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Basics 1 updated 2018-10-23

Welcome to the Vietnamese course!

Here are some basic grammar rules for you to get started with:

Word Order

Like most languages, word order in Vietnamese is simple:

Word Conjugation/Modification

There is no conjugation or modification at all. Words with different tones (for example, ga and ) are not considered conjugation/modification but two different words. In general, the meaning of sentence changes when we add or remove word(s), or change their order.

Articles (a/an/the) (featured in lesson 4)

In Vietnamese, there are no articles similar to those in English. You use the word một to represent a quantity of “1” and that is all.

For the learning purpose throughout the skill tree, you should follow this pattern of using articles:

For the sake of this course, all pronouns used in answers will be simplified as in this table:

English Pronoun Vietnamese Pronoun
I Tôi
You (singular) Bạn
He Anh ấy
She Cô ấy
It
We Chúng tôi
You (plural) Các bạn
They Họ

Vietnamese classifier system

In Vietnamese, there are words that are used to accompany other nouns in order to "classify" them based on physical/non-physical appearance or quantity.

You will learn about these classifiers in latter skills. In this skill, a few classifiers are introduced:

Alphabet Introduction 1 updated 2018-10-23

Welcome to the Vietnamese course!

This skill is for you to get started with the Vietnamese alphabet and the way the meaning of a word changes with different tones.

For basic grammar rules, please refer to skill Basics 1

There are six tones in Vietnamese language:

Name Diacritic Example
flat (no mark) me (tamarind)
grave \ mè (sesame)
acute / mé (to cut off)
hook ? mẻ (fermented)
tilde ~ mẽ (appearance)
dot . mẹ (mother)

Alphabet

Vietnamese alphabet does not have the letters f, j, w and z.

These are also vowels in Vietnamese alphabet (except d and đ, which are consonants).

Additional Consonants

Vietnamese classifier system

In Vietnamese, there are words that are used to accompany other nouns in order to "classify" them based on physical/non-physical appearance or quantity.

You will learn about these classifiers in latter skills. In this skill, a few classifiers are introduced:

Possession updated 2018-10-23

Possessive words in Vietnamese are simple. You just need to add của before subject/object pronouns. (Note: subject pronouns and object pronouns are the same. No difference at all).

The following table may help you to recall what we learned about subject pronouns:

Subject Pronoun Translation Possessive Translation
I Tôi My Của tôi
You (singular) Bạn Your Của bạn
He Anh ấy His Của anh ấy
She Cô ấy Her Của cô ấy
It Its Của nó
We Chúng tôi Our Của chúng tôi
You (plural) Các bạn Your Của các bạn
They Họ Their Của họ

của can be optional when you are talking about "friend", "dad", "brother" or any family members. This only works with "your" and "my". You will see some example in the skill Family below.

Possessive Pronouns

In English, you sometimes use possessive pronouns to avoid repeating the noun. For example: "It is my car, not your car" = "It is my car, not yours" = "The car is mine, not yours".

In Vietnamese, again, there is no difference between possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns. In both case, you use the same word as presented in the table above. For example: "The book is hers.” = "Quyển sách là của cô ấy.” and “Her book" = "Quyển sách của cô ấy”.

The use of "của mình"

Just like other languages, we hate repetition.

Take a look at this sentence "Cô ấy bán quyển sách của cô ấy" (She sells her book). It is grammatically correct, but the word cô ấy is repeated twice. And that is not nice.

To avoid that, one uses của mình. Here is the simple rule: của mình can replace any possessive adjectives or possessive pronouns above if and only if the noun(s) (in the sentence) belong to the same subject (of that sentence).

For instance, let's reuse the sentence above:

Note: Của mình should only be used to avoid repetition, that is, for sentences that have noun(s) belonging to the same subject like "I sell my car", "she wants her book", "he cooks his food" and so on. Của mình cannot be used if sentence has noun(s) not belonging to subject pronoun, such as "I sell his book", "he wants her money", "they need our car".

Demonstrative Determiners updated 2018-10-23

In English, demonstratives are “this”, “that”, “these” and “those”. This skill will teach you to use demonstratives in Vietnamese.

To be used as adjective to modify noun(s): using này, đó/kia

To be used as subject of a sentence: using đây, đó/kia

Important: Technically, đây and này are the same. They are both equivalent to English "this/these" and they both can be used as adjective for a noun or as an independent subject. However, for the sake of this course, đây will NOT be used as adjective and này will NOT be used as independent subject.

Important: For the rest of the skill tree, the word kia will NOT appear frequently. Most commonly used demonstratives are đây, đó, and này so you are recommended to use these words if you encounter sentences with demonstratives.

To be used as object of a sentence: using này, đó/kia

Plurals updated 2019-05-18

To indicate plurality, one can simply place những or các before plural noun. If a plural noun has adjective(s), những or các must be placed before them in this order: những/các + classifier + plural noun + adjective(s). Note that you usually need a classifier whenever you have những or các. You will learn about classifiers later in the course.

There are more ways to indicate plurality in Vietnamese but two words những and các are the most common ones. Later in the course, you will learn that when there is a number, you don't use these plural markers.

Important: những and các are to demonstrate plurality only. They are not equivalent to "some", "a few", "many"..... Lessons about this area will be provided later.

The two words những and các do not have any meaning other than indication of plurality so do not try to translate them. They can be used interchangeably throughout the skill tree.

