Vietnamese Pronouns – Important Things You Should Know

December 21, 2020

One of the most difficult things in the Vietnamese language might be Vietnamese pronouns. Some learners may find them so confusing and hard to remember. Don’t worry! Even a native Vietnamese speaker like me needs years to learn them.

Today, I will walk you through 100 Vietnamese pronouns and explain when you should use what pronoun. You don’t need to remember all of them right after reading this article but I recommend you to take notes or simply bookmark it for later review.

Saying I, You, We In Vietnamese

Vietnamese people use different pronouns to address the first person and the second person in a conversation. It depends on the gender, the age difference, and the relationship between the two speakers. When you are at a similar age range and don’t have a kinship relationship with a person you talk to, you can use the following common Vietnamese pronouns:

Singular Plural
First-person (I, We) tôi (formal) chúng tôi (formal),
bọn tôi, tụi tôi (informal)
ta (neutral, sometimes used in literature) chúng ta (formal)
tao (informal, used for close friends) chúng tao, bọn tao, tụi tao (informal)
tớ, mình (informal, used for friends) chúng tớ, bọn tớ, tụi tớ
chúng mình, bọn mình, tụi mình (informal)tụi này (informal)
choa (informal, Central Vietnamese dialect) choa (informal)
tui (informal, Southern Vietnamese dialect) chúng tui, tụi tui, bọn tui (informal)
Second Person (You) bạn, cậu (formal, informal) các bạn, các cậu (formal, informal)
mày (informal) chúng mày, bọn mày (informal)
mi (informal, Central Vietnamese dialect) bọn mi (informal)
bay (informal, Southern Vietnamese dialect) tụi bay, bọn bay, chúng bay (informal)

Kindly note that in Vietnamese, we can use these pronouns as a subject or an object in a sentence. For example:

  • Cậu có thể kể cho chúng tớ chuyện gì đã xảy ra không? Chúng tớ rất lo lắng.
  • Can you tell us what happened? We are very worried.

“Chúng tớ” can be used for “we” and “us” in the sentences.

So, the pronouns referring to the first person can be used for “I, we, me and us”, and the pronouns referring to the second person can be used for “you, all of you and you guys”.

In addition, you can add “chúng, tụi, các or bọn” to the singular form to make the plural form of the pronouns. It will be correct most of the time.

How To Say He, She, It, They In Vietnamese

In Vietnamese, we don’t have gender for animals or things, so we just use “it” to address them. This is different from English. For example, people will say “My dog’s Lisa. She loves toys” in English but when it’s translated to Vietnamese, it will sound like “My dog’s Lisa. It loves toys”.

Below are the Vietnamese pronouns for saying he, she, it, they in the Vietnamese language:

Singular Plural
He, him anh ấy, anh đó, anh kia (formal, informal)

thằng ấy, thằng đó, thằng kia (informal)

các anh ấy, các anh đó, các anh kia, etc.
She, her cô ấy, cô đó, cô kia (formal, informal)

con ấy, con đó, con kia (informal)

các cô ấy, các cô đó, etc.
It chúng nó, tụi nó, bọn nó (informal)
They, them họ, bọn họ (informal)

For example:

Again, the word “anh ấy can be used as an object and a subject.

Nouns For Family Members Can Be Used As Vietnamese Pronouns

In Vietnamese, you can use the nouns for family members as pronouns in a conversation. For example:

  • Bố đi đâu đấy?
  • Dad, where are you going?

In different regions of Vietnam, people have different ways to call their family members. When it comes to a family tree, the age difference is no longer important in the way you refer to someone in your kin relationship. This explains why sometimes a person who is older has to call a younger relative “uncle”. This might sound a bit confusing but let’s try to learn how a Vietnamese family tree looks like from the table below:

