Unlike in English where there are only 2 ways to address people – “You” and “I”, in Vietnamese there are considerably more, if not too many pronouns. To make it easier for foreigners, here are some simple and popular pronouns that you might encounter in daily conversation.
|The person you are addressing||How you address them||How you address yourself|
|Same age as you||Bạn||Tôi
|A bit younger than you, like a younger sister or younger brother||Em||Anh||Chị|
|A lot younger than you, like a niece or your child’s age||Cháu||Chú||Cô|
(if you are their parent’s age or older)
|A bit older than you, like an older sister or older brother||Anh||Chị||Em|
|A lot older than you, just a few years younger than your father/mother||Chú||Cô||Cháu|
|A lot older than you, like your parents’ age or older||Bác||Cháu|
|A lot older than you, like your grandparents’ age||Ông||Bà||Cháu|
|A lot older than you, like your great-grandparents’ age||Cụ||Cháu|
Please note that you can address them based on how old you think they are, maybe by their appearance, if you do not know their exact age when first meeting.
There are more pronouns in Vietnamese when people are related in a family line, which can be very complex even for Vietnamese. Therefore, the pronouns above are just enough for you – a foreigner – to use to address Vietnamese people.