Những and các can and should combine with the demonstratives. Please refer to the skill Demonstratives in the same row for more information.

Example: những cậu bé này (these boys); các quả táo kia (those apples)

Alphabet Introduction 2 updated 2018-10-23

This skill gives you another overview of the Vietnamese alphabet in addition to the first Alphabet skill as the nightmare does not end there.

Besides additional letters, tones and additional consonants, there are:

A lot of diphthongs and triphthongs

(I took the liberty to not include some diphthongs/triphthongs that are extremely uncommon in daily usage to simplify the list)

Note: You do not need to learn these by heart. This is just to provide an overview.

And a lot more

Each can combine with any consonant and any tones to create a different word, with different meaning and slightly different sound. Imagine all the possibilities? Don't worry. You will master it eventually. Just think about thousands of strokes to remember when learning Mandarin/Japanese, you will feel better.

Basics 2 updated 2019-07-30

No new content in this lesson. You may want to refer to previous grammar notes if you need help. Remember that we use simplified pronouns in this course, which are:

English Pronoun Vietnamese Pronoun
I Tôi
You (singular) Bạn
He Anh ấy
She Cô ấy
It
We (not including "you") Chúng tôi
We (including "you") Chúng ta
You (plural) Các bạn
They Họ

All other pronouns, despite being correct in certain context, will be marked wrong.

Cultural note: Inappropriate uses of pronouns in Vietnamese can mean anything from impoliteness, rudeness, awkwardness or intentional insult. Even the same two persons may use different pronouns over time depending on how their emotion, gender, social role, relationship or situation changes (falling in love, hating, threatening, anger, happiness, joking, honoring…). However, Vietnamese people are tolerant towards foreigners speaking Vietnamese so if you happen to use inappropriate pronouns, you are very likely to be excused!

Negation updated 2018-10-23

Không (used with all verbs except “to be”)

To indicate negation, one simply places the word không before the verb. Không means “no”. So literally, all sentences with negative verb will mean: subject + no + verb. Example: "I no go to school", "she no study", "I no like but love Duolingo".

Note: you can use không when the sentence involves the use of adjective(s), such as "I am no happy", "she is no fun", "he is no cruel". But continue reading the case below!

Không phải là (used with “to be” only with identifying purpose)

Same with không, but không phải là is for “no to be something”. You cannot use không phải là with regular verbs. In short, không phải là is used when you say something/someone is not something/someone in a sense of identity. Example: "I am no student", "she is no my girlfriend", "she is no teacher".

Note: this phrase is used with the sense of identity only. You CANNOT use it to describe emotion, quality or any qualitative characteristics (good, bad, sad, happy, old...). If that is the case, refer to the use of không above.

Common Phrases updated 2018-10-23

You are learning basic greetings in Vietnamese. There will be no new grammar notes in this lesson but just some basic phrases for you to start a conversation.

Lesson 1

About Hello in Vietnamese: Unlike popular belief that Vietnamese greeting is always Xin chào!, it is not the case. I rarely hear anyone use Xin chào anymore except in formal speech or movies. Instead, the Vietnamese commonly say "Chào + a person’s first name or a suitable pronoun". Chào standing alone works fine too.

Lesson 2

Although we teach the phrase Chào buổi sáng (Good morning), the phrase “Good morning” does not actually exist in Vietnamese. There is no specific greeting for each period of a day (morning, afternoon, evening). Instead, one simply says Chào as above. You are recommended not to use Chào buổi sáng in conversation.

Lesson 3

The name “Việt Nam” is a variation of Nányuè (南越), literally meaning “Southern Viet”. In that, the word Việt applied to an ethnic group living in southern China and Vietnam (pre-history) and was gradually adapted to represent Vietnamese people and Vietnamese language while the word Nam is not required.

In this course, we will use tiếng Việt as the Vietnamese language (with tiếng = language) and người Việt as Vietnamese people (with người = people/humans).

Classifiers 1 updated 2019-04-18

Introduction to Classifier System in Vietnamese

Classifiers are used to accompany a noun but not to modify it. It precedes a noun in order to demonstrate a physical/non-physical appearance or quantity of that noun. Classifier System is not featured in English but some other languages do have similar system.

Word order of a noun is: classifier + noun + adjective.

Just like noun gender in some languages, this is something one has to learn by heart. It is important to know which classifier goes with which noun. There can be more than one classifier that can match with a noun but not all nouns will have two or more classifiers.

In this skill, you will start with 7 classifiers:

Animals 1 updated 2018-10-23

In this lesson, we will learn about animals. The classifier word for animals is: con.

Example: con mèo (the cat), con chó (the dog)....

Additional note on classifier system

You may ask this question: does a noun always have to be accompanied by a classifier? What is the difference between a noun without a classifier and a noun accompanied by one? The answer is no. Vietnamese people give little or no preference about this minor detail. As long as it makes sense, they can fully understand you.

But in fact, there are certain differences in interpreting the two. Here is the table for you to compare:

Noun with classifier Noun without classifier
Meaning Describing characteristic of that specific thing/object only. Equivalent to "the" in English Implying characteristic of that noun as a whole. Demonstrating a truth/fact about that noun
Use Very frequent in daily communication because people tend to talk about specific object only. Exception may apply. More frequent in written Vietnamese, newspapers, research papers, journal. Still possible to use in daily communication.
Example Con mèo thích tôi - The cat likes me. (Meaning: that specific cat likes me) Mèo di chuyển trên bốn chân - Cat walks on four feet. (Meaning: all cats walk on four feet)

Most sentences on Duolingo will have classifiers preceding nouns.

