Minh Tran
Minh Tran

100 basic Vietnamese phrases you need to know!

Table of Contents

Overall

It’s no doubt that when you have a wonderful chance to move overseas or just simply visit a country for vacation, the first things that come to your mind would be the feeling of thrill, excitement, and maybe a little bit of anxiety.

Some people would be worried about the financial affordability, others would be afraid that they have troubles while traveling to their holiday destination as it can be their first time, or people are stressing out about the language barrier. For instance, an American traveling to India, or vice versa. Nonetheless, in this article, we will only be solving language issues for those who intend to travel to Vietnam in a short while. Now let’s kick it!

Basic Vietnamese Phrases You Can Use For Greetings

First of all, let’s discover several greeting phrases that you can use when communicating with others in Vietnam. Greetings in Vietnam play an important role due to the “Friendly Culture” that you may have heard many times.

In this beautiful Eastern country, they have a saying that goes “Loi chao cao hon mam co”, which indicates that the words of greetings are highly appreciated since it shows your respect and good intentions towards others even in your first meet.

Hello in English equals to Xin Chao in Vietnam

The Easiest Phrases

Now that we have gone through the importance of greetings, it’s time we listed the Vietnamese phrases in this matter from the easiest to most complex levels. The most basic phrases would be “hello”, “How are things lately?”, or “How are you?”. Now, I would be explaining and introducing a few more Vietnamese greeting phrases

Hello or Hi is the most basic and common phrase to use in Vietnam. However, you can only use such phrases with peers or people who are at the same age as you. To explain further, these two phrases of Hello or Hi means “Xin Chao” in Vietnamese. The Hello or Hi would express a sense of informality and friendliness. This way of saying is also used for intimate relationships as they don’t need to show formality. There you have your first phrase to use!

Since you will be meeting many people from different age ranges, Hello or Hi would be sufficient to use in all situations. For example, you may stay in a household during your vacation or residence, and it’s unavoidable that you meet someone that is much older. In this circumstance, Hello or Hi is not recommendable. Nevertheless, a “Good morning, sir” or “Good afternoon, madam” is a great way to show your respect to the older. Besides, it’s a polite way to say Hello or Hi.

We’ve acknowledged the phrases to say hello, now it’s time to review, then moving forward to the more complex phrases. The order would be from left to right, simply take it like this: English first to determine then the right term is your Vietnamese phrases to use.

Hello/ Hi: Xin chao/ Chao ban/ chao em/ chao anh
Hey: Its meaning is the same as Hello or Hi, but Hey shows more intimacy and comfort rather than the two phrases
Good morning, madam/ sir: Chao buoi sang thua co/ thua chu/ Co chu co buoi sang tot lanh
Good afternoon: Chao buoi chieu/ buoi chieu tot lanh
Good evening: Chao buoi toi/ buoi toi tot lanh

The More Complex Vietnamese Phrases

Now you may be wondering what other things people say to each other during one short greeting? As mentioned, greetings in Vietnam are so essential that each greeting whether in a daily conversation or in a business one, people do it thoroughly. In a daily conversation between two women, it can be going like this:

Mrs A: Hi, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you

Chao chi, lau qua roi em khong gap chi

Mrs B: Oh hey, haven’t seen you in so long, either

Oh chao em, cung lau qua roi khong gap

Mrs A: How are you lately? Is everything okay? Are the kids behaving well?

The dao nay chi khoe khong? Doi song on khong? Cac chau nha chi van ngoan chu?

Mrs B: I’ve been doing great, everything has been good so far. My kids are amazing! How about you?

Chi khoe, moi thu tuyet voi lam, con cac chau nha van ngoan. Em thi sao?

The conversation above is a short demonstration of how a daily talk would be going between two women. If they are close or know each other for a long while, they would go through all kinds of questions relating to personal stuff in an intimate way. That’s how they show their friendliness and sense of caring towards one another. Now is the part for introducing some Vietnamese phrases in greetings on a more complex level.

