Look But Don’t See, Listen but Don’t Hear


Anyone wants to take a guess at how to say that you can’t hear or see something in Vietnamese?

Hint: you …không….
Hint 2: you …khôngthấy
Hint 3: to hear / listen is nghe, to see / look is nhìn

Have you figured it out yet?

Hint 4: thấy is to look for something and finding it

Last chance, because I’m going to explain it below.

If you say “(tôi) không nghe” or “(tôi) không nhìn“, technically it means you don’t hear or see, but it implies that you don’t want to hear or see (because you don’t like it).
If you say “(tôi) không thể nghe” or “(tôi) không thể nhìn“, guess what it commonly means?
Không thể means cannot / not able to do something. A native speaker (like me), out of context, with those delightful sentences, may mistake that you are deaf, or mute 🙂

So in spoken Vietnamese, how do you say that you can’t see or hear something?

(tôi) nghe không thấy / tôi không nghe thấy
(tôi) nhìn không thấy / tôi không nhìn thấy

Adding thấy signifies that you have intention to look or listen for it, but can’t hear or see it. And of course, you can also say
(tôi) tìm không thấy / tôi không tìm thấy (I can’t find it)

Sometimes I’d ask “có thấy không?
It means either “do you see it?” or “did you find it?”

So, bạn đã hiểu chưa?


2 responses »

  1. huh…. that’s something new I learned about thấy. I never knew you could put thấy after nghe. I always thought thấy = see; because i always hear “thấy chưa?!” and thought it meant “you see?!” after I do something clumsy hehehe

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