Clothing updated 2018-10-23

In English, one verb “to wear” can pretty much cover all kinds of clothes, such as “to wear a hat", "to wear a shirt", "to wear shoes”. In Vietnamese, there are more than one verb for “to wear”, depending on what clothes you are talking about. Check out this table:

Type of clothes Verb Example
Hat (anything worn on head) đội; mang Tôi đội/mang một cái mũ. (I wear a hat)
Shirt, Coat (anything worn on body) mặc Tôi mặc một cái áo. (I wear a shirt)
Pants (anything worn from waist from ankles) mặc; mang Tôi mặc/mang một cái quần. (I wear pants)

Depending on the regions and dialects, the uses of these verbs may vary. However, to simplify the learning process on Duolingo, we will go with these only two verbs: đội for anything worn on head and mặc for any kinds of shirts and pants. These are the most commonly used and understood by any Vietnamese speakers.

Food updated 2018-10-23

Lesson 1

Món is the classifier for all kinds of food. It can precede all nouns that indicate food. If there is no noun, món can stand alone and mean “dish” (as in: delicious dish, not as in: plate of food). In this case, it is best to used with demonstratives: món này, món đó (this dish, that dish) if used in conversation.

Note: Món can signify different status of animal. A living animal, the noun must be accompanied by con (con gà - the chicken). But if món accompanies the noun instead, it means a cuisine/dish made from that animal (món gà - the chicken, but meaning the dish of chicken instead).

Lesson 2

Bữa means “meal” and can be considered as classifier for meals of a day. We have sáng, trưa, chiều, tối, respectively meaning “morning, noon, afternoon, evening”. Therefore, bữa sáng, bữa trưa, bữa chiều, bữa tối respectively means “breakfast, lunch, teatime/afternoon snack, dinner”.

Lesson 3

Thức ăn means food or dishes in general. But unlike món, it is not a classifier. You should just use thức ăn to generally indicate food (Example: I saw her food, The food is delicious…)

Cultural note: Canh is, technically, soup. But it is not identical to Western soup (for this, we have the word “xúp”, pronounced the same as soup, meaning “Western soup”). In this course, the answer “soup” is accepted for canh.

Lesson 5

For trứng, classifier word is quả or trái, just like fruits. But we usually use quả rather than trái.

Chay means “vegetarian” (adjective) but its use is unique compared to English. To say “I am vegetarian” in Vietnamese, you say “Tôi ăn chay” - literally, I eat “vegetarianly”. In this case, chay must always go with the verb ăn (to eat).

Questions 1 updated 2018-10-23

This lesson contains some important words for the rest of this course

Yes-no question: using Phải không

  1. To form yes-no question, you simply place phải không at the end of the sentence. The question formula is like this: S + V + O + phải không?. Technically, phải không is equivalent to “right?", "eh?” in English sentences. Example: Bạn thích cô ấy phải không? (literally, You like her, right?)

  2. Another way to form yes-no question: you add before the verb or adjective(s) and place không at the end of the sentence. The question formula will become like this: S + + V/Adj + O (optional) + không?. Example: Bạn có hạnh phúc không? (hạnh phúc = happy -> adj.) (Are you happy?), Bạn có muốn ăn không? (Do you want to eat?)

WH-question:

Subject Verb Question Word
Bạn ở đâu?
Bạn học như thế nào?
Cô ấy đang làm gì?

Example:

English Question Where are you?
Vietnamese Translation Bạn đâu?
Word-by-word You are where?

In this skill, you will learn how to form questions with where, what, who, why, and when

Using where - đâu

Using what -

Using who - ai

Using when - khi nào

Using why - vì sao/tại sao

Verbs 1 updated 2019-12-30

Lesson 1

Cho can be an independent verb (meaning “to give”, “to allow”) but in this lesson, it acts as preposition “to” as in viết cho (to write to (sb)). Note: cho is not universally used as “to” for every word.

Regarding the verb nghe, it can mean both “hear” and “listen to” in English. There is no need to use preposition with nghe as it is simply followed by noun or pronoun, respectively for “hear” and “listen to”.

Thấy in this lesson means “to see”. Interestingly, it accompanies other verbs to emphasize the action in the sense of “already done it”, such as nghe thấy (to hear, and already hear), nhìn thấy (to see, and already see), tìm thấy (to find, and already find).

Notice the verb thử, which means "to try doing sth". When using this verb, you just need to add another verb after it. Example: Tôi thử ăn một quả chuối (I try eating a banana). For "to try to do sth", we will give you its correspondence verb in Vietnamese later.

Lesson 2

Yêu means “to love”. Unlike thích (to like), yêu cannot go with another verb like in English (love eating, love to work…). But you can use thích + another verb (thích ăn, thích học, thích cười…).

Lesson 3

Okay, lắng nghe contains the word nghe, so it must mean “to hear”/“to listen to” right? That is true! lắng nghe does mean so but emphasizing the action of hearing/listening. However, this word is not common in regular conversation but quite common in poetry, novel, speech.

The verb đi means “to go” and đi bộ means “to walk” in the sense of to go jogging. Additionally, throughout the skill tree, you will see this form a lot: đi + another verb. Example: đi ăn (go eat), đi ngủ (go sleep), đi bán (go sell)… It is commonly used in daily conversation to emphasize actions. In fact, it is more natural to use this form when speaking with or without the urgency of the action. Vietnamese people love emphasizing what they did/are doing/will be doing!

