Advanced Vietnamese Personal Pronouns

MORE NUANCED PERSONAL PRONOUNS USED IN SPOKEN VIETNAMESE

In spoken Vietnamese, choosing the correct personal pronouns is of utmost importance to establish correct meaning as well as attitudes such as levels of importance of each person or social status. Also, don’t be surprised that many personal pronouns must be used for both the first person singular and first person plural , or both first person and second person.

  1. Ông: “You/I” for someone assumed to be as old as one’s grandfather. Also, in formal Vietnamese, “ông” is the equivalent of the title “Mr.” in formal English.
  2. Bà: “You/I” for someone assumed to be as old as one’s grandmother. Also, in formal Vietnamese, “bà” is the equivalent of the title “Mrs/Ms/Miss.” in formal English.
  3. Bác: “You/I” for someone assumed to be as old as one’s uncle who is older than one’s father. [By the way, “Bác” is also used in the North to mean “you” for a man who is old enough to be an older brother of the speaker.]
  4. Chú: “You/I” for someone assumed to be as old as one’s uncle who is younger than one’s father. [By the way, “Chú” is also used in the North to mean “you” for a man who is old enough to be a younger brother of the speaker.]
  5.  Cô: “You/I” for a woman assumed to be as old as a sister of one’s father. Also, as a formal personal pronoun, it is used for a woman who is younger than the speaker.
  6. Dì: “You/I” for a woman assumed to be as old as a sister of one’s mother. This personal pronoun sounds more intimate than “cô”.
  7. Con: “You/I” for a person young enough to be the speaker’s child or grandchild. “Con” means “I” for a person young enough to be the listener’s child or grandchild.
  8. Cháu: You/I: the same as “con” but more formal, less used than “Con”
  9. Dượng: You/I: for the husband of one’s aunt (maternal or paternal).
  10. Mợ: You/I: For the wife of one’s maternal uncle
  11. Thím: You/I: For the wife of one’s paternal uncle

HOW TO MAKE PLURAL PERSONAL PRONOUNS:

Simply put the word CÁC before a singular YOU to turn it into a plural YOU. In the South in is more informal and colloquila to use MẤY instead of CÁC, for example:

  1. Các anh = Mấy anh
  2. Các chị = Mấy chị
  3. Các anh chị = Mấy anh chị
  4. Các em = Mấy em
  5. Các ông = Mấy ông
  6. Các bác = Mấy bác
  7. Các chú = Mấy chú
  1. There are two ways to turn some pronouns that mean “You/I” into third-person singular pronouns: One way is to add the word “ấy” in the North and “đó” in the South. The second more colloquial way is to just change the tone to the rising tone (called “dấu hỏi”) to a pronoun that means “You/I.” , for example:
    1. Anh (you/I)> Anh ấy = Anh đó = Ảnh (He)
    2. Chị (You/I) > Chị ấy = Chị đó = Chỉ (She)
    3. Cô (You/I) = Cô ấy = Cổ = (She)
    4. Ông (You/I) = Ông ấy = Ông đó = Ổng (He)
    5. Bà (You, I) = Bà ấy = Bà đó = Bả (She)
    6. Dì (You/I) = Dì ấy = Dì đó = Dỉ (she)
    7. Bác (You/I) Bác ấy = Bác đó (cannot change the tone for this word)
  1. Mình: means “I/me” if the listener is clearly younger, but of a more important position in a social situation than the speaker.
  2. Mình: also means “we/us” including the listener(s). It sounds informal and friendly.
  3. Mình: also means you, used to sound friendly, commonly used by salespeople.
  1. Tao: I/me ( used intimately by very close friends  or when one is very angry, rude with anyone else, for both genders)
  2. Mày: you ( used intimately by very close friends or when one is very angry, rude with anyone else, for both genders)
  3. Nó: he/she ( used intimately by very close friends/family or when one is very rude with anyone else, or to show dislike, for both genders)

Also, words for some distinctive professions, titles such as teacher, doctor, professor, can be used as second-person pronouns. For example, thầy (male teacher), cô (female teacher), bác sĩ (doctor), giáo sư (professor), tiến sĩ (a PhD), thạc sỹ (a Master’s degree holder).

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