English Vietnamese Note
Father, dad cha (formal)
bố, thầy Northern Vietnamese
ba, tía Southern Vietnamese
bọ Central Vietnamese
Mother, mom mẹ (formal)
u Northern Vietnamese
mạ, mệ Central Vietnamese
Southern Vietnamese
Father-in-law (father of husband) bố chồng
Mother-in-law (mother of husband) mẹ chồng
Father-in-law (father of wife) bố vợ
Mother-in-law (mother of wife) mẹ vợ
Step father bố dượng, cha dượng, cha ghẻ
Step mother mẹ ghẻ, mẹ kế
Older brother anh trai
Older sister chị gái
Younger brother em trai
Younger sister em gái
Child, children con (could be plural or singular), các con (plural)
The adopted child adopted children con nuôi
Parent bố mẹ
Siblings anh chị em ruột
Cousin (male) anh họ, em họ
Cousin (female) chị họ, em họ
Son con trai
Daughter con gái
Niece cháu gái
Nephew cháu trai
Grandchild, grandchildren cháu, các cháu
Granddaughter cháu gái
Grandson cháu trai
Great-grandparent cụ
Great-grandchild chắt
Husband chồng
Wife vợ
Dad’s side
Grandfather Ông nội
Grandmother Bà nội
Uncle & Aunt (older than your dad) Bác
Spouse of the Uncle or Aunt Bác Uncle, Aunt who are older than your dad
Children of the Uncle or Aunt Anh họ, Chị họ Anh họ - when they are male

Chị họ - when they are female

Uncle (younger than your dad) Chú
Spouse of the Uncle Thím (Northern Vietnamese) Uncle, who is younger than your dad
Aunt (younger than your dad)
Spouse of the Aunt Chú (Northern Vietnamese) Aunt, who is younger than your dad
Children of the Uncle or Aunt Em họ
Mom’s side
Grandfather Ông ngoại
Grandmother Bà ngoại
Uncle & Aunt (older than your mom) Bác, Bá
Spouse of the Uncle or Aunt Bác, Bá Uncle, Aunt who is older than your mom
Children of the Uncle or Aunt Anh họ, Chị họ Anh họ - when they are male

Chị họ - when they are female

Uncle (younger than your mom) Cậu (Northern Vietnamese)
Spouse of the Uncle Mợ  (Northern Vietnamese) Uncle, who is younger than your mom
Aunt (younger than your mom) Dì (Northern Vietnamese)
Spouse of the Aunt Dượng (Northern Vietnamese) Aunt, who is younger than your mom
Children of the Uncle or Aunt Em họ

Kindly note that there are still many more Vietnamese pronouns to call a family member or relative in different areas in Vietnam which are not mentioned in the table.

Rules To Use Vietnamese Pronouns In Daily Conversation

Even when you are not in a family relationship with a person, you can still use the pronouns in the previous section to address yourself and people. As there are so many pronouns, it’s hard for a learner to pick up a correct one in a daily talk. Remembering the following rules can help you a lot in regular situations:

Rule 1: Guess the age of the person you talk with

As mentioned earlier, Vietnamese people really care about the age difference. Using inappropriate Vietnamese pronouns can be considered rude, especially when you talk to an older person.

Rule 2: Select pronouns based on the gender of the listener (or the gender they prefer to be identified with)

If you look back to the tables in previous sections, you will see the pronouns are different for male and female (or masculine and feminine).

The table below will help you address other people more accurately in general situations when the speaker and the listener don’t have a family relationship:

Age difference Vietnamese Pronouns For Male Vietnamese Pronouns For Female Reciprocal
People who are at a similar age as your grandparent Ông Cháu
People who are at a similar age as your parent Chú, Bác Cô, Bác Cháu
People who are at a similar age as your older siblings Anh Chị Em
People who are at a similar age as you Bạn Bạn Tôi, Tớ, Mình
People who are at a similar age as your younger siblings Em Em Anh – if you are male

Chị - if you are female

People who are at a similar age as your niece, nephew Cháu Cháu Chú – if you are male

Cô – if you are female

It will take time to remember all the Vietnamese pronouns but you can start practicing with Ling App. Especially, the app has dialogues at the end of each lesson, which can help you remember which pronouns you should use when talking to different people. If you are interested in learning more about the way Vietnamese people greet each other, check my article for How To Say Hello In Vietnamese.

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