Luyện tập means “to practice”. Breaking it down, luyện independently can mean “to practice” but we will not use it in this course, and tập means “to practice” but in the sense of “just start learning something”.

Lesson 4

Giúp đỡ means “to help” in a narrative sense, giúp alone works well and sounds more natural. In case of saying “help me”/“help + sb”, use giúp only.

Review this case: thấy in this lesson means “to see” and it accompanies other verbs to emphasize the action in the sense of “already done it”.

In this lesson, we learn the word tìm (to find). tìm alone means one has the purpose of going find something and not yet finds it, while tìm thấy means one already finds something.

Lesson 5

Làm means “to work”. đi làm means “to go to work”. It commonly goes with việc to become làm việc (also meaning “to work” but specifically talking about working for an employer). Additionally, special form: làm + (sb) + adjective/verb = to make + sb + adjective/verb. Example: Tôi làm cô ấy cười (I make her smile), Anh ấy làm tôi buồn (He makes me sad).

Lesson 6

Để is a verb, meaning “to put (something on/at/in something)”. When using with pronoun or person’s name, it means “to let + (sb) + verb/adjective”. Moreover, để can be used as conjunction, “to” as in “in order to” or “to + verb” which we will learn later on.

Combination of verbs

In Vietnamese, a stative verb (such as đứng - stand, ngồi - sit, nằm - lie) can combine with another verb to describe an action that is done in the state.

For example: Cậu bé đó đang ngồi đọc sách. - The boy is sitting and reading a book.

You can see in this example, the stative verb ngồi (sit) is combined with đọc sách (read a book), so the sentence describe the boy reads a book while sitting.

Objects updated 2018-10-23

There is no new grammar in this skill.

Important review: for most objects in this skill, classifier words cái and chiếc are applicable and interchangeable.

Important review: classifier word is not always required. It depends on the noun’s usage itself. If one wants to use a noun with general meaning (Ex: animals eat to survive), then there is no classifier needed. If one wants to point at a specific noun (Ex: the ice cream (that you bought) is tasty), then classifier is needed.

In this course, when in doubt, use classifier!

In lesson 2, máy tính is supposedly means “computer” in general. However, the original word is máy vi tính but máy tính replaced the original one and is widely used. Note: máy tính can also mean “portable scientific calculator” but we will not use it in this course.

Questions 2 updated 2018-10-23

You will continue to learn how to form questions in Vietnamese.

Using how - như thế nào and làm sao

  1. Như thế nào is always at the end of sentence to make it a “how-question” (Example: Bạn học như thế nào? (literally, You study how?)). It is used to ask about “what method, condition, quality of doing something”.
  2. In comparison, làm sao is placed at the beginning of the sentence to ask the “how to” question.
    • Formula 1: Làm sao + S + V + O? (Ex: Làm sao bạn biết Tiếng Việt?) (How do you know Vietnamese language))
    • Formula 2: Làm sao + để (from skill Verb 1) + Verb? (Ex: Làm sao để học Tiếng Việt? (How to study Vietnamese?))

Asking how much/how many - bao nhiêu

Lesson 2

Trả lời means “to answer” while đáp án means “answer” (as a noun). We also use câu trả lời to represent “answer” as a noun.

Colors updated 2018-10-23

What a colorful life!

You will learn handful of basic colors here: red, white, black, orange, blue, green, brown, gray, pink and violet.

Classifier for all colors is màu (meaning “color”). So literally, to mention color, one will say, in Vietnamese, color red, color green, color brown and so on.


In English, you use “to be” to describe color (the shirt is red, the dog is brown, the computer is black, etc.). In Vietnamese, we do not use “to be” but the verb “to have” - .

Cultural note: there are many Vietnamese words associating with blue and green but we will only learn xanh da trời and xanh lá cây. Xanh separately can mean green or blue, causing confusion. Xanh da trời literally means “blue as the skin of the sky” and xanh lá cây means “green as tree leaves”.

This video is for those who want to know more about colors in different languages.

Adjectives 1 updated 2018-10-23

In this lesson, you will learn some basic adjectives.

Unlike English, Vietnamese language does not require the use of “be” when having a subject accompanied with adjective(s). However, for teaching and learning purpose, the course will have this rule: for all sentences that have the structure subject-adjective, except for negative sentences and questions, you must use rất (very).

Literally, all sentences will appear to be like this: he very happy, I very tired, she very smart…

Example:

BUT:

Why? It is not the case that the Vietnamese love to exaggerate everything. Using very simply helps you to distinguish between a sentence (subject-very-adjective) and a modified noun (noun-adjective(s)).

Note: You may encounter some sentences in this course that do not always have the word very. That is because they have other indications as a sentence already, such as I am happy and sad (with “and”).

Note: These instructions are for learning purpose only. In real conversation, you may or may not use rất (very) and your sentences still make sense. In fact, avoid using rất in every sentence, it’s exaggerative!

Lesson 1 - using “thật”

Very straightforward, thật is equivalent to “really” to accompany adjective(s). It is not used for expressing surprise like “Really?” in English. However, thật will not be used much in this course.

Lesson 7 - đúng and sai

With đúng (right) and sai (wrong), you do not have to use “very”.

Conjunctions updated 2018-10-23

Lesson 1

There is this useful phrase: Nếu… thì…. It is equivalent to “If… then…” in English.

