It is always a good idea to have useful Vietnamese phrases in your pocket as a foreigner. Especially during lockdown when it is important to get what you need to say across. In general, the Vietnamese people will appreciate your efforts to speak their language, and most people working in the service industries do not speak English fluently. So, let’s get started with:

  • COVID-19 Useful Words and Phrases
  • Basic Phrases
  • How to Address People 
  • Numbers 1 to 10 and Beyond
  • Getting/Giving Directions 
  • Useful Phrases for Shopping
  • What to Say at a Restaurant/ For Take-away/ For Delivery 

1. COVID-19 Useful Words and Phrases

These are not normal times and being understood is paramount. Here are some Vietnamese phrases you might need to explain to your employer, your building manager, the police, medical staff, etc during these tough times. We hope this helps you stay safe! 

Getting your COVID-19 test or vaccine at the hospital

  • I need to go to the hospital / Tôi cần đến bệnh viện (toy ken dun ben van)
  • I am going to get my vaccination / Tôi đang đi tiêm chủng vắc xin (toy dang di team chu-ng vak sin)
  • I am going to get a COVID-19 test / Tôi đang đi xét nghiệm COVID-19 (toy dang di set ne-erm COVID-19)
  • When will I get the results? / Khi nào sẽ có kết quả xét nghiệm của tôi? (key now saah gor cat gua set ne-erm gu toy?)
  • I have a negative test result / Tôi có kết quả xét nghiệm âm tính (toy gor cat gua set ne0erm arm team)
  • I am allergic to _____ / Tôi bị dị ứng với _____ (toy bi zit urn-g voy...)
  • I am coming back from the hospital / Tôi sắp trở lại từ bệnh viện (toy sap choy lai too ben van)
Covid-19 test
Covid-19 test @ Lukas Bittner / Getty Images

When you get stopped by the police while buying essentials

  • I am going food shopping / Tôi đang đi mua thức ăn (thực phẩm)
  • I am going to the pharmacy / Tôi đang đi đến hiệu thuốc (toy dang di dun heal too-oak)
  • I need to eat / Tôi cần ăn (toy kern ang)
  • I need water / Tôi cần nước uống (toy kern nook oong)
  • I need medication / Tôi cần thuốc (toy kern too-oak)
  • I am going home / Tôi đang về nhà (toy dang vey n-air)
  • My address is / Địa chỉ của tôi là (dia chi kua toy la)
Local get stopped by police
Local get stopped by police @ Độc Lập / Thanh Nien Newspaper

Leaving the country en route to the airport

  • I need to go to the airport / Tôi cần đến sân bay (toy kern den sern bye)
  • I need to catch a flight to my country / Tôi cần lên chuyến bay để trở về quê nhà (toy kern lend chin bye de cherv vey ke-way n-air)
  • I need to go to my embassy / Tôi cần đi đến Đại sứ quán (toy kern di den dye sur k-wan)
  • I need to call my embassy / Tôi cần gọi Đại sứ quán của nước tôi (toy kern goy dye sur k-wan gua nook toy)
  • I am from / Tôi đến từ (toy den too...)
Airplanes at Tan Son Nhat airport
Airplanes at Tan Son Nhat airport @ VNA / Tuoi Tre Newspaper

General lockdown phrases

  • This is my wife/ husband/ Đây là vợ/chồng của tôi (day la ver/ chong gua toy)
  • This is my boyfriend/ girlfriend / Đây là bạn trai/bạn gái của tôi (day la bun chai/ bun guy gua toy)
  • This is my friend/ housemate / Đây là bạn/bạn cùng nhà của tôi (day la bun/ bun coon n-air gua toy)
  • Can I leave the building / Tôi có thể rời khỏi tòa nhà? (toy gaw teh roy hoi tuan n-air?)
  • How long is quarantine? / Đợt cách ly này kéo dài bao lâu? (Dot cat lee nigh k-eo yai bao low?)
  • I don't understand / Không hiểu (hung heel)
  • Call the police / Gọi cảnh sát ngay (goy gunh sut nigh)
  • Help me / Giúp tôi với (yoop toy voy)
Ho Chi Minh City from above during lockdown @ Quang Định / Tuoi Tre

2. Basic Phrases

 These useful Vietnamese phrases will come in handy no matter how much time you spend in Vietnam. Familiarise yourself with these commonly used Vietnamese words as you will find that you will be using them all the time here!

