need to say the equivalent of and in Vietnamese. You should have been surprised about the word không right in front of trăm. Recall that for a number 063 or simply 63, it’s said simply as sáu mươi ba, not không trăm sáu mươi ba. But when the 0 at the hundred-unit is preceded by higher scales such as thousand or million, etc. it becomes necessary to say explicitly the 0 at the hundredh-unit.
As another example, 6023023 is said as: sáu triệu + hai mươi ba nghìn + không trăm hai mươi ba. As you can see, the 0 of the first 023 is not said explicitly while the 0 the second 023 is said as không trăm. So the 0 should be said explicitly when it’s at the hundred-unit, and this doesn’t apply to any other unit.
Next example: 502305
|English||five hundred and two thousand||three hundred and five|
|Vietnamese||năm trăm lẻ hai nghìn||ba trăm lẻ năm|
As you might have realized saying such as big number as 502305 is just a matter of: < saying 502 > + thousand + < saying 305 >. This is why knowing how to say till 999 is enough for you to cope with any number.
Let’s practice with a bigger number: 62003100
|English||sixty two million||three thousand||and one hundred|
|Vietnamese||sáu hai triệu||ba nghìn||một trăm|
How familiar it is to say numbers in Vietnamese if you already know how to do so in English.
And to graduate from this tutorial on cardinal numbers, put yourself to test with this really, really big number: 99,999,999,999. Give it a try before you look at the answer.
|English||ninety nine billion||nine hundred and ninety nine million||nine hundred and ninety nine thousand||and nine hundred and ninety nine|
|Vietnamese||chín mươi chín tỷ||chín trăm chín mươi chín triệu||chín trăm chín mươi chín nghìn||chín trăm chín mươi chín|
And don’t forget to use the automatic numbers pronouncer to help you master Vietnamese numbers.
This lesson has been quite long, so you’ll see a magic formula below:
Wonderful! This means to say 22nd, you’ll say thứ + hai mươi hai. Short and sweet for ordinals in Vietnamese.
Of course, exceptions are to be expected. Luckily, only one: 1st is thứ nhất instead of thứ một.
- Saying number in Vietnamese is very similar to English at the general level, except for only some minor differences.
- To say oridnal numbers, simply say it as a cardinal number and put the word thứ in front.
- Tool: Automatic numbers pronouncer: Vietnamese and English available here: https://yourvietnamese.com/learn-vietnamese/vietnamese-numbers-automatic-speller/