Whether you are visiting the vibrant cities, beautiful beaches or encapsulating rock formations of Vietnam, you are likely to meet many hospitable Vietnamese people. When communicating with the welcoming locals, it’s good to know some basic Vietnamese phrases to return the friendliness.
Vietnamese can look intimidating at first glance due to the spelling and tonal accents present in many words. However, once you start learning phrases and practicing your pronunciation you will quickly get a feel for how Vietnamese is spoken.
We have compiled 57 Vietnamese words and phrases that you should know before you travel to Vietnam. To make the process easier, we have also included some useful tips and pronunciations.
Here are some of the most simple ways to greet someone in Vietnam. With these phrases you don’t have to worry about using pronouns. (This slightly more advanced step of the language will be discussed further in the article).
Xin Chào (Sin chow) / Hello
Chào buổi sáng! (Chow boy sang) / Good morning
hao buoi chieu (chow boy cheeoh) / Good afternoon
Chào buổi tối! (Chow boy toy) / Good evening
Chúc ngủ ngon! (chooc nu ngon) / Good night
Here are some greetings you can use if you are more familiar with the person or if you are starting a conversation.
Này!, Ê! (nie eh) / Hey, friend.
Khỏe không? (kweah kohng?) / How are you? (Are you healthy?)
Khoẻ, cảm ơn. (kweah, gam uhhn) / I’m fine, thank you. (I’m healthy, thank you).
Here are some casual and more formal ways to say goodbye in Vietnamese.
Tạm biệt (tam bee-et) / Bye
Tạm biệt nhe (tam bee-et nhe) Bye for now/See you later
Hẹn gặp lại (he gap lie) / Goodbye
General Words & Polite Phrases
Here are some polite Vietnamese phrases to make a good impression on the locals.
Làm ơn (lam urn) / Please
Cảm ơn (cam on) / Thank you
Không có gì (comb caw zee) / You’re welcome
Không sao (comb saow) / No problem
Xin lỗi (sin loh-e) / Excuse me/sorry
Vâng (van)/ Yes
‘Vâng‘ is used more for ‘yes‘ in the north of Vietnam while ‘Dạ‘ (ya) is used for ‘yes‘ in the south.
Không(comb) / No
While Vietnam is a friendly place in general, it is common to be pestered into buying things in the more touristy areas. It’s important to be able to say no firmly in these situations in order to avoid being pressured or scammed.
In Vietnamese, there are different ways to address people depending on their gender and age in relation to the person addressing them. In some Vietnamese phrases, you may have noticed some of the words below being used. If you want to learn how to speak Vietnamese more accurately, swap out pronouns to the more appropriate option when you can.
Tôi (Thoye) / I
Bạn (ban) / You (Around similar age to the person addressing them)
Em (em) / You (Female/Male junior)
Anh (an) / You (Male and older)
Chị (chi) / You (Female and older)
Getting to Know Someone
Making friends in Vietnam is the best way to start learning Vietnamese words and phrases. Native speakers can guide you with pronunciations and terms that you might not learn otherwise.
Có khoẻ không? (coh quay-e kong) / How are you?
Tốt, cám ơn (tot cam on) / Good, thank you.
Ăn chưa? (an chew-ah) / Have you eaten yet?
Believe it or not, this is a common way for friends to say hello in Vietnam.
Tên bạn là gì? (ten ban la zee) / What’s your name?
Tôi tên là [___] . (Thoye theyn la [___].) / My name is [___].
Bạn bao nhiêu tuổi(ban bow nee-ew toh-ee) / How old are you?
It is common in Vietnam to ask someone’s age and is not considered rude. Remember, Vietnamese people partially use age to address others.
Tôi [___] tuổi. (Thoye [___] too-oy). / I am [___] years old.
Tôi đến [___]. (Thoye den [___].) / I’m from [___].
There are lots of ways to travel around Vietnam. Use these phrases if you need to find transport or navigate.
Cho tôi đến [___]. (chow toy den) / I would like to go to [___].
Bến xe buýt (ben se butt) / Bus stop
‘Trạm’ is sometimes used instead of ‘Bến’.
