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).

    Example:

    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.

    Ex:

    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.

    Ex:

    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.

    Ex:

    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’.

    Ex:

    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.

    Ex:

    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?)

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