Lesson 2

Another useful phrase for you: Không những… mà còn…, which is equivalent to “Not only… but also…” in English.

Useful expression: cả + subject + đều + verb/adj which is similar to “both” in English. It illustrates both mentioned subjects do the same action or have the same characteristic.

Lesson 3

Nên in this lesson is used as “so” between two clauses or two sentences. Most of the time, it is placed at the beginning of the clause/sentence to indicate cause and effect relation.

Để in this lesson is used as “in order to” or simply “to”. Additionally, you can have this structure “in order for (sth/sb) to…” by saying: “để + sb/sth + verb in Vietnamese”.

Useful expression: không phải…mà cũng không phải OR không…mà cũng không, equivalent to “neither…nor…” in English. This expression can be used as subject or object.

Numbers updated 2018-10-23

From 0 to 10

Firstly, here are numbers from 0-10:

English Vietnamese
Zero Không
One Một
Two Hai
Three Ba
Four Bốn
Five Năm
Six Sáu
Seven Bảy
Eight Tám
Nine Chín
Ten Mười

From 11-19

From 11-19, you say mười (ten) + any number from one to nine from table above. Literally, it means “ten one” (11), “ten two” (12) and so on.

From 20 to 99

  1. For 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, you say any number from two to nine (table above) + mươi. Example: hai mươi (20), ba mươi (30), chín mươi (90) and so on.
    • Note that this is mươi, not mười.
  2. For the rest of the number, you simply combine any number from two to nine (table above) + mươi + any number from two to nine. Example: hai mươi ba (23, literally two ten three), chín mươi chín (99, literally nine ten nine).

    • Exception: Pay attention to the use of lăm as mentioned above.
    • Exception: For number ending with 1 (21, 31, 41…), you use mốt instead of một. This is similar to the case of lăm above. It starts from 21 and beyond (E.g: 61 is sáu mươi mốt, NOT sáu mươi một). For 11, you still use một as in mười một (11).
    • Exception: For number ending with 4 (24, 34, 44…), you can use beside bốn. However, unlike the case of lăm and mốt above, bốn and can be used interchangeably. (E.g: 44 can be bốn mươi bốn or bốn mươi tư; 74 can be bảy mươi bốn or bảy mươi tư)

From 100 and beyond

  1. For hundred-level, you use any number from one to nine + trăm. (Example: một trăm (100), chín trăm (900) and so on.)
  2. Simply combine #1 with two sessions above to form any number from 100 to 999. Example: hai trăm ba mươi ba (233), chín trăm chín mươi chín (999)…
  3. Important: For any number from 1 to 9 (101 to 109, 201 to 209...), lẻ must be used. Formula: number (1-9) + trăm + lẻ + number (1-9)
  4. For thousand-level, you use any number from one to nine + nghìn. Repeat #2 and #3 for any number from 1000 to 9999.
  5. For million-level, you use any number from one to nine + triệu. Same as above.
  6. For billion-level, you use any number from one to nine + tỷ. Same as above.

Vietnamese currency

Vietnamese currency (Vietnam dong - Việt Nam đồng or just simply đồng) starts with thousand-level so if you plan to travel, I recommend you to pay attention to the word nghìn (thousand) and triệu (million).

Continuous updated 2018-10-23

You’ll learn how to form continuous tense in Vietnamese, that is, to demonstrate the actions that are taking place.

One must add đang before verb(s) of a sentence to indicate continuity.

Example:

Note: Vietnamese language does distinguish between present tense (I eat -> habit, fact) and continuous tense (I am eating -> going on right now). So does this course.

That is all!

Ordinal numbers updated 2018-10-23

Ordinary numbers in English are “first”, “second”, “third”, fourth, fifth, something-th

In Vietnamese, you simply add thứ before a number to form ordinary number(s). Check the skill Numbers if you need to review about numbers in Vietnamese.

Example:

Dates and Time updated 2018-10-23

In Vietnamese, it is common to use number to illustrate a weekday or a month (example: thứ 3 (Tuesday) or tháng 7 (July)). However, in this lesson, please do not write in number.

Days of the week

For days of the week, one use thứ + any number from 2 to 7. For Sunday, it’s exceptional: Chủ nhật.

English Vietnamese
Monday Thứ hai
Tuesday Thứ ba
Wednesday Thứ tư
Thursday Thứ năm
Friday Thứ sáu
Saturday Thứ bảy
Sunday Chủ nhật

Note: Yes, you remember it right. These are exactly like ordinary numbers (second, third, fourth… seventh).

Months of the year

For months of the year, you use tháng + any number from 1 to 12.

English Vietnamese
January Tháng một
February Tháng hai
March Tháng ba
April Tháng bốn
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

Note: for April, the more common use is tháng tư. However in general, both tháng bốn or tháng tư are acceptable.

Family updated 2018-10-23

From tips & notes in the skill Basics 1, we learn that Vietnamese pronouns vary depending on context, polite level, gender, superiority, emotion, and age. Thus, I have to simplify and limit the total accepted pronouns in this course.

The same with this case. How you call your parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts… will vary depending on regions.

Here is the simplified and universally understood translations that we will use in this course.

