https://www.duolingo.com/Huy_Ngo

Vietnamese question structure

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<h1>How to ask it Vietnamese</h1>

Xin chào các bạn! Hello everyone!

Unlike many other Vietnamese Duolingan (new word I made) here, I don't take Vietnamese course to check the quality, so I don't know if there is enough detailed references on lessons, but I have read the comments. As I was browsing comments on lessons in Vietnamese courses, I see that many people here are still confused by Vietnamese question structure (as well as many other parts of Vietnamese language). I don't decline that, Vietnamese is a hard language, and I'd say it is among the hardest (in common languages only, of courses). Therefore, I'll start posting references on Vietnamese grammar (maybe some other part).

Wh-question

The so-called Wh-question in Vietnamese can be divided into 10 types (way too many): Who: Ai What Cái gì (also: Cây gì, Con gì, ...) What does... do: Làm gì How: (như) thế nào Where: (Ở) đâu When: Khi nào (also: Lúc nào, bao giờ, ...) How (instrumental): Bằng gì (also: ...như thế nào, Làm thế nào) Why (reason): Tại sao (also: Vì sao, Vì lý do gì, ...) Why (purpose), or to be more precise, What for: Để làm gì Which: [CLASSIFIER] nào

To make a Wh-question in Vietnamese, you simply replace the word that answer the question.

E.g.
Cô ấy là Hồng. --> Cô ấy là ai?
Cô ấy là Hồng. --> Ai là Hồng?

Đó là một cái cây. --> Đó là ?
Anh ấy là/làm giáo viên. --> Anh ấy là/làm gì? (occupation is treated as an object)

Nó đang học bài. --> Nó đang làm gì?

Khu rừng này rất rộng. --> Khu rừng này (như) thế nào?

Tôi đang ở trường. --> Bạn đang ở đâu?

Ngày mai trời mưa. --> Khi nào trời mưa?

Tôi đến trường bằng xe đạp. --> Bạn đến trường bằng gì?/Bạn đến trường như thế nào/Làm thế nào bạn đến trường?
(Note that these Wh-words must be in the places)

Tôi không thích Văn (bởi/tại) vì nó quá khó. --> Vì sao/Tại sao/Sao bạn không thích Văn?
(Note that the Wh-word in this type should be at the beginning)

Tôi nói để bạn biết. --> Tại sao bạn nói?/Bạn nói để làm gì?
Tôi viết tắt (để) cho nhanh. --> Tại sao bạn viết tắt?/Bạn viết tắt để làm gì?

Tôi đến từ Việt Nam. --> Bạn đến từ nước nào?/ Bạn đến từ đâu?
Tôi thích quả bóng này. --> Bạn thích quả bóng nào?
Tôi thích thịt luộc. --> Bạn thích món nào?

Or questions

Although there are two synonyms for "or", hay and hoặc, but only hay is used in Or questions. It is replaced at exactly the same place as in statements.
E.g.
Đây là mít hoặc sầu riêng. --> Đây là mít hay (là) sầu riêng?
(This is jackfruit or durian. --> Is this jackfruit or durian?)

Yes/No questions

There are mainly two ways to form a Yes/no question in Vietnamese:

Way 1: Adding à/(phải) không (questionous word) to the end of the sentence

A positive word (có) can be place before the verb if there is no adverb (called phó từ in Vietnamese): đang, đã, sẽ, rất, chưa, ... before the verb.

E.g.
Bạn (có) biết về Ngô Bảo Châu không?
Bạn (có) thích đọc Harry Potter không?
Bạn (có) đi chơi không? (NOTE: different from Bạn đi chơi à/phải không?)
Bạn chưa ăn sáng à/phải không? (NOT Bạn có chưa ăn sáng à?)
Bạn (có) phải làm bài thuyết trình không?

The difference between à, phải không and không here:
không can only be used for thích (like), yêu (love), biết (know), phải (must), nên (should), cần (need) or else it will be the questions of choice. The former sentence in the third line means "Do you like to go out?", while the latter means "Are you going out?".
phải không can be preceded with a comma, while the other two cannot. à and phải không is more like tag question in English. Let's take the last sentence: If you use à or phải không, it means you think it is more likely that the other person have to do the presentation. There is also a word "á", which is filled up with surprise. "Bạn biết tiếng Pháp á?" would mean "You know French, really?".

Way 2: Just make a rising tone at the end of the question, like what you do in English.

Nothing to note.

E.g. Bạn biết tiếng Pháp?

Negative questions

If you don't like beer, how would you answer this:
Don't you like beer?
You'd say "No", right?

In Vietnamese, that's different. Bạn thích bia à? = Do you like beer? (Normal question) If you like it: "Có" is unnatural here. You should say " Ừ" (for those who are equal or younger than you) or "Vâng" (for those who are older than you).
If you don't like it: "Không"

Bạn không thích bia à? = Don't you like beer? (Negative question, note that you can't use "không" here as a questionous word)
If you like it: "Có", or even "Có chứ", but you can also say "Không"
If you don't like it: "Ừ"/"Vâng" is preferred here, but you can also say "Không"

Look, Vietnamese is ambiguous. I agree. Even a native speaker sometimes need to ask again if someone say "Không". To be clear, you can say "Không, có chứ" if you like or "Không, tôi không thích" if you don't. If you just say "Không", it is more likely that you will be assumed to like it than not to like it.


Let me know if you don't know the meaning of the example sentences, or if there are any typos.

Tell me in comments if you'd like me to write references on anything.

If there are no positive responses, I will no longer write any documents in the future.

Next: Vietnamese conjunctions

1 year ago

10 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/goosefield
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Thank you. Could you write a reference on Vietnamese conjunctions?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Huy_Ngo
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I'm glad that it helped you. Sure, I will write one about conjunctions.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.rM
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Good summary for the basic!

Is it true that when “khi nào” is put at the end of a sentence, then the event has already happened? e.g. Does “Bạn (đã) dậy khi nào?” means “When did you wake up?” and not “When do/did you (usually) wake up?”

The use of “là” before adjectives is also confusing. As I see sometimes it is used to separate the subject from the predicative. Sometimes for emphasis. Just don't know how to make a sentence natural with or without it.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Huy_Ngo
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1st question: No, the position of the word does not affect the tense of the sentence. "Bạn dậy khi nào?" can be "When do you (usually) wake up", "When did you wake up (this morning)?", "When will you wake up (tomorrow, for some plan, for example)?". The meaning and tense is dependent on the context and adverbs.

2nd question: Do you mean là as in "Cuốn sách này rất hay."? That is for emphasis, but I don't see any case where it is to separate the subject from the predicative. As it confuses you, maybe I will write about the word "là".

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.rM
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Oh, the 2nd question, I remember a sentence that looks like this: “cái sừng của con voi (là) rất lớn”. Without là would it mean “the horn of the very large elephant”?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Huy_Ngo
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No, “cái sừng của con voi rất lớn” does not have "là". In specific context, we can know if it is a sentence or a phrasal noun, hence we can know if it means "the elephant's horn is very large" or "the horn of the very large elephant".

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HQT98
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I don't see any problem with "là" being present in "cái sừng của con voi là rất lớn", it makes it a little formal but it's not incorrect, formal speech tends to use "là" a lot more often than informal.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Huy_Ngo
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I haven't seen any one using that, whether in formal or informal context.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Julestheman
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This post is really helpful and informative. Thank you

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MoLezeik

Very detailed and useful, thank you so much sir/madam

1 year ago
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