26 Jul 2013, 2:52pm
Vietnamese language:

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  • Mấy vs bao nhiêu

    ‘Mấy’ and ‘bao nhiêu’ are very common question words which you can easily hear in everyday conversation. For example,

    Hôm nay là ngày mấy? (What’s the date today?)

    Anh muốn mua mấy cái bàn? (How many desks do you want to buy?)

    Chị ơi, cái này bao nhiêu tiền? (Excuse me, how much is this?)

    Although ‘mấy’ and ‘bao nhiêu’ can be heard daily, it’s still hard for foreigners to distinguish them and to use them correctly.  On this blog, I will make it clear for you to understand thoroughly.

    Firstly, ‘bao nhiêu’ and ‘mấy’, which mean ‘how much/how many’ in English, are the interrogative words used to ask about quantity. The word ‘mấy’ is used to ask about a certain quantity whose amount is not more than 10 or considered to be small by the speaker. However, the word ‘bao nhiêu’ is used to ask about a quantity whose amount is more than 10 or cannot estimate (much or few).


    Cậu có mấy cái bút? – Mình có hai cái.

    How many pens do you have? – I have two.

    Lớp anh có mấy người? – Tám người.

    How many students are there in your class? – Eight people.

    Công ty anh có bao nhiêu nhân viên? – Ba mươi.

    How many employees are there in your company? – Thirty.

    Chị đã học tiếng Việt mấy năm? – 5 năm.

    How many years have you studied Vietnamese? – 5 years.

    Ông ấy nói được mấy thứ tiếng?

    How many languages can he speak?

    For the reason above, Vietnamese people often use the expression ‘mấy tuổi’ to ask about the age of a child and ‘bao nhiêu tuổi’ to ask about the age of an adult. If you want be regarded as a polite person, you should know how to use ‘mấy’ and ‘bao nhiêu’ in different situations. Remember: do not use ‘mấy tuổi’ to ask the age of an elderly person.


    Năm nay con mấy tuổi? – Dạ, con 5 tuổi. (How old are you this year? – I’m 5 years old.)

    Ông bao nhiêu tuổi rồi? – Tôi đã sáu mươi tuổi. (How old are you? – I’m sixty years old.)

    Secondly, in most cases, however, ‘mấy’ and ‘bao nhiêu’ can be used to replace each other without any changes in meaning.


    Anh đi mấy người? (How many are you?)

    Anh đi bao nhiêu người? (How many are you?)

    Cô Mai đến Đài Loan mấy lần rồi? (How many times has Ms. Mai been to Taiwan?)

    Cô Mai đến Đài Loan bao nhiêu lần rồi? (How many times has Ms. Mai been to Taiwan?)

    Sinh nhật em ngày mấy? (What date is your birthday?)

    Sinh nhật em ngày bao nhiêu? (What date is your birthday?)

    Thirdly, there is a little difference in meaning when moving the position of ‘mấy’ and ‘bao nhiêu’ in a sentence.

    + The structure “mấy / bao nhiêu + noun” is used to ask for a certain number.


    Anh đi mấy ngày? (How many days did you go?)

    Chị muốn mua bao nhiêu cái bánh? (How many cakes would you like to buy?)

    + The structure “noun + mấy / bao nhiêu” is used to ask for an order or an ordinal number.

    Hôm nay ngày mấy? (What’s the date today?)

    Bạn đứng hạng mấy trong lớp mình? (Where are you on the ranking table of our class?)

    Finally, I have to note that Vietnamese people do not use ‘mấy tiền’ to ask for price of something. Instead, they often say ‘bao nhiêu tiền’.


    Cái đó bao nhiêu tiền? (How much is that?)

    Cô ấy kiếm được bao nhiêu tiền? (How much does she earn?)

    However, Vietnamese people often say ‘mấy ngàn, mấy trăm ngàn, mấy triệu’ in order to ask about exact numbers of the cost of something.


    Bánh mì mấy ngàn một ổ? (How much does a loaf of bread cost?)

    Cái điện thoại di động này mấy triệu vậy? (How much is this mobile phone?)