English Vietnamese
Older brother Anh (trai)
Younger brother Em (trai)
Older sister Chị (gái)
Younger sister Em (gái)
Child/Son Con (trai)
Child/Daughter Con (gái)
Dad/Father Bố
Mom/Mother Mẹ
Grandpa/Grandfather Ông
Grandma/Grandmother

Note: These Vietnamese words can actually be used as pronouns but we are not going to use it in this course. There will be separate post in discussion forum explaining this.

Cultural note: for grandpa/grandma, Vietnamese people always distinguish between paternal grandparents (ông/bà nội) and maternal grandparents (ông/bà ngoại).

Comparison updated 2018-10-23

Vietnamese people use comparison in conversation very frequently.

Comparison of adjectives

Superiority: Subject + adjective + hơn + object

Equality: Subject + adjective + như + object

Note: There is inferior comparison of adjectives but it is not very common to use.

Comparison of verbs

Superiority: Subject + verb + object 1 (optional) + nhiều hơn + object 2

Equality: Subject + verb + object 1 (optional) + nhiều như + object 2

Inferiority : Subject + verb + object 1 (optional) + ít hơn + object 2

Comparison of adverbs

Superiority: Subject + verb + adverb + hơn + object

Equality: Subject + verb + adverb + như + object

Note: Inferior comparison of adverb is rare. People tend to use opposite adverb instead (slowly =/ fast).

Note: You can always place any additional object (optional) after verb.

Superlative comparison

This is a bit complicated. Superlative adjective should be accompanied by a noun (for instance, the best person, most intelligent student, fastest man…). You can’t simply say “I am the best”, “She is the most intelligent” like in English.

General formula (for standalone noun): noun + adjective + nhất (in this case, this standalone noun can be subject or object of a sentence, or just by itself).

Formula: Subject + verb + object (optional) + nhiều nhất.

Example: Cô ấy học nhiều nhất. (She studies the most - the most content of something)

Formula: Subject + verb + object (optional) + adverb + nhất.

Example: Anh ấy ăn nhanh nhất. (He eats “fast-est” - this form does not really exist in English)

Quantity comparison of noun(s)

It is also frequent to say you have something more or less than someone else does.

Subject + có + nhiều + noun + hơn + object (optional).

Example: Tôi có nhiều tiền hơn (bạn). (I have more money (than you)).

Subject + có + ít + noun + hơn + object (optional).

Example: Tôi có ít tiền hơn (bạn). (I have less money (than you)).

Subject + có + nhiều/ít + noun + nhất

Example: chúng tôi có nhiều/ít thành viên nhất. (We have the most/fewest members)

Note: the plural indicators những and các are NOT needed.

Prepositions 1 updated 2018-10-23

This skill introduces some basic prepositions in Vietnamese.

There is no new grammar point. However, you may want to review previous grammar notes, especially skills Question 1 and Question 2.

Good luck!

Geography updated 2018-10-23

There is no new grammar in this skill.

Common Phrases 2 updated 2018-10-23

Here are some more common expressions.

Lesson 1

hãy + verb: this word is similar to the phrase “let’s” but it does not have equivalent meaning. Instead of “let us”, it indicates “let you” or “you should”. The target audience is someone else not you.

Note: actually, people don’t use hãy much in daily conversation. But you will see the use of hãy a lot on advertisement, instruction panel or formal speech, implying you or all of you in general, should do something.

đừng + verb: so this is another form of negation, very similar to không, meaning “do not + verb”. One uses đừng when strongly demanding someone not to do something. When traveling in Vietnam, watch out for red signs starting with đừng. It is either a law that you should not violate or something could harm you (example: Do not enter).

ư: this word is put at the end of sentence to indicate a yes-no question, besides phải không. Refer to skill “Question 1” if you need to review this. However, ư indicates a question with an expression of surprise.

Lesson 2

không có gì: literally meaning “there is nothing”, this phrase is similar to “you’re welcome” or “no problem”, used to respond to thank-you.

vừa mới: this phrase is used in this formula: subject + vừa mới + verb, demonstrating that someone has just done something. This phrase indicates action occurred the past but only a moment ago. Note: Vietnamese people love to talk about what they just did. You are recommended to add this phrase to your vocabulary list.

In this lesson, you also learn to form commands or requests. Nothing new here. Learn it yourself!

Countries 1 updated 2018-10-23

In general, most names of countries have origin from Sino-Vietnamese (chữ Nôm). Thus, many sound very similar to their counterparts in Chinese language. For reference, here is a long list of Vietnamese names for countries and cities around the world: Vietnamese exonyms

Note: Do not learn by heart. Most Vietnamese would not understand or use these Vietnamese-written names, only a handful of those (which will be taught here). For the rest of the countries and cities, you should use original English names as that is how Vietnamese people preferably use.

Classifier for country is nước. It also means “water” as you already learn. So nước + <> is the proper form to address a country to someone.

Nominalization updated 2018-10-23

The term nominalization means converting a word into a noun. In this skill, I particularly refer to the conversion of an adjective or a verb into a noun.

In English, you have “stupidity” as noun form of “stupid”, “eagerness” as noun form of “eager”.

In Vietnamese, one simply adds sự before a verb or an adjective to convert it into noun.

Example:

While most adjectives can be converted to noun form with the word sự, not all verbs can! We will learn more about this in another skill.

Ultimately, a number of adjectives cannot be converted! Despite not being grammatically wrong, doing so to some adjectives or in some contexts can sound weird, awkward or unnatural.

We will try to create a post in forum to list words that should not be used with sự.

Future updated 2019-08-14

Technically, Vietnamese doesn't have tense like English or other European languages.