How are you/ How are things/ How are you doing lately?: Dao nay anh chi khoe khong?
It’s nice to see you: Gap lai ban/anh/chi/em, toi vui qua (this highly depends on your relationship with the person you are talking to)
It’s so long since I last saw you: Oi lau lam roi khong duoc gap ban (Address people based on your relationship with them)
Is everything okay? Cuoc song ban on khong?
I’m great/ I’m doing well/ Things have been great/ I’m fine, thank you: Toi khoe/ moi thu tuyet lam, cam on ban
I’ve missed you: Khong gap ban, toi nho qua

These are a few “more complex” Vietnamese phrases, but we hope it would help to enhance your communication when going on a vacation or taking a residence in Vietnam. Great things start with small progress.

Addressing People in Vietnam

Vietnamese are friendly and well-intended. They barely get offended by the small talk, but in a way, Vietnamese focus and emphasize the ways of addressing. When stepping foot down to this country, you need to learn a lesson of Vietnamese addressing people, and here you’ve found it.

Addressing people who are older than you

It is not difficult at all to address people who are older than you. However, you need to pay attention to these ways of addressing a person. Addressing other people is divided into many groups, but in this part, there are only two parts divided, which are family members and others. Here are a few notes:

Grandfather: Ong
Grandmother: Ba
Father/ Dad: Bo/Ba/Cha
Mother/ Mom: Me/ U
Brother: Anh trai (in some situations, this can be used to indicate your younger brother)
Sister: Chi gai (this example is applied similarly to the above)
Miss: Chi/ co (when you call a woman like this, you are referring to an unmarried woman)
Mrs: Chi gai/ co ( similar to the above, but indicates a married woman)
Madam: A polite way of addressing a woman, similar to Mrs or Miss
Mr: Anh/chu/bac/ong – This is how you address a man that is either older or younger, unmarried or married
Sir: The meaning stays the same to Mr; however; it is used in more formal situations
Aunt: Co/di/bac gai
Uncle: Chu/bac trai

The list above has summed up a few ways for you to address someone who is older, whether they are your acquaintances or family members. You can both use them in either daily situations or formal ones.

All the useful phrases are in this post

Addressing people who are younger or at the same age as you

Here is another fun part. Addressing people at the same age as you or younger has numerous ways to do, and it can be applied in both informal or formal conversation

Dude/fella/buddy/ pal: ong ban/cau ban/ ban – there are various ways to call your friends, especially when you two are close, and even if you two are not, it is still applicable when you first meet someone but you guys get on well together.
Girl: Co gai/ ba/ em gai oi – a way to address your girlfriends. For example, you normally say hey girl, I need to tell you everything in English, then in Vietnamese, when you want to communicate, it would go like this: Ba oi, toi phai ke cho ba cai nay.

The ways to address people are also listed above in the previous part. Male is addressed as “anh/chu/cau/ong/em”, while female is addressed as “em/chi/co/di/bac”

Ways to call your people in an discreet way, showing your sense of caring and love

Since we have gone through a lot of ways to address people, who are not in a relationship, which kind is intimate and loving towards each other. This part would show you other few ways to address your partners in a romantic and sweet ways, which is applicable in Vietnam

Tinh yeu oi

Hey, Love!

Cung/ em be oi

Hey Baby

Vo

Wife/ Wifey

Chong

Husband/ Hubby

Tinh nhan

Lovers

Ban trai// ban gai

Boyfriend/ girlfriend

There you have some useful phrases to address people. Now that you’ve known how to address other people using Vietnamese phrases, we would be moving to the next part, which is getting to know someone in Vietnam.

Making new acquaintances and friends

Just like in any country that speaks English, Vietnamese also have phrases to ask people about their basic information and start a small talk. Here are a list of it:

Xin chao, ban den tu dau?

Hey, where do you come from/ where are you from?

Ban ten gi?

What’s your name?

Ban bao nhieu tuoi roi?

How old are you – this is essential to ask because you do not want to address somebody wrongly. Vietnamese people can be one of the most friendly people in the world, but they would be enjoying themselves if they are inappropriately addressed.

Ban lam nghe gi?

What do you do for a living?

Ban co ban trai/ ban gai chua?

Do you have a boyfriend/ girlfriend?

Ban noi tieng Anh khong?

Do you speak English?

Ban dang song tai dau vay?

Where do you live now?

Hom nao di cafe nhe?

Can we have a coffee together some time?

