Common Vietnamese phrases for tourists

July 25 2016 / 3 Comments
Ho chi Minh Tour

Though Vietnam is a popular tourist destination and many locals here can speak English, getting to know some common Vietnamese phrases will definitely help you enjoy your trip a little better. Nobody is going to expect you to have a conversation but a friendly greeting or ‘thank you’ really does bring out the warmth of Vietnamese people.

Common Vietnamese phrases for greetings

In English, it’s so easy to converse with someone using the pronouns “you” and “I”; however, it’s not that simple in Vietnamese, which has different ways to refer to a person depending on their age and gender (and in some cases their relationship to you). “Em” is one of the most common Vietnamese words to call a person, it is used in relation who are younger than you, regardless of their gender. As for older people, “chị” is for a woman and “anh” for a man is the best way to greet somebody. For the someone quite a bit older than you, “bà” is for the female and “ông” is for the male.  A person the same age as you, you may call “bạn”, which also expresses your friendliness a little better. If you need to catch the attention of a person, add the “ơi” after the pronoun, for example: “em ơi”, “chị ơi”.  This can seem rude to Westerners – but for Vietnamese it’s completely natural.

common vietnamese phrases - greetings

To start a friendly conversation with a local, try some of the following common Vietnamese phrases. You will probably get a reply in English but your effort will be really appreciated.

English terms

Vietnamese terms

Hello Xin chào (sin chow)
Thank you Cảm ơn (cam urn)
What’s your name? Tên bạn/anh/chị/em là gì? (la yi)
How are you? Bạn/Anh/Chị khỏe không?(kwair hom)
Goodbye Tạm biệt (dam beet)
Good night Ngủ ngon (noo norn)

Common Vietnamese phrases for shopping

In Vietnam, shopping in markets, especially traditional ones, offers an interesting variety of goods. Unless you are shopping in Ben Thanh market, where the sellers can speak 5 languages, knowing some common Vietnamese phrases for shopping will be a great help.

English terms

Vietnamese terms

How much is it? Bao nhiêu? / Cái này bao nhiêu? (bow knew)
Too expensive Mắc quá (mac wa)
Larger size Cỡ lớn hơn (cor lurn hurn)
Smaller size Cỡ nhỏ hơn  (cor nyor hurn)
Can you discount? Bớt được không? (burt duck hom)

Common Vietnamese phrases for eating

Most staff in restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City speak English. However, you definitely should not miss the street food when coming to this country. See below for some helpful and interesting common Vietnamese phrases for use when ordering food.

In order to catch attention of the waiter/waitress, you may call “em ơi” which means “excuse me”. To get the bill or check, use the short term “Tính tiền” and you can add the term “em ơi” to sound friendlier.

The most interesting phrase that people who come to Vietnam can learn is how to say cheers. Let’s say “Một hai ba dzô”, (mop hi bar yo) which is the common and often boisterously shouted drinking salutation in Vietnam.  If you are really having a good time you might hear “Khong xin khong ve” (hom sin hom vare) which means you can’t go home until you are drunk!

common Vietnamese phrases - drinking

Một hai ba dzô!!!

The above common Vietnamese phrases will hopefully make your trip to Vietnam easier and more fun. Just take it easy and enjoy your time here.

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