In Vietnamese, time is implied by adverbs or contexts instead of verb conjugation. These adverbs can be time: ngày mai (tomorrow), năm sau (next year), tuần sau (next week), etc. They can be also a specialized adverb for time reference - for past, it's "đã"; for continuous present, it's "đang"; for future, it's "sẽ".

To be precise, these are actually adverbs marking perfect, continuous, and prospective aspects, respectively, but with the assumption that you're without linguistic background, you can understand this as relative time reference.

Drawing time from context is harder and cannot be taught in this course. We recommend you to do further practice in real life situations to get used to Vietnamese time reference.

For convenience, colloquially, such references to past, present, and future, are called "tense" - be careful.


To express an action that is going to or will probably happen, simply put sẽ (equivalent to “will”) before the verb.

Example:

To express negation, please refer to the skill Negation as the grammar rule is the same.

Common future time expression

You already learned ngày mai (tomorrow), here are some more common expressions.

Attributes updated 2018-10-23

No new grammar point in this skill, only new vocabulary.

Some attributes can be used as noun or adjective without nominalization. In this skill, those words are:

Ultimately, using nominalization (sự) with these words is acceptable.

Adjectives 1.5 updated 2018-10-23

In the sentence structure:

It + be + adj + (for + S.O) to + verb + ... there is no word-by-word translation

For example:

1.1) It is hard to wake up early ( It+ be +adj+ to +verb)

Translation: Khó/Rất khó (mà/để - optional but more natural to add) dậy sớm

In the Vietnamese translation, we will ignore "It is" there and just translate the rest.

1.2) It is hard for a teacher to pay attention to all.

Translation: Một giáo viên khó mà quan tâm hết.

Now here, we will use "a teacher" as the subject to start our translation.

Frequency updated 2018-10-23

Adverbs of frequency describe how often something occurs.

In this skill, there are five common adverbs of frequency to learn.

The adverb of frequency is placed between subject and verb in a sentence.

Example:

Minor notes:

Conjunctions 2 updated 2018-10-23

Lesson 1

vậy mà is equivalent to “but” in English and it connects two opposing clauses in one sentence. vậy mà can be used interchangeably with nhưng.

như vậy is a bit unique. Despite having various English interpretation, I limit its translation into two only (as shown in hint): “like that” (as in “I am like that”, “I work like that”, etc) and “as a result” (placed at the beginning of the clause).

Lesson 2

mặc dù and tuy nhiên are equivalent to “although” or “though”. They can be used interchangeably. If your answer containing either one of these is marked wrong, please report to us.

cũng is a helpful word to demonstrate someone also does something. Following this formula: subject (tôi/anh ấy/An/người đàn ông…) + cũng + verb. - cũng vậy is another way to shorten similar clauses. Using this structure: subject (tôi/anh ấy/An/người đàn ông…) + cũng vậy, it can replace sentences in this format “so am I/so do I/me too/I do too”. - Note: standalone vậy has many uses but mostly, it is equivalent to sentence-initial “so”, as being used as a pause during conversation.

Adverbs updated 2019-07-29

In general, Vietnamese people do not use adverbs that often in daily conversation. Additionally, they rarely use adverbs to accompany adjectives as in English (such as “incredibly strong”, “unbelievably amazing”, etc.). Therefore, one should avoid use too many adverbs as much as possible.

This skill provides a handful of adverbs that is most frequently used.

General formula

Unlike English, Vietnamese do not modify an adjective to convert it into adverb. Instead, one places một cách before an adjective to create an “adverb phrase”. Literally, it means “in a way that is (adj)”. For instance, một cách hạnh phúc (happily) in Vietnamese literally means “in a way that is happy”.

Example: một cách hoàn hảo (perfectly), một cách may mắn (fortunately), một cách hạnh phúc (happily).

Exception: some adjectives require one additional word when forming “adverb phrase”. For instance, chậm (slow) and nhanh (fast) are adjectives but in “adverb phrase”, one says một cách chậm chạp (slowly - “chạp” is added), một cách nhanh chóng (fast - “chóng” is added).

Other adverbs

Some common adverbs provided in this skill do not follow the “adverb phrase” structure above.

ATTENTION: Nói chung

"Chung" means "common", "general", but it also has a homophone SV root meaning "end" - which gives it two meanings:

Meaning #1: "In general" or "Generally"

Meaning #2: "To conclude", "to sum up"
In a colloquial sense, it works as a signal "Let's settle on this conclusion, I don't want to talk about it anymore, switch the topic".

In some cases, it can mean either, but it some cases, it can only mean either of them. The best strategy is probably to try both and see which one makes sense.

Modal Verbs updated 2019-05-28

Different meaning of "được" at different positions

Apart from being used for passive voice and adjective/adverb, "được" can have two meanings as a modal particles, depending on where it stands. Look at these two sentences for example:

Tôi được chạy.
Tôi chạy được.

What is the difference between these sentences? When standing before verb, it means be allowed to, while standing after verb, it mean be able to. So, the first sentence means "I am allowed to run", while the second one means "I can run".

Vietnamese vs. English differences

In English, must + V means you have to do something, but must not + V doesn't mean you don't have to do something, but rather you are not allowed to do something.

In contrast, in Vietnamese, phải + V means you have to do something, and không phải + V means you don't have to do something.

If you want to say you are not allowed to do something, you should say không được + V, where được here means "is allowed to do something".

