Category Archives: Intermediate Grammar

Who bought the scooter?

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Please see the original by artist Nguyễn Thành Phong on his Facebook page here. This page comes from a really cool comic series called K0 còi which aims to raise traffic awareness for người Hà Nội by họa sĩ Thành Phong. 🙂

xe

mẹ

mua

đua

mẹ

đánh

vehicle (car, scooter, etc.)

I (mom)

buy

race

mom

hit (punish)

So the mom told her (grown-up?) son: The scooter that I (mom) bought (xe mẹ mua), if you use dare to join a race on the street (đua), I’ll hit you (mẹ đánh).

In term of grammar, it’s a pretty good example of relative pronoun “that” (or more accurately, the lack of it). There are other points to discuss but let’s just focus on the relative pronoun “that” for today. Keep in mind that Vietnamese grammar does not correspond directly to English grammar (that’s my way of saying “if the language doesn’t make sense, it’s none of my problem”).

Cái áo

em

mới

mua

đắt

quá

Shirt

I

just

bought

expensive

too

Relative pronoun without “that”: (Cái áo) (em mới mua) (đắt quá) – the shirt I just bought is too expensive.

Cô bé

anh

gặp

hôm trước

không

chịu

cho

anh

số điện thoại

The girl

I (male)

met

the other day

not

agree to

give

me (male)

phone number

(Cô bé) (anh gặp hôm trước) (không chịu cho anh số điện thoại) – The girl that I met the other day wouldn’t give me her phone number.

Hiệu sách

không

quyển sách

()

em

muốn

mua

Bookstore

not

have

the book

(that)

I

want to

buy

Relative pronoun with “that”: “that” in Vietnamese would be equivalent to “.” “” is a Swiss army knife of Vietnamese words. It is used to mean many things. Its usage as “that”, the English relative pronoun, is one.

Hiệu sách không có (quyển sách) ( em muốn mua). – The bookstore does not have the book that I want to buy.

Cái anh diễn viên

()

em

rất

thích

đi lấy vợ

mất rồi

The actor

(that)

I

very much

like

got married

already

(Cái anh diễn viên) ( em rất thích) (đi lấy vợ mất rồi). – The actor that/whom I like very much got taken already (he got married).

And here’s the parting shot. You can figure it out yourself!

sắm” means the same thing as “mua“, and “cắm” means to pawn, “chém” means to chop, like pork chop.

PS: In terms of cultural background, this is common practice in Vietnam for the grown up child to depend on his/her parents financially and/or live with the parents well after graduating from college. For the mom to buy her grown up son a scooter is not that uncommon in Vietnam (a car is still extravagant though).

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K0 còi comics series

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My favorite Vietnamese artist, Nguyễn Thành Phong, just released a new comics series to raise public awareness about traffic etiquette for Hanoian. You can see the series on his Facebook page here. I think it’s awesome.

It’s been a long time since I last found exciting stuff that comes out of Hà Nội and probably a wake up call for me to start updating the blog again.

I’ve been MIA, especially with usable content for quite a while now. One reason is that I was quite occupied at work. The other is that I have been mulling over which direction I wanted the blog to follow. If I venture into Intermediate level, I wonder how many readers I will confuse. This was never intended as a primary source to learn the language, only as a reference or points to discuss with your teacher. It’s a free hobbyist blog, which I put a lot of time into. Now imagine people who complain about my blog but don’t have any good suggestion or solution.

Anyway, whichever way the wind blows. Let Intermediate level begins. If you find it too difficult, there’s always the previous lessons which are easier, or visit everydayviet.com for absolute beginner lessons.

Hà Nội

không

vội

được

đâu

In Hanoi

not

rush

possible

Hà Nội không vội được đâu. – In Hanoi, it’s not possible to rush.

If you live in a Hanoi for a full year, any year during the last 10 years, you most likely have lived through a flood which submerged part of the city. 

But first, a little memory jogging.

(1) Remember the question “Anh khỏe không?”

For “yes”, you answer ““, and for “no”, you answer “không“?

(2) Remember that “được” means it’s ok or possible or you have permission to do something (it also has other usages).

Cái này

ăn

được

không?

Được,

cứ

ăn

đi.

This

eat

possible

Yes,

go ahead

eat

Cái này có ăn được không? Is it possible to eat this thing? (Is it edible?)

Được, cứ ăn đi. – Sure, go ahead (eat).

Anh

đi chợ

hộ

em

được không?

Không được,

anh

đang

bận

lắm

You (male)

go grocery shopping

as a favor to

me

ok?

No, I cannot

I (male)

-ing

busy

very

Anh đi chợ hộ em được không? Can you go grocery shopping for me?

Không được, anh đang bận lắm. No, I cannot. I’m really busy right now.

The point that I want to highlight to day is the structure “It’s not possible to do something…”.

Hà Nội không vội được đâu. – In Hanoi, it’s not possible to rush.

which in Vietnamese is both “someone + + do something + được đâu” and “someone + không + do something + được đâu

How come “có được đâu” and “không được đâu” both mean “it’s not possible…”?