    19 Jul 2013, 4:20pm

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  • “Chạy”

    When comparing about the equivalent moving, we can see that English have the word “run”; “courir” and “filer” in French and in Russian is “begat’”,…, they are all in the meaning of moving (have the direction or not). However, in Vietnamese, the word “chạy” has a lot of meaning, depending on the word following it. Let’s take a look at these two groups:

    Group 1: chạy giặc, chạy bão, chạy mưa, chạy tội, chạy án…

    Group 2: chạy gạo, chạy tiền, chạy việc, chạy điểm, chạy thầy, chạy thuốc…

    The same thing in these two groups is that they have the same structure: “chạy + X”, “X” is often a single word. But we can easy recognize the difference in their meanings.

    In group 1, these words have the meaning of running away from the object is mentioned. Chạy giặc (to run away from the war), chạy mưa (to find a place to shelter from the rain), chạy tội, chạy án (to find the way to be innocent)

    Vice versa, in group 2, we use the word “chạy” with the meaning of hoping to have those objects. Chạy gạo (to earn one’s living), chạy việc (to go in search of a job), chạy thầy, chạy thuốc (to go in search of a doctor and medicine).

    Well, This is just a few examples but there are so many complicated things.

    Now a day, in many cases, people don’t have to “chạy” with their legs. They “chạy” by speaking skill, familiar relationships, power, money… so many ways. The best thing is they do not need to go anywhere.

    12 Jul 2013, 1:00am
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  • Comma

    commas2 Comma


    The comma is one of the most important punctuation marks in Vietnamese. Here is a story which shows us the importance of the comma. Once upon a time in Vietnam, there was a young couple who had loved each other for many years. Because of a lack of money, the man decided to work abroad to earn enough money to marry his lover. Several months passed by without receiving news from the boyfriend, the girl made up her mind to write him a letter and said that she did not have enough patience to wait until he came back. After receiving the letter, the man hastily wrote in reply to his girlfriend’s letter with only three words: ‘Đừng chờ anh!” (Don’t wait for me!). And thus the girl got married with another man. Coming back to Vietnam six months later, the man accused her of having a change of heart. The girl then took out the old letter, gave it to him. He was too shocked to remain conscious. He had missed a comma in his letter while of unsound mind. Actually, he meant to say, ‘Đừng, chờ anh!’ (Please, wait for me!).

    Missing a comma has changed meaning of the sentence in the letter, which cause the biggest regret of the man’s life in the story. Therefore, it is essential that we have to be careful in our writing, and put a comma in the right place. Putting a comma in a suitable place will make it clear for readers. Here are some simple rules.

    - Firstly, the comma is normally used to divide a sentence into elements, or to separate the main elements of a sentence from each other.

    Ex:      Ba đi làm, mẹ đi mua sắm, còn con đi học.

    Daddy goes to work, mommy goes shopping, and I go to school.

    Nam, Hoa, Lan sắp hoàn thành bài thuyết trình.

    (Nam, Hoa, and Lan are going to finish the presentation.)

    - Commas can be used to separate elements in a series.

    Ex:      Tôi thích nhiều món ăn vặt như hột vịt lộn, bò bía, gỏi cuốn, v.v…

    (I like a lot of snack foods such as half-hatched eggs, bo bia spring rolls, fresh salad rolls, etc.)

    - We can also use a comma to separate the adverbial phrase or clause from the main clause of a sentence.

    Ex:      Ngày mai, tôi đi xem phim. (I will go to the cinema tomorrow.)

    Hàng năm, cứ vào cuối thu, lá ngoài đường rụng nhiều. (Every year, in late autumn, leaves fall a lot in the street.)

    In spoken Vietnamese, commas are important for creating pause time. A pause in the right place at the right time gives you: time to breathe, time to consider what it is you’re going to say next, time to receive, and digest the feedback you’re getting from your audience. You should remember that the pause of a comma a bit shorter than a full stop.

    Below are some more interesting examples which will show you that moving the position of a comma could change the meaning of the sentence completely.

    Khi uống bia, không được cho đường. (Drink beer, do not add sugar.)

    Khi uống bia không được, cho đường. (Can’t drink beer, add sugar.)

    Khi uống bia không, được cho đường. (Drink beer without ice, can add sugar.)

    In conclusion, if commas are used properly, they will help the readers to be aware of the writing’s intended meaning. Don’t forget: ‘First think, then put a comma.’