A good practical guide for using Vietnamese personal pronouns? Does someone know a good practical guide for using Vietnamese personal pronouns? Maybe a book or an article. I don't mean a brief description of the terms, there are plenty of them, but a comprehensive analysis how to chose the appropriate pronoun in different situations.
May 5, 2018 6:59 AM
Comments · 13



In formal situation you should "upgrade" the other speaker to the next bracket.  In your example, even though you think the female police officer may be younger than you, you should address her as Chị instead of Em.

Another example: let's say a new friend invites you to meet his/her parents.  You think his dad, Mr. Thanh, is much younger than your dad. According to rule 2 he may be a "Chú", but since you're not sure and out of respect you'd call him Bác Thanh.  He may laugh and tell you to call him Chú instead. This is the Vietnamese version of "tutoyer".

May 20, 2018

@alexey I have been wanting to make a flow chart for Vietnamese personal pronouns.  We use a simple "age test", guessing the other speaker's age when we first meet.  Then we ask ourselves if this person is a family member, how would we address him or her.

The following pronouns are commonly used to address family members in Southern Vietnam Someone who's from the North please correct me. Don't worry if you use them with northerners. They still understand you perfectly. 

1. Younger brother and sister: Em

Older brother: Anh

Older sister: Chị

2. Father side of the family

- younger brother:  Chú, older brother: Bác

-younger sister: , older sister: Bác

3. Mother side:

- younger brother: Cậu, older brother: Dượng

- younger/older sister:

4. When the other speaker is about the same age as your maternal/paternal grandparents you simply call them Ông (Mr) Bà (Mrs)

May 20, 2018
@<a ui-sref="user({})" href="" style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Thomas</a>

Thank you. I appreciate your efforts to explain it here. But that is still very general information which I mostly know. Not really a "comprehensive analysis how to chose the appropriate pronoun in different situations" as I asked for. :)

Maybe it will be useful for other people who read this though.

I’d like to see some more serious analysis dealing with dfferent particular situations, not just in general. Only analysis of many particular situations and choices you have there can help you develope a strategy how to choose the right word and avoid akward situations. 

For example, you're a male, 30 y.o., talking to an unknown female in the street who looks maybe around 35 y.o. How would it feel if you say "em"? Or "chị"? Or “bạn”? Too young? Too old? Too formal? Too intimate? What changes when you get to know her age? And when you become close friends? Does something change if we talk not about 30 and 35, but about 80 and 85? And so on and so on...

It’s an important and complex topic that deserves some research and I wonder why I still haven't found any good articles or books about that.
May 5, 2018

@<a ui-sref="user({})" href="" style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(149, 149, 149); outline: 0px;">Christine</a>

Thank you. But that video is that "brief description of the terms" for those who learn the first words. It doesn't address different situation at all.

That video says you should call people around your age “bạn”. So, if I have a girlfriend “around my age” should I call her “bạn”? If I know someone is half a year or a year younger or older is it still around my age and I should use “bạn” even I know their age? How much difference is “around my age”? Some people in internet who are 20 years younger than me call me “bạn” even if they can see my age in my profile.

That video says you should call people around your younger sibling’s age “em”. Should I do it in formal situation and call a police officer or my boss “em” if they are younger?

There are plenty of different situations and I’m looking for some detailed research on that. Not a few first words for beginners.

About the book – I didn't find any explanations there either. Maybe I missed. Then let me know which page. But I can’t expect that from a textbook like this.

By the way, this book says on page 4: “cô = you (young lady)” without any explanation. Do people often call you “cô”? :) I actually did so in the beginning. I read in another textbook that “cô” meant "young woman", "girl", "miss" and started calling young girls “cô”. Luckily people told me soon that it actually meant "aunt". And, sadly, this is a very common thing in many textbooks. So, I would be very careful when recommending such books for learning about these things.

May 5, 2018

When beginning a conversation with someone.. and you have inappropriately used a pronoun, the person might indicate a desire to put "distance" between you and himself/herself.  And you will have to quickly switch to a formal and neutral form (toi - I, bac, chi, or anh).

Ban - or friend - for you...  is too uncomfortably close for many people.  You are better off using - Anh - you, Chi - you female, or Bac - older male or female you.  

Toi - is acceptable for I for most cases.  Chau (your grand son or daughter) is ok for I when dealing with elderly. 

In many cases, a person will use their first name for I...   and  the other person's first name for you.  And you can preceed it with the pronoun to add more formality and direction.

May 5, 2018
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Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Samoan, Thai, Vietnamese
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Japanese, Polish, Samoan, Thai, Vietnamese