Lesson 2: Learn The 6 Tones in Vietnamese – Học 6 Thanh Điệu Trong Tiếng Việt

6 Tones In Vietnamese

tones in Vietnamese

Lesson 2: Learn The 6 Tones in Vietnamese – Học 6 Thanh Điệu Trong Tiếng Việt

Tones are imagined to be the most difficult aspect of learning to speak Vietnamese, but there is no reason to fret. After this lesson, you will find that Vietnamese tones are rather straightforward and easy to master. There are 6 tones in Vietnamese, namely ngang, sắc, huyền, hỏi, ngã, nặng, which can be best represented by 6 examples: ma, má, mà, mả, mã, mạ.

    1. Ngang
      = low+stretched>
      ma (meaning “ghost”) (tone mark: none)
    2. Sắc
      = high+rising =
      (meaning “mother”, used mainly in the south, informal). (tone mark: á)
    3. Huyền
      = low+falling =
      (meaning “yet”, or “but also”)
    4. Hỏi
      =low rising =
      mả (meaning “a grave, tomb”) (tone mark: ả)
    5. Ngã
      = low rising (in the south, the tone 5 is identical to tone 4, but it is part of correct spelling to write the correct tone mark whereas in the north the tone is more emphasized by doubling the vowel)>
      (Chinese Vietnamese word for “horse”)
    6. Nặng
      : low+falling>
      mạ (coating a metal with a layer of another metal, a rice seedling)


You will learn 30 examples of the 6 tones, which are very common words in Vietnamese. Click on the play button to hear the audio.

    • Ngang – low+ stretched
      1. ba
      2. ga
        (propane gas, or train station)
      3. ma
      4. xa
      5. cơm
    • Sắc – high+rising
      1. (leaf)
      2. đá
        (kick, or stone, or ice)
      3. chó
      4. (he, she, it, very casual personal pronoun)
      5. máy
    • Huyền – low+falling
      1. (chicken)
      2. mèo
      3. nhà
        (house, home)
      4. (grandmother)
      5. (and)
    • Hỏi – low rising
      1. hỏi
        (ask a question)
      2. mỏi
        (tired in the muscles)
      3. mở
      4. chở
         (drive someone in a car, ride someone on a bike)
      5. phở
        (phở, the famous Vietnamese beef noodle soup)
    • Ngã – low rising(the same as tone 4)
      1. ngã
        (to fall)
      2. cãi
        (to quarrel)
      3. sẽ
      4. ngỗng
      5. gỗ
    • Nặng – low+falling
      1. lạ
      2. mặn
      3. ngọt
      4. nhẹ
        (mild, light)
      5. nặng

There you have it. By now, and with some practice you should be able to hear, recognize and produce these tones accurately. Enjoy speaking Vietnamese and leave a comment if you have any question.


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