• Vietnamese course for beginners A1
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  • 1 The Vietnamese alphabet
  • 2 How to pronounce Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 3 Vietnamese keyboard and how to write accents
  • 4 How to introduce yourself in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 5 Vietnamese greetings [0/2]
  • 6 Vietnamese personal pronouns [0/2]
  • 7 How to talk about the weather in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 8 Counting numbers in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 9 Telling the time in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 10 Days, months and seasons in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 11 Learn the Vietnamese colours [0/2]
  • 12 Getting directions in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 13 How to write country names in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 14 How to name body parts in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 15 Foods and drinks in Vietnamese [0/2]
  • 16 Vietnamese sayings (life, love and new year) [0/2]
  • Vietnamese personal pronouns

    Exercises

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    1. Personal pronouns exercise Score -/-
    2. Family members exercise Score -/-

    Vietnamese is a language that differs a lot from most languages. It does not have the regular set of personal pronouns but we will call it like that for you to understand what we are referring to. It is very important to know how to address people in a respectful manner. That means personal pronouns change dependent on the age, gender and level of respect you have towards the other person. It is very common to refer to one another in familiar terms such as "big brother" or "uncle". For example, if you talk to someone that is about your generation but a bit older than you, you refer to them as "anh" for "older brother" and "chị" for "older sister". If the other person is a lot older than you, i.e. your parents' generation but younger than your parents, you call them "chú" for "younger uncle" and "co" for "younger aunt".

     

     

    The personal pronouns

    In the lessons before, we used 'tôi' and 'bạn' to refer to 'I' and 'you'. These expressions are not commonly used and sound rather awkward as the relationship is not clear in the conversation. For foreigners however, it is an acceptable way to address each other though.

    English Vietnamese
    I tôi
    you bạn
    he anh ấy
    she cô ấy
    it
    we chúng tôi
    they họ

     

    How to address a person: you and I in Vietnamese

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    Tớ + cậu

    How to address one another in a very friendly way:

    English Vietnamese When
    I tớ sweet form of addressing oneself; common between friends in school; more common between girl friends
      mình slightly more humble and honest form of addressing to oneself
    you cậu goes together with tớ/mình

     

    Tao + mày

    How to address one another in a very impolite manner:

    English Vietnamese When
    I tao during a fight; very rude; when you look down on someone; 'bad parents' would use this word to talk to their children; also common between friends; more common between guy friends than girl friends
    you mày goes together with tao

     

    Anh/chị + tôi

    How to address one another in a more respectful way:

    English Vietnamese When
    I

    tôi

    adults use it (in-laws, neighbours, strangers, colleauges), when real age is not known or inconvenient to ask about the age 
    You

    anh

    chị

    respectful way to address another adult; anh for male persons and chị for female; used in official settings (letters, government forms)
      bạn very friendly, only used persons your own age or younger since the literal meaing is 'friend'

     

    Family in Vietnamese

    This is a table with the most common personal pronouns in the Vietnamese language. You have to note here that the "I" and "you" are interchangeable. That means if you talk to your father, you use "con" for "I" and "bố" for "you". Your father however, uses "bố" for "I" and "con" for "you".

    I Literal translation You Literal translation When
    con child bố father only with your own father
    con child mẹ mother only with your own mother
    em younger sister/brother anh older brother for your older brothers, older cousins and any male person that is older than you but in the same generation
    em

    younger sister/brother
     

    chị older sister for your older sisters/cousins and any female person that is older than you but in the same generation
    anh/chị older sibling em younger sibling for younger siblings and anyone that is younger than you but still the same generation
    bố,mẹ, bà, etc. biological father, mother, grandmother, etc. con biological child or grandchild for a young child that is at least one generation younger than yours 
    ông, bà, bác, chú, etc. grandfather, - mother, uncle/aunt cháu grandchild, niece/ nephew, cousin of junior generations for a young child; a person at least one generation younger
    cháu/con grandchild

    ông nội

    ông ngoại

    middle aged man

    for the paternal grandfather

    for the maternal grandfather

    cháu/con grandchild

    bà nội 

    bà ngoại

    middle aged woman

    for the paternal grandmother

    for the maternal grandmother

    cháu/con grandchild ông, bà middle aged man and woman for someone that is signigicantly older than you, about two generations older; same generation like your grandparents
    cháu niece/nephew father's younger sister for those aunts that are younger than your father and women the same generation like your parents but younger than them
    cháu niece/nephew chú father's younger brother for those uncles that are younger than your father and men the same generation as your parents but younger than them
    cháu niece/nephew thím aunt-in-law for chú's wife
    cháu niece/nephew bác parent's older sibling any sibling that is older than your parents or random person that is older but still the same generation
    cháu niece/nephew mother's younger sister; stepmother  
    cháu niece/nephew cậu mother's younger brother  
    cháu niece/nephew mợ aunt-in-law for cậu's wife
    cháu niece/nephew dượng uncle-in-law, stepfather for cô's and dì's husband
    cháu great-grandchild cụ/cố very old person for a person that is one generation older than your grandparents = great-grandparents
    cháu great-great-grandchild very very old person for your great-great-grandparents

     

    Summary

    Although this all might look intimidating and rather difficult, don't let this stop you from learning Vietnamese. Trust me when I say that even Vietnamese natives struggle with this, especially children. That is due to the large families and your "uncle" might be even younger than you since the youngest and oldest sibling could be many years apart.