How to Address someone Properly in Vietnamese

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If you have a chance to visit Vietnam, besides learning about the country and people, take out a little bit of your time to learn our language. You will realize that Vietnamese is an interesting and special language because it is cultivated with 4000 years of Vietnamese history.

Vietnamese is basically different from English in terms of stress, tense, and pronouns. Today, I would like to introduce you about pronouns in Vietnamese, which will be helpful for you when travelling, studying, working or settling for a long time on this beautiful and hospitable land.

Too many different pronouns in Vietnamese!

A large number of foreigners felt surprised and confused with rules of using pronouns in Vietnam. Similar to other Asian countries like China, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, Vietnam has, for a long time, been under the influence of the Confucianism with moral, societal philosophy, and educational philosophy. Vietnamese pays much attention to age gap and family orders, which causes trouble even for local people when their families have too many relatives.

Photo: baotintuc.vn
A basic look at the rules for Vietnamese pronouns

Strict rules about social status or order in family diversify pronouns in Vietnamese. Different from English, Vietnamese usually uses third person pronouns. The following examples will help you understand easily.

In an English family, when parents have conversations with children, they use the first person and the second person pronouns – “I” and “You.” Children use the third person pronouns when mentioning their parents with another person, for example, “My mom went out 5 minutes ago.”On the contrary, in a Vietnamese family, the parents will say “mẹ” (mom) or “ba” (dad) to their children in the Southern accent (the pronouns for the relationship between parents and children vary in different regions of Vietnam.)

Moreover, because of the complexity in pronouns, Vietnamese people do not pay much attention to a personal name. In the family, sometimes grandchildren do not remember their grandfather or grandmother’s name because, in daily life, parents also call their father or mother as “grandfather” or “grandmother” like their children do.

Photo: chamsoctreem.vn
Let’s learn the pronouns with us!

Are you getting a headache and confused? If you are in love with a Vietnamese, learning about Vietnamese pronouns will help you gain a big bonus in your loved one’s family!

Or if you just want to travel to Vietnam for a few days, please remember those following small tips about pronouns in Vietnamese, you will be more favourable when talking to a seller, taxi driver, or any Vietnamese that you may encounter with.

The person  looks younger than you Address him/her Address yourself
Male Female  Male  Female
The person is much younger em anh  chị
The person is just a little bit younger or older than you, or same age as you bạn tớ, mình, tôi

 

The person  looks older than you Address him/her Address yourself
Male Female Male Female
If they are about 15 years old older than you anh chị   em 
If they are younger than your parents chú  cô  cháu 
If they are older than your parents bác    cháu 
If they are about your grandparents’ age ông  bà  cháu 

Let’s practice it in a simple situation. You go to a shop to buy something; the staff is a young beautiful woman, who is about your age. Please ask her: “Em ơi, how much does it cost?”

Please share with us the staff’s response when hearing you use a precise pronoun in Vietnamese.

Writer: Linh Dang.

Translator: Tien Le.


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