Learn some Vietnamese words and phrases

Learning to speak a few words of local language while on your trip is always fun and greatly improve your experience. Let’s learn some words/phrases of Vietnamese while preparing your trip and you will have chance to talk/chat, make friends – however briefly – with the majority of locals who might not know your language and also give you a far greater appreciation of the Vietnamese culture. Below are some easy and popular phrases which I think will enhance your enjoyment, if you are interested to know a little more about our language, you can download here the phrasebook to sharpen your skills.

Simple Phrases

At the very minimum it is important to at least know how to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’ – it takes moments to learn yet can make a big impression, as you will already know more than 90% of travelers arriving in Vietnam.

Hello. Xin chào. (sin chow)
Hi. Chào. (chow)
How are you? Khỏe không? (kweh kohng?)
Fine, thank you. Khoẻ, cảm ơn. (kweh, gauhm uhhn)
What is your name? Bạn tên là gì? (ban ten la zee)?
My name is ______ . Tôi tên là ______ . (Toy ten la _____ .)
Please. Làm ơn. (lam uhhn)
Thank you. Cảm ơn. (gauhm uhhn)
You’re welcome. Không sao đâu. (kohng sao dwoh)
Yes (affirmative). Vâng (vuhng)
Yes (affirmative, respectful). Dạ (Northern : zah, Southern : yah)
Yes (correct). Đúng (doong)
No. Không. (kaumng)
I’m sorry. Xin lỗi. (sin loy)
Goodbye. Tạm biệt (tam byet)
I can’t speak Vietnamese [well]. Tôi không biết nói tiếng Việt [giỏi lắm]. (thoy kohng byet noy tyeng vyet [zoy luhm])
Do you speak English? Bạn biết nói tiếng Anh không? (ban byet noy tyeng ang kaumng)
Is there someone here who speaks English? Có ai đây biết nói tiếng Anh không? (GAW eye day byet noy tyeng ang kaumng)
Help! Cứu (tôi) với! (gih-OO (thoy) vuh-y!)
Look out! Cẩn thận! (guhn tuh’n!)
Good night (to sleep). Chúc ngủ ngon. (chook ngoo ngawn)
I don’t understand. Tôi không hiểu. (toy kohng hugh)
Where is the toilet? (formal and common): Nhà vệ sinh/wc ở đâu?
Be back soon. Sẽ quay lại sớm (se-ay kway lie-ay sohm)

Addressing people

For Vietnamese people it is important to use the correct form of address than signifies your age and relationship to the person you are speaking to. In general, when talking to someone younger than you you may call them ‘Em’, or if you think you are younger than them you may call yourself ‘Em’ and use a range of pronouns based on the other person’s gender and age.

As a traveller however it is acceptable to ‘cheat’ and use a generic ‘Tôi’ for ‘I’ and ‘Ban’ for ‘Friend’, rather than finding the correct form of address – this is not disrespectful and will help you make yourself understood.


Like the majority of South East and East Asian languages, Vietnam is a tonal language. This means that for each syllable there are six different tones that can change the meaning of a phrase.


DescriptionSample wordMeaning
High risingMother
Low fallingThat
Start in a low tone, go down, and gently back up (I tend to imagine a bored butler – ‘Ye-es M’lud?’ )MảTomb
Start high, bring voice down, cut off and go back up*Horse
Bring voice down and cut off abruptly (imagine a parent firmly saying ‘No.’)MạRice Shoots
Mid range voice, go flat and levelMaGhost

*This tone is very strong in the North around Hanoi where there is a perceptible ‘cut’ in the sound. In the South around Saigon people tend to speak in a more ‘smooth’ manner, and many would say this tone becomes almost identical to the low, rising tone above it (‘Ye-es, M’lud”)

Vietnamese Alphabet

Although the Vietnamese use the same alphabet as Latin languages such as English and French, some of the sounds are fairly different to their English equivalent. There are a few similarities with French, however.


dLike ‘z‘ as in zero
đLike ‘d‘ in English as do
g,ghLike ‘g‘ in go
giLike ‘y‘ in yes
khLike ‘Karen’
nhLike ‘n’ in Cognac
ng, nghLike Singer
phLike ‘f‘ in forest
rNormal R in English
sNormal S in English
tAs in Tan
thAs in Thump
trAs in Train
vAs in Violet


One rule to pronouncing vowels in Vietnam that is very useful to remember is that whenever you get two vowels together – for example ‘ui’ – the first vowel should have much more emphasis than the second – ‘ui’

aAs in father
ălike ‘a’ in “father”, except said very quickly
âAs a in black
âuAs in go
ayAs in day
âyAs in David
eLike in America
eoLike meow-cat’s noise
êLike in café
iLike in see
iaLike in idia
ieLike in yes
oLike in door
oaLike in Oasis
oaiLike in Why
oayLike in Uruguay
ôiLike in toy
ơLike in Burger
uLike in Sue
uaLike Ecuador
Like in ‘Question’
uiLike oo-ee
uyLike ‘oui’ in French
uyaAs French ‘Culture
yLike letter ‘e
yeuLike in few

More useful phrases

You can now pronounce most of the words, remember these useful phrases below.