  • Hello / Xin chào (sin chow) 
  • Goodbye / Hẹn gặp lại (hen gap lie)
  • Thank you / Cảm ơn (gam urn) 
  • Sorry / Xin lỗi (sin loy) 
  • No problem / không sao (hung sow)
  • Yes / Dạ (yeah)
  • No / Không (hung)
  • My name is _____ / tôi tên _____ (toy turn _____)
  • Woman / Phụ nữ (fu noo)
  • Man / Nam (sounds like ‘mam’ with an ‘n’) 
Learning Vietnamese
Learning Vietnamese @ EikoTsuttiy / Getty Images

3. How to Address People 

Next up, you will be learning how to address people in Vietnamese. The Vietnamese have a complex system of how to properly address each other according to age, gender, and family structure. Of course, the Vietnamese people understand foreigners may not get the subtleties of all the addresses, and you can get away with knowing just the following:

  • I, Me / tôi (toy) 
  • You / bạn (bun)
  • When speaking to a younger person, call them em (am).
  • When speaking to an older woman, call her chị (ch-aye).
  • When speaking to an older man, call him anh (un).
Learning to address people in Vietnamese is very important
Learning to address people in Vietnamese is very important @ LightFieldStudios / Getty Images

4. Numbers 1 to 10 and Beyond

 Here we have numbers 1 to 10, which you may need when shopping, for phone numbers, or for addresses, etc. 

  • 1 / Một (sounds like ‘mop’ with a ‘t’)
  • 2 / Hai (hi)
  • 3 / Ba (bear)
  • 4 / Bốn (bom)
  • 5 / Năm (nam)
  • 6 / Sáu (sow)
  • 7 / Bảy (bye)
  • 8  / Tám (tem) 
  • 9 / Chín (qin) 
  • 10 / Mười
  • 100 / Một trăm (mot chum)
  • 500 / Năm trăm (nam chum)
  • 1000 / Một ngàn (mot ngh-an)
  • 5000 / Năm ngàn (nam ngh-an)
  • 10,000 / Mười ngàn (moo-ay ngh-an)
  • 100,000 / Một trăm ngàn (mot chum ngh-an)
  • 1,000,000 / Một triệu (mot chew)
  • 5,000,000 / Năm triệu (nam chew)
Numbers @ erllre / Getty Images

Also, to say ‘cheers’, the Vietnamese will say ‘một, hai, ba, yoooo’! Remember this phrase for an easy way to make friends. 

5. Getting/ Giving Directions 

Whether you are asking for directions to the nearest tourist monument, directing your taxi driver, or collecting parcels or food delivery from a shipper, these Vietnamese phrases will not be out of place! 

  • Where are you? / Bạn ở đâu (bun er daw)
  • Where is the bathroom? / Nhà vệ sinh ở đâu? (nah veh sin er daw)
  • Where is the _____? / _____ ở đâu? (In Vietnamese grammar, the location/noun comes first)
  • Go straight / Đi thẳng (di tang)
  • Turn right / Rẽ phải (rail-o fie)
  • Turn left / Rẽ trái (rail-o try)
  • Here / ở đây (er dye) 
  • 5 minutes / Năm phút (nam foot) 
Directions @ chaiyapruek2520 / Getty Images Pro

6. Useful Phrases for Shopping

Of course, there is always shopping to be done. Bargaining is an art enjoyed by the shopkeepers and it is fine to negotiate a little, keeping in mind that the vendors are trying to make a living. 

  • How much? / Bao nhiêu (bow new)
  • Too expensive / Mắc quá (mack wear)
  • Discount please / Bớt nha (boc n-air)
  • I want to buy / Tôi muốn mua (toy moon moo-ah)
Shopping  woman with shopping joy
Shopping  woman with shopping joy @nicoletaionescu / Getty Images Pro

7. What to Say at a Restaurant/ For Take-away/ For Delivery 

  • To get the attention of the waitstaff / Em oi (am oy) 
  • I would like to have this / Tôi muốn cái này (toy moon kai nai)
  • The bill please / Tính tiền toán giúp tôi (din thin tuan jiup toy)
  • For take-away / Mua mang đi (mua mang di)
  • Please deliver / Để giao hàng (de yao hung) 
  • I am allergic to _____ / Tôi bị dị ứng với _____ (toy bi di oong voy)
  • I am vegetarian / Tôi là chay (toy lair chai)
  • Rice / Cơm (gomb)
  • Rice noodles / Bún (boon)
  • Chicken / Gà (gare)
  • Beef / Bò (bore)
  • Pork / Heo (heel)
  • Hot / Nóng (nong)
  • Cold / Lạnh (lan)
  • No ice / Không đá (hung dare)
  • No sugar / Không đường (hung yung) 
Order food at restaurant during Covid
Order food at restaurant during Covid @ Fertographer / Getty Images Signature

This list of helpful Vietnamese phrases should serve you well during COVID-19 lockdowns and during more normal times as well. Learning Vietnamese takes time with its tricky pronunciation, writing the Latin script differently, and getting used to the grammar structure. While we hope you get the hang of the Vietnamese language over time, for now, keep this list close at hand!

We know times are tough and to help you out, we also compiled a survival guide of grocery stores that deliver to your door. It's time to stock up and stay safe!