Knowing how to ask a question in Vietnamese can help you get information and help from local people when you travel in Vietnam. There are three types of questions in Vietnamese: questions with question words, yes-no questions, and questions that don’t require an answer.
Today, we are going to learn Vietnamese question words to make the first type of questions and how to use them accurately.
Learn Vietnamese Question Words
Ai – Who, Whom
In the Vietnamese language, ‘ai’ (flat tone) is used for both who and whom, as long as you want to ask about a person.
When it comes to a subject (who), the word ‘ai’ is put at the beginning of the question. For example:
- Ai là bố của bạn? – Who is your dad?
Ai = who, là = is, bố = dad, của bạn = your
When it comes to an object (whom), but the word ‘ai’ after the preposition of the verb affects the object, or behind the verb if that verb doesn’t require a preposition. Let’s look at the following sentences:
- Bạn đã uống bia với ai? – Whom did you drink beer with?
Bạn = you, đã = did, uống = drink, bia = beer, với = with, ai = whom
- Bạn hỏi ai? – Whom do you ask?
Bạn = you, hỏi = ask, ai = whom
Cái Gì, Gì – What
‘Cái gì’ or ‘gì’ (what) can be used as a subject or an object in a question. Pronounce ‘gì’ with the sound /z/ like ‘zone’, not /g/ like ‘good’.
When it is used as an object, but the question word ‘cái gì’ after the preposition of a verb or the verb.
- Anh đang ăn cái gì? – What are you eating?
Anh = you, ‘đang’ is used to indicate the present continuous tense, ăn = eat, cái gì = what
If ‘what’ is a subject that creates a verb, the word ‘cái gì’ will be said first, then the verb.
- Cái gì làm bạn khóc? – What made you cry?
Cái gì = what, làm = made, bạn = you, khóc = cry
Ở Đâu – Where
If you want to know the location or position of someone or something, ask a question with the word ‘ở đâu’ (where). ‘Ở đâu’ is usually said at the end of a question. For instance:
- Trạm xe buýt gần nhất ở đâu? – Where is the closest bus station?
Trạm xe buýt = bus station, gần nhất = the closest, ở đâu = where
In daily conversation, Vietnamese people also ask ‘ở đâu’ at the beginning of a question.
- Ở đâu bán xăng? – Where do they sell gasoline?
Ở đâu = where, bán = sell, xăng = gasoline.
You can see that the words ‘do they’ are missing in the Vietnamese sentence. People can still understand that you want to find somewhere to buy gasoline. In this case, ‘they, the people who sell gasoline, are not important and not whom you are looking for.
Như Thế Nào, Thế Nào – How (Feeling, Quality)
If you want to ask how your friend feels, you can ask as below:
- Bạn cảm thấy trong người như thế nào? – How are you? / How do you feel (inside)?
Bạn = you, cảm thấy = feel, trong người = inside, như thế nào = how
‘Thế nào’ is a short form of the phrase ‘như thế nào’. Both words are at the end of the sentence when you want to ask about the feeling.
Kindly note that ‘như thế nào’ or ‘thế nào’ can be used as ‘what’ in this situation:
- What do you think about that? – Bạn nghĩ thế nào về điều đó?
What = thế nào, you = bạn, think = nghĩ, about = về, that = điều đó
Như Thế Nào, Thế Nào, Bằng Cách Nào – How (Manner)
‘Như thế nào’, ‘thế nào’ can be used to ask about the manner. ‘Bằng cách nào’ is used for manner alone but not for feeling. Put these words at the end of a sentence to make a question.
- Em đi đến trường như thế nào? / Em đi đến trường bằng cách nào? / Em đi đến trường thế nào? – How do you go to school?
Em = you (younger), đi = go, đến = to, trường = school, như thế nào = bằng cách nào = thế nào = how
The answer to this question will be the manner how you get to school. It could be the vehicle you drive or get on or the directions you follow.
Tại Sao – Why
‘Tại sao’ is used to ask for a reason. It is spoken and written at the beginning of a Vietnamese question, or it can stand alone.
- Tại sao bầu trời màu xanh? – Why is the sky blue?
Tại sao = why, bầu trời = the skye, màu xanh = blue
- Anh đi đến Việt Nam ư? Tại sao? – Are you going to Vietnam? Why?
Anh = you, đi = going, đến = to, Việt Nam = Vietnam, tại sao = why
Khi Nào – When
If you want to ask the time or an event when something happens, use the word ‘khi nào’. ‘Khi nào’ can be at the beginning or the end of a question.
- Khi nào cô ấy đến? / Cô ấy đến khi nào? – When does she come?
Khi nào = when, cô ấy = she, đến = come
Bao Nhiêu – How Much, How Many
If you travel in Vietnam, it is good to ask the price before you buy or consume anything to avoid being riffed off. To ask how much, say ‘bao nhiêu’ at the end or beginning of the question. For example:
- Cốc cà-phê giá bao nhiêu? / Bao nhiêu một cốc cà-phê? – How much does a cup of coffee cost?
Cốc cà-phê = a cup of coffee, giá = cost, bao nhiêu = how much.
‘Bao nhiêu’ also means ‘how many’. If you want to ask the quantity of something, say ‘bao nhiêu’ following by a classifier. Let’s see an example below:
- Một ngày cậu ăn bao nhiêu bát cơm? – How many bowls of rice do you eat per day?
Một ngày = per day, cậu = you, ăn = eat, bao nhiêu = how many, bát = bowl (classifier), cơm = rice
Bao Xa – How Far
When you want to ask in Vietnamese how far it is from your place to the destination you want to go, use ‘bao xa’. For instance:
- Từ đây đến đó bao xa? – How far it it from here (to there)?
Từ đây = from here, đến đó = to there, bao xa = how far
Bao Lâu – How Long (Time)
If you want to ask how long it takes to do something, use ‘bao lâu’ or ‘mất bao lâu’ (lost how long).
- Em học tiếng Việt bao lâu rồi? – How long have you been learning Vietnamese?
Em = you, học = learn, tiếng Việt = Vietnamese, bao lâu = how long.
Người Nào – Which One (Person)
If you want to ask which person in a group of people, ask ‘người nào’. For example:
- Người nào về đích trước? – Which one finishes (the race) first?
Người nào = which one, về đích = finish, trước = first
Cái Nào? – Which One? (Things)
If you want to ask which things are which, use ‘cái nào’.
- Bạn thích cái nào? – Which one do you like?
Bạn = you, thích = like, cái nào = which one
Con Nào? – Which One? (Animal)
When it comes to animals, use ‘con nào’ if you want to know which animal in a group of animals.
- Con nào là con đực? – Which one is male?
Con nào = which one, là = is, con đực = male
How To Ask Questions In Vietnamese
As mentioned earlier, there are three kinds of questions in the Vietnamese language. The Vietnamese question words are used to ask for more information. The yes-no questions are asked for confirmation. The questions that do not require an answer (câu hỏi tu từ) are mostly used in poems, stories but sometimes used to express the speaker’s emotion.
Not as in English, when asking a question in Vietnamese, you don’t need to change the intonation of the question words (for question-word questions) or raise your voice up at the end of a yes-no question. Vietnamese people just pronounce the tone of each word in a sentence correctly.
Remember to practice the questions in the Ling App and ask the chatbot some questions with what you have learned.