At the restaurant

RestaurantNhà Hàng
MenuThực đơn
FoodThức ăn
Drink (n)Đồ uống
A pair of chopsticksĐôi đũa
I am a vegetarianTôi ăn chay
Not too spicyKhông quá cay
No chilli pleaseKhông ớt
No fish sauceKhông nướn mắm
Can I have the bill please?Tính tiền
DeliciousNgon quá
I am fullTôi no rồi
WithoutKhông có
A littleÍt


One moreThêm một
One more beerThêm một bia
SeafoodHải sản
Pork (South / North)(Thit) Heo / Lợn
Soft shell crabCua lột
Fried / Deep FriedChiên
Stir friedXào
Fish sauceNước mắm
Stir fried chickenGà xào
Grilled chickenGà nướng
Morning gloryRau muống
Red wineRượu đỏ
White wineRượu trắng
Can I have the menu please?Có thực đơn không?
Can I have chicken sate pleaseTôi muốn gà sa tế
Can I have a glass of red wine please?Tôi muốn một ly rượu đỏ

Getting Around

Do you use the meter?Bạn có chạy theo đồng hồ không?
I like to go the cinema, pleaseTôi muốn đi rạp chiếu phim
Motorbike DriverXe Ôm
Bicycle Rickshaw (Cyclo)Xích Lô
Bus StationTrạm Xe Buýt
Train StationGa Xe Lửa
AirportSân Bay
How much is it to go from here to Russian Market?Đi chợ Nga bao nhiêu tiền?
That’s expensive, I pay 30,000 VND ?Mắc quá, tôi trả ba mươi ngàn?
I’m in a hurryTôi đang vội
Please slow down!Đi chậm lại!
I don’t want to dieTôi không muốn chết!

Numbers, times + dates

Vietnamese numbers are quite easy to follow, as higher numbers use the same words as lower – for example, twenty five would be expressed as ‘Two Ten Five’, or 365 as ‘Three Hundred Six Ten Five’. This means that once you have learnt to count from one to ten other numbers are pretty easy.

There is one irregularity with numbers: since the word for 5 (Nam) is the same as for year(s) (Nam) it changes to ‘Lam’ avoid confusion, for example:

5 – Năm

20 years – Hai Mươi Năm

25 – Hai Mươi Lăm

55 – Năm Mươi Lăm

55 years – Năm Mươi Lăm Năm

11Mười một
12Mười hai
13Mười ba
14Mười bốn
15Mười lăm
16Mười sáu
17Mười bảy
18Mười tám
19Mười chín
20Hai Mươi
21Hai Mươi Mốt
30Ba Mươi
32Ba Mươi Hai
100Một Trăm
1,000Một Nghìn
100,000Một Trăm Nghìn
1,000,000Một Triệu
1 bnMot Tỷ / Tỉ


Since money in Vietnam is demarcated in thousands it is acceptable to skip the ‘thousand dong’ when negotiating prices, or to use slang. Do note though that ‘Chuc’ is used more in the south and may not be recognised in the north.

1 $Một đô
1 £Một bảng
1,000 DongMột Nghìn Đồng
50,000 DongNăm Mươi (Nghìn đồng)
20, 000 / Twenty bucks (slang)Hai Chục
50,000 / 50 bucks (slang)Năm Chục

Units of Time


Days of the week

MondayThứ Hai (Day 2)
TuesdayThứ Ba (Day 3)
WednesdayThứ Tư (day 4)
ThursdayThứ Năm (day 5)
FridayThứ Sáu (day 6)
SaturdayThứ Bảy (day 7)
SundayChủ Nhật (God’s day)


A favourite activity for many travellers to Vietnam is shopping. With a huge range of unique crafts available Vietnam is a great place to find souvenirs, and thanks to cheap prices and very talented tailors it is also a popular place to have clothes made. By sprinkling some Vietnamese into your shopping not only will it be easier to get things you want but you may even get some better bargains too. Don’t forget to take a look at our section on dates, numbers and money too.

WhereỞ đâu
Where is Ben Thanh market?Chợ Bến Thành ở đâu?
Where can I buy sun cream?Tôi có thể mua kem chống nắng ở đâu?
How much is it?Bao nhiêu tiền?
It is too expensiveMắc quá
Do you have something cheaper?Bạn có cái nào rẻ hơn không?
Can I pay by card?Tôi có thể trả bằng thẻ tín dụng không?
Can I pick it up later?Tôi có thể lấy nó sau được không?
Can you ship it overseas?Bạn có gởi hàng ra nước ngoài không?
Can I have a receipt please?Tôi muốn hóa đơn
Can I try it?Tôi có thể thử nó được không?
It doesn’t fitNó không vừa
Do you have a bigger one?Bạn có cái lớn hơn không?
Do you have a smaller one?Bạn có cái nhỏ hơn không?
It’s perfectRất tốt