These are the questions you would normally ask people when wanting to make acquaintances, and you would be asked a lot when in Vietnam. As mentioned, Vietnamese people are so friendly, and they always want to make new friends wherever they go.

When you start learning to speak a new language, there is no need to acknowledge the complex phrases as you cannot understand them properly and may speak them wrongly when communicating to others. Now that you have the basic Vietnamese phrases, you can make good use of them.

Other Basic Vietnamese Phrases to Use in Daily Life

Apart from basic phrases to address people or start a conversation, you also need to know about some Vietnamese phrases to use in daily life such as goodbye, or thank you. Now let’s go through a list!

Tam biet nhe/ chao nhe: Tam biet is usually used for circumstance when you have to be apart from a friend or seeing someone off, and you two would not be able to stay in touch often

Goodbye/ bye

Chuc ngu ngon: Good night/ sleep tight/ sweet dreams
Cho toi hoi: Excuse me/ May I ask you something?
Xin loi

Sorry – Xin loi can be used in so many contexts. You say sorry to others when you make a mistake, you say sorry when you interrupt accidentally, or when you may step on their foot. Normally, accidental situations need no proper apology, just simply say sorry then you are good to go. However, in more serious contexts, make sure you say sorry sincerely and politely. You can put it this way: Toi xin loi, toi khong co tinh lam vay/ Toi xin loi ban nhieu, mong ban bo qua – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it/ I didn’t do it on purpose, or I’m sorry, hope you would forgive me.

Lam on di – use it to emphasize the politeness in your saying

Please!

For example: Can I have that, please? Toi co the lay cai do khong? Lam on di

Cam on: Thank you
Ban co phien neu giup toi cai nay khong?: Do you mind/ would you if …?
Khong co chi: No problems/ You’re welcome/ It’s my pleasure
Khong hieu (sounds like Hill): Don’t understand!

Basic Vietnamese Phrases to Ask for Direction and Means of Transport You Can Use

Since you have known the basic Vietnamese phrases to start a conversation or ask for support, you would definitely need to know phrases that help you in determining directions and means of transport. This is also important no matter whether you are on vacation or residence in Vietnam.

In english speaking countries, there are so many means of transport, and the directions, street arrangements are also different from those of Vietnam. Hence, take notes of these down:

Cho toi hoi duong den noi nay voi/ ban co the chi toi duong di den cho nay duoc khong?

Can you show me the way to…/ Do you know the direction to this place?

Di thang ve phia truoc

Go straight

Re trai/ phai

Turn left/ right

Cho ban can den cach day khoang 2 cay so

The place you are heading to is about 2 kilometers away

Some Vietnamese words you may want to know:

Duong cao toc

Highways/ freeways

Dai lo

Revenue

Pho phuong

Street

Quan/ huyen

District

Tinh

Province

Thanh pho

City

Dat nuoc

Country – Nation has the similar meaning but it refers to To Quoc rather than Dat nuoc

Ban do

Map

For example: Cho toi mua 1 cai ban do duoc khong? Can I have a map, please?

Xe dap

Bike

Xe may

Motorbike

Oto

Car

Taxi/Xe khach (oto 4 cho)

Taxi

These are the two most common means of transport in Vietnam. Obama once said when he came to visit Vietnam: I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in my life! Toi chua bao gio thay nhieu xe may trong doi minh nhu the!

A few more new Vietnamese words:

Tau hoa

Train

Tau thuy/ thuyen

Ship/ boat

Ca-no

Canoe

Thuyen kayak

Kayak

Tau dien ngam

Subway

May bay

Airplane

Xe buyt – tram dung xe buyt

Bus – Bus stop

Tram tau

Train station

San bay

Airport

When Shopping, Use These Basic Vietnamese Phrases

Shopping is no doubt one of the most enjoyable activities in life. But to have the best shopping experience in Vietnam, you must first – know where to shop, then next how to shop.

When shopping in Vietnam, one of the most worth-shopping would belong to Ho Chi Minh City. You can shop at either Ben Thanh Market or Saigon Square shopping supermall.

Now that you know where to shop, let’s go through how you can shop and how you should shop in Vietnam. First of all, you must know some basic Vietnamese phrases to bargain and purchase any goods you want. Here they are:

Cho toi hoi gia cai nay/ cai nay bao nhieu tien?

