In English, you say “Excuse me, Miss/Mr/Sir/Madam” or “Hey!” to call someone on the street, across the room, or a few steps away from you. If you know that person’s name, you may say it aloud to catch that person’s attention.
(Note that in Vietnamese, it’s rude to call someone’s name loudly and people only do it when they’re mad at you)
So how do you call someone in Vietnamese nicely?
Add the word Ơi after that person’s name or the pronoun you use to address that person in Vietnamese.
For example, to call a person named Ngọc (who is the same age as you), you say “Ngọc Ơi!”, to call Hiếu, say “Hiếu ơi” et cetera.
And what if you don’t know that person’s name? (For example, you’re calling this shopaholic lady to come back and collect the husband she forgot in the department’s store)
Well, this is when you break out the pronouns and add Ơi to it.
The following is a cheatsheet of pronouns that Viet people use to say “you” in Vietnamese. Yeah… there are several pronouns for “you” in Vietnamese. It’s divided by the gender and their age relative to you, starting from the oldest.
|Age (relative to you): that person looks…||Male||Female||How to call|
|Old enough to be your grandparents||Ông||Bà||ông ơi, bà ơi|
|Older than your parents but younger than your grandparents||Bác||Bác||bác ơi|
|A little bit younger than your parents||Chú||Cô||chú ơi, cô ơi|
|Old enough to be your older siblings||Anh||Chị||anh ơi, chị ơi|
|About your age||Bạn||Bạn||bạn ơi|
|Young enough to be your younger siblings’ age||Em||Em||em ơi|
|Young enough to be your niece, nephew, children, grandchildren||Cháu||Cháu||cháu ơi|
By the way, there is an online T-shirt shop that sells funny Vietnamese stuff by the name of Anh Ơi. I got stuff from them before and I’m still wearing my “What the Heo” T-shirt today.
Now you know what Anh Ơi means 🙂
Another funny Vietnamese phrase is “ối trời ơi” which means something between “oh my god” and “oops”!