Ask and tell the time updated 2018-10-23

kém

Past updated 2019-08-14

Technically, Vietnamese doesn't have tense like English or other European languages.

In Vietnamese, time is implied by adverbs or contexts instead of verb conjugation. These adverbs can be time: hôm qua (yesterday), tuần trước (last week), năm ngoái (last year), trước đây (before), 10 năm trước (10 years ago), etc. They can be also a specialized adverb for time reference - for past, it's "đã"; for continuous present, it's "đang"; for future, it's "sẽ".

To be precise, these are actually adverbs marking perfect, continuous, and prospective aspects, respectively, but with the assumption that you're without linguistic background, you can understand this as relative time reference.

Drawing time from context is harder and cannot be taught in this course. We recommend you to do further practice in real life situations to get used to Vietnamese time reference.

For convenience, colloquially, such references to past, present, and future, are called "tense" - be careful.

Travel updated 2018-10-23

Lái - fly/ride/drive

Verbs 3 updated 2019-02-20

dành >< giành

Passive updated 2019-07-22

In Vietnamese, sentences in passive voice distinguish between "positive" and "negative" passive.

For "positive" passive sentence, that is, when the subject of the sentence gains benefit from the action, you use "được" (gain) as the copula. For "negative" passive sentence, that is, when the subject lose something because of the action, you use "bị" (suffer).

How to form a passive voice sentence:
Active voice: S + V + O
--> English passive: O + be + past participle [+ by S]
--> Vietnamese passive: O + bị/được [+ S] + V

Example:

"Anh ấy đã bị [ai đó] nhìn thấy trong khi đang bán cái điện thoại của tôi."
"He was seen [by someone] while selling my phone."

Prepositions 2 updated 2018-10-23

dùng kết hợp với "ở"

Education updated 2019-07-20

Nghiên cứu vs. học

These both words can be translated to English as "study". However, their usages are not the same in Vietnamese. Generally, nghiên cứu results in new knowledge, while học is studying a pre-existing knowledge. A rule of thumb is, when it's possible to replace "study" with "research", then it's nghiên cứu; when it's replaceable with "learn", then it's học.

Common Phrases 3 updated 2019-06-27

rồi = then = t/lai

rồi = already = q/khứ

đến lúc + sb + phải + rồi

cho đến + time reference.

Because a clause (S+V) in Vietnamese can't be a time reference, unlike in English, so you can't say "...cho đến tôi làm xong việc này" but it must be "cho đến khi tôi làm xong việc này". That's why "until" is usually translated as "cho đến khi" when it stands alone.

"Hôm nay" is already a time reference, so it doesn't need "khi" to turn it to be. You will see this comes up in other exercises.

Determiners updated 2018-10-23

điều này điều đó

tất cả không ai

Abstract Objects 1 updated 2018-10-23

năm lần bảy lượt = many times

Politics updated 2019-06-15

Tổng thống or Chủ tịch nước?

There are two titles for head of state in Vietnamese that are both translated into English as "president": Tổng thống and Chủ tịch nước.

Chủ tịch nước is a title of a president of a communist country, such as Vietnam, China, or Cuba. Tổng thống is for other countries.

In the exercise, we only introduce Tổng thống, which is applied for American president. However, both answers are accepted.

Abstract Objects 2 updated 2019-02-20

Bring sb sth = mang đến cho sb sth

Classifiers 2 updated 2018-10-23

mảnh - mảnh đất -> đặt sau bài nature

giấc mơ =/ ước mơ

Medical updated 2019-08-14

How to talk about illness

In Vietnamese, to talk about illness, you can say:
<subject> + <illness name>

However, you can also use passive voice (which is, in fact, the more preferred way):
<subject> + bị + <illness name>

Note that "bị" is linked with negativity. Illness is certainly a negative thing.


chú ý classifier được dạy kèm từ vựng chỉ bộ phận cơ thể - ckhadung

Astronomy updated 2018-10-23

closet to sth = gần sth nhất Name of planets: Sao + Name or Name + Tinh (Sino-Vietnamese)

Adjectives 3 updated 2019-02-20

teach the form: Thật là - ckhadung

Vietnam updated 2019-09-01

Thờ vs. tôn thờ

English "worship" can be translated to Vietnamese as thờ or tôn thờ. These two words have different meaning.

To thờ someone, that person must be either dead or a deity, and this act is a religious ritual. On the other hand, you can tôn thờ any living person, or probably not a person, like your idol; this act is not religious. Sometimes tôn thờ can be religious as well, but that's for deities exclusively.

Synonyms of tôn thờ are: tôn sùng, thần tượng, sùng bái
Synonym of thờ: cúng, thờ cúng

Examples:

Abstract Objects 3 updated 2018-10-23

noun + gì = any (dùng trong câu phủ định)

Military updated 2018-10-23

With vehicle, classifier = chiếc. need to note in grammar Classifier quả for tên lửa

Reduplicative Words updated 2018-10-23

dõng dạc = adv more than adj

dính dáng = use in negative sense most of the time

Informal Expressions updated 2019-07-06

Note on overprice: use as verb here, but usually use as adj

Cơm bụi (lit. dust meal) is a cheap meal that is served at working-class restaurant. There are several explanations on the etymology of this word, one of which is that these street restaurants are sometimes on the sidewalk, so there is dust from the street.
Because this is hard to translate, it'll be translated as "working-class meal" like in this article


59 skills with tips and notes
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