Ga xe lửa (ga se loo-a) / Train station
Di thẳng / Go straight
Rẽ trái (ray-uh try)/ Turn left
Rẽ phải (ray-uh fy) / Turn right
Dừng ở đây (yung o day) / Stop here
Eating and drinking is often considered a social affair in Vietnam. While you make friends and enjoy some delicious local cuisine, practice a couple of Vietnamese phrases to your waiter or bartender.
Tôi đói / khát (toy doy / kat) / I’m hungry/thirsty.
Menu (meh-noo) / Menu
Tôi cần nước (toy cun nook) / I need water.
Most restaurants in Vietnam will give you water for free if you ask for it. It is not recommended to drink tap water in Vietnam.
Không đường (comb dew-ung) / No sugar.
Extra sugar is often added to drinks in Vietnam which can lead to a sickly sweet experience. Use this phrase to avoid a tooth ache.
Một chút cay (mote choot kigh) / A little bit spicy, please.
Food isn’t too spicy in most regions of Vietnam, but it’s best to clarify this with your server if you’re not used to much heat.
Ngon quá (ngon wha) / Very delicious!
Em ơi! (em oy) / Hey you!
This isn’t an exact translation, but the phrase is used to call out for someone’s attention if you don’t know their name. ‘Em’ is a pronoun used to signify the person in relation to you. ‘Em’ means someone younger, and can be swapped out for a different pronoun when necessary. Meanwhile ‘ơi’ is used to call attention. It is normal for you to call out a waiter in this way in Vietnam to grab their attention, as long as you do so in a polite manner.
Bia (bee-ya) / Beer
Một, hai, ba, vô! (mote hi ba yo) / 1, 2, 3, cheers!
It is always considered better to drink with friends in Vietnam. Use this counting down phrase before you take your first sip.
The local markets in Vietnam are good places to find some beautiful mementos of your trip while practicing haggling.
Bao nhiêu tiền? (Baow nee-ew tien) / How much is it?
You can simplify this by dropping ‘tiền’ and just saying ‘Bao nhiêu’ which translates to ‘How much?’
Mắc quá (mack wha) / Too expensive!
Don’t be shy to negotiate in Vietnamese markets as they often overcharge in their starting prices.
Tôi muốn mua (toy myoo-on moh-a) / I want to buy
You May Need to Know
In instances where you aren’t able to communicate well or need help, these useful phrases may come in handy.
Tôi không hiểu. (toy comb hey-oo) / I don’t understand.
Bạn giúp tôi được không? (Ban zoop toy duo-c kong) / Can you help me?
Tôi đi bệnh viện (toy di ben vi-en) / I need to go to the hospital.
You might need this phrase after encountering one of Vietnam’s most dangerous animals!
Cầu tiêu ở đâu (goh thee-oh uh duh-oh) / Where is the bathroom/toilet?
Tôi không biết nói tiếng Việt [giỏi lắm]. (toy kohng bee-it noh-y thee-ihng vee’it [yi-oh-i lahm]) / I don’t speak Vietnamese [well].
Biết nói tiếng Anh không? (bee-it noh-y thee-ihng ayng kohng) / Do you speak English?
What language do they speak in Vietnam?
Vietnamese is the official and national language of Vietnam. It is not one singular language, but differs depending where you travel to within the country. Northern (Hanoi) Vietnamese, Southern (Saigon), North Central (Vinh) or Central (Hue) Vietnamese all have different dialects. Northern Vietnamese is the most official variant of the language that is learnt by foreigners.
It’s unlikely you’ll be fluent in Vietnamese when you first arrive. You may therefore be wondering how commonly English is spoken in Vietnam. Around 50% of Vietnam’s population speaks English. In larger cities where tourists are more likely to frequent, the percentage of Vietnamese people who are proficient in English is higher.
Vietnam’s long history of ownership and colonization has meant the language has been interspersed with other languages like French and Chinese. Written Vietnamese originated from Chinese as China ruled over Vietnam until AD 939.
What is the common greeting in Vietnam?
The best common greeting to use in Vietnam is ‘Xin Chào’ (sin chow) which means ‘hello’. You can also say ‘Chào’ to greet someone more casually. When answering the phone in Vietnam, the normal phrase is a-lo (ah lo).
As a show of respect in more formal settings, it is polite to refer to someone by their first name rather than a ‘Mr’ ‘Mrs’ title. Bowing is not that common in Vietnam when greeting someone, unless you want to show respect for an elder.