Give me the price please/ How much is this?

Cai nay con hang khong?

Do you have any stock of this?

Cho toi mua 2 cai

Give me two please!

Cai nay dat qua

This is too expensive

Giam gia di (Zam za di)

Discount, please

Toi mua nam muoi (50) nghin(Thousand), ban ban khong?

I’ll take this if you discount 50 thousand VND

Dat qua, toi khong mua dau

This is too expensive, I won’t have it

Hang hoa o day dep qua

Goods are so nice here

Toi thich mua sam o day

I love shopping here

Khi nao lai di mua sam nhe?

Can we go shopping sometime?

Lan sau toi se quay lai

I’ll come back next time

Vietnamese is famous for its cheap but high-quality merchandise. If you have spent millions of VND on brands or stores in the street, then you can find almost all the goods at the markets at a much cheaper price but same quality. Not to mention the global brands, but most of the goods supplied for store local brands are from the head markets – “cho dau moi”.

When shopping in Vietnam, it is also different from shopping in any other places because of the vibe it brings: dynamic, close to people, and colorful. It also shows a part of Vietnamese culture. Last but not least, remember to bring a native speaker with you when first shopping in Vietnam as he or she would know well how to bargain – mac ca with vendors and save you a lot of money!

Basic Vietnamese Phrases to Use When You Are at Restaurants or Coffee Shops

Vietnam is well-known for its amazing cuisine with numerous delicious dishes that you may never find in another country. People may know Vietnam for its Pho, but there are so many dishes such as Bun Rieu, Mien, Bun Ca, Hu Tieu, My Quang, Cao Lau, Banh Khot, Banh Goi, Banh Xeo, Xoi Man… This is truly a wonderful Asian cuisine. Now let’s inform you some Vietnamese words and basic phrases to use in restaurants

Learning the alphabets is advisable when you want to learn Vietnamese

Basic Vietnamese Phrases to Use in Restaurant

Vietnamese words for you:
Mon an:Dishes
Thuc don :Menu
Thit bo :Beef
Thit ga : Chicken
Thit lon:Pork
Mon hun khoi :Smoked dishes
Canh :Soup
Mi mien pho banh da :Noodles
Ca :Fish
Hai san :Seafood
Dao :Knife
Nia :Fork
Dua :Chopsticks
Thia :Spoon
Bo :Butter
Banh Mi :Bread
Com :Rice
Xoi :Sticky rice
Phuc vu :Waiter/ waitress
Basic Vietnamese Phrases for you to use in restaurants:
Cho toi goi mon :May I order
Cho toi cai menu :Give me the menu please
Cho toi mon thit bo :I would have the beef please
Mon nay khong ngon lam :This dish is not so good
Mon nay ngon qua, toi thich lam :This dish is so delicious, I love it!
Dich vu rat tuyet voi : The service is wonderful
Toi thich nha hang nay: I love this restaurant
Toi khong thich noi nay lam: I don’t like this place so much
Nha hang nay khong co gi noi bat: This place is not so special to me
Khong gian dep qua: The setup is so elegant

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Vietnam is well-known for its amazing cuisine with numerous delicious dishes that you may never find in another country

 

You also need to know how to grab the attention of the waiters or waitresses in Vietnam. You have two ways to do this: wait for them to come to your table or just shout out: Em oi. Em oi is normally used in street places or the local ones, not fancy restaurants, but Vietnamese do use this way a lot. It does not show that you don’t respect the waitress or waiter, you simply want their attention.

 

Bun Rieu Cua is a famous street food of Vietnam with amazing falvor that you should try

Basic Vietnamese Phrases You Can Use at Coffee Shops

Having coffee is a culture and a trend among Vietnamese, especially for the youth, who can be called Gen Z, Gen Y. Going to coffee shops, most significantly the local ones, now is not simply having a coffee but it is also about enjoying the atmosphere. Many people go to coffee shops for their dates, romantically or business. They also head there with friends when they need someone to talk and listen to them.

A nice coffee shop is perfect for dates

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There is a post saying that “Neu co ai moi ban di cafe, nghia la ho dang hoi ban rang Di tam su khong?” – If someone asks you to go for a coffee, it means they want to talk about their concerns and they trust you! Going to coffee shops in Vietnam is a fun and special activity; hence you need to know some phrases to speak there, and here they are!

Cho em mot ly cafe: May I order a coffee
Cho toi mot den da khong duong nhe?: May I have a black coffee
Cho toi cafe sua: I would have a coffee with condensed milk/ foam milk
Cho toi mot cafe cot dua: May I have a coffee with coconut milk
Quan cafe nay dep qua: This coffee shop’s decoration is so nice
Ngoi day that chill: It’s so chilling to sit at this coffee shop
A few new words for you
Ca phe: Coffee
Sua dac: Condensed milk
Sua dua: Coconut milk
Sua tuoi: Milk
Sua hat: Nut milk
Kem: Ice-cream
Cacao nong: Hot Cacao
Socola nong: Hot chocolate
Do ngot: Sweet treats
Banh: Cake
Duong: Sugar

Basic Vietnamese Phrases for You to Use When Talking about Numbers, Colors, and Sizes

You would be needing more new words in this section rather than phrases, but let’s just go through the phrases first.

Co bao nhieu cai nay: How many … are there?

Eg: How many pens are there? – Co bao nhieu cai but vay?

Ban mac size gi?: Which one is your size?
Co Size to/ nho hon khong?: Is there a bigger/ smaller size than this?
Cua hang co bao nhieu size?: How many sizes do you have?
Ban con mau khac khong?: Do you have another color of this?
Mau nay dep qua : This color is nice
Mau nay khong hop da toi: This color does not suit my skin

Words about Numbers:

Mot – one
Hai – two
Ba – three
Bon – four
Nam – five
Sau – six
Bay – seven
Tam – eight
Chin – nine
Muoi – ten
Mot tram – one hundred
Mot nghin – one thousand
Mot trieu – one million
Mot ty – one billion
Mot tram nghin – one hundred thousand

Words about Colors:

Do – red
Xanh – blue
Xanh lam – green
Nau – brown
Vang – yellow
Trang – white
Den – black
Cam – orange
Tim – purple
Xam – grey
Hong – pink
Mau dam toi nhat – ombre
Mau nhat – pastel

Words about Sizes:

Co nho: small
Co lon: big

Sizes normally seen in Vietnam: S, M, L, XL, XXL

Basic Phrases You Must Know in Emergency

No matter where you stay or stay for holiday, you must put your safety first and in the unlucky situations, you have to know about the phrases that can keep you alive or help you at least, and there they are:

Cuu toi voi: Help me

Toi can ban giup: I need your help

Toi vua bi cuop: I just got robbed

Hay goi canh sat giup toi: Please call the police

Cho toi so canh sat voi: Please give me the policeman’s hotline!

Don canh sat gan nhat o dau: Where is the nearest police station?

Toi can di benh vien ngay bay gio: I need to get to the hospital right now

Ban co so dien thoai cua bac si tu nao khong? Toi rat can: Do you have the number of a doctor? I really need it

Ban co on khong?: Are you okay?

Toi co the giup do ban nhu the nao?: How can I help you?

Toi dan bi dau/ toi bi om roi: I’m having this pain/ I’ve got sick

Toi can cai nay lam!: I need… please!

FAQ

Is it hard to learn Vietnamese for people who speak English?

It can be tricky in the first place because the two languages are different from one another. You may have problems in pronunciation or sentence arrangements, or new words. However, it would become easier in the next period if you have practiced. After all, practice makes perfect!

You can start learning Vietnamese from activities of watching and listening, imagine that you are like a baby, beginning his or her journey of learning a language

Where do I start my journey of learning Vietnamese as my second language?

You can start learning Vietnamese from activities of watching and listening, imagine that you are like a baby, beginning his or her journey of learning a language. Through such activities, you can start to speak the most basic phrases and words, then sentences. Next, learn reading and writing, you should be fine!

Is it advisable to learn a new language?

It is definitely to learn a new language because it enhances your life experience, allows you to have more chances to travel and also job opportunities in life. So, why not? It is also fun and enables you to make a lot of new friends.

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