And that’s where Vietnamese grammar doesn’t match up with English’s any more. You’ll just have to learn it. No easy way out. Don’t shoot the messenger (me). In particular, pay attention to the “đâu” at the end. If “đâu” doesn’t mean “where” (“ở đâu“), then it usually signifies a negative sentence.

Here are some examples:

Hôm qua

bão

to,

máy bay

cất cánh

được đâu.

Yesterday

storm

big,

airplane

takes off

not possible

Hôm qua bão to, máy bay có cất cánh được đâu – Yesterday there was a big storm. The airplane couldn’t take off.

Ăn

nhiều

như thế

không

giảm

cân

được đâu

Eat

so much

like that

decrease

kilogram

not possible

Ăn nhiều như thế không giảm cân được đâu – (If you) eat so much like that, it’s not possible to lose weight (giảm cân).

Romeo

quên

được

Juliet

đâu

not

forget

possible

Romeo có quên được Juliet đâu – Romeo couldn’t forget Juliet

sợ

ma

quá

ngủ

được đâu

He/she

scared of

ghost

too much

sleep

not possible

Nó sợ ma quá có ngủ được đâu – He/she is so afraid of ghost that he/she wasn’t able to sleep.

PS:

(1) if you have good eyesight, you’ve probably spotted “xí nghiệp thoát nước số 4” on the yellow sign. It means “water drainage facility No. 4”

xí nghiệp

thoát

nước

số 4

facility, factory

escape

water

No. 4

(2) to be on a diet is “ăn kiêng“. Ex: em đang ăn kiêng để giảm cân (I’m on a diet in order to lose weight).

It’s up to You!

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… and today we’ll learn how to say “It’s up to you!” in Vietnamese! You have no excuse any more 🙂

The word to remember is tùy, which means “depending on” or “up to …”

Tùy + person –> up to that person

Chúng mình ăn bây giờ? Tùy anh, ăn gì cũng được
We eat what now? Up to you, eat anything will do

(friends discussing what food to order) What should we eat (now)? Up to you, anything will do.

Tùy + noun –> depend on that choice / selection

Phở ngon hay dở tùy tiệm (ăn)
Noodle tasty or bad depends on the restaurant
Whether phở is good or bad is up to the restaurant

Tùy ý literally means “up to your liking / opinion”

Em muốn mua tùy ý
You want buy anything up to you
You can buy anything you like (you just won a lottery, apparently :))
Hôm nào chúng ta đi pic nic? Còn tùy xem thời tiết thế nào
Which day we go picnic? Still depend watch weather how
When do we go picnic? Depends on what the weather is like

Go ahead, jump off the cliff!

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Use cứ when you want to say “go ahead (and do something)” in Vietnamese. It is placed before the verb: cứ + verb.

Nếu anh cần máy tính thì cứ mượn nhé!
If you need computer then go ahead borrow

If you need a computer, (feel free to) go ahead and borrow (mine).

Em cứ ăn cơm trước đi!
You go ahead eat rice before

You go ahead and eat (before me)!

Anh cứ đi ngủ đi!
You (male) go ahead go sleep

You go ahead and sleep.

Chúng tôi cứ đi xem căn hộ được không?
We go ahead go see apartment ok?

Is it ok if we go ahead and take a look at the apartment?

Mọi người cứ đi vào trong nhà đã!
Everyone go ahead go into inside house first!
Everyone, go ahead and get inside the house first! (suppose a group of friends go to visit a friend’s place but not everyone is there yet, the house’s owner may say this to invite everyone inside and don’t have to wait for the last person to show up)

————–

cứ việc is similar, but it implies that since something is so obvious, you should just go ahead and do it.

Đã trả tiền nhà rồi thì cứ việc dọn vào
Did pay money house already then go ahead move in

If you paid the rent already, then go ahead and move in.

————–

Other grammar structures used in this lesson:

nhé and đi are placed at the end of a sentence to make a command. You can review here.

đã is used at the end of a sentence to say that you must do something fist, before doing something else. You can review here.

Nếu… thì means “If… then…” You can review here.

rồi means “already.” You can review here.

được không? means “is it okay (to do something)?”. The review is here.

should have, instead of – đáng lẽ

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Đáng lẽ is a little bit tricky to explain (and that’s why it’s intermediate level :))
It means “should have” or “instead of” with the implication that the thing that should have happened didn’t happen.
Đáng lẽ + subject (+ phải) + verb + object
Đáng lẽ + sentence 1, nhưng + sentence 2
Phải means “must” or “have to”
Nhưng means “but”
Đáng lẽ đôi giày này giá $50 nhưng hạ giá còn $25
Should pair shoes this price $50 but reduce price remain $25

This pair of shoes should have cost $50, but reduced price (sale) is only $25

Đáng lẽ giờ này Lan nhà nhưng hôm nay Lan đi chơi
Should hour this Lan at home but today Lan go play

Lan should have been at home at this hour, but today Lan goes out.

Đáng lẽ anh phải tắt máy điều hòa nhưng anh quên mất
Should he have to turn off machine air conditioning but he forgot

He should have turned off the A/C but he forgot.

Đáng lẽ anh không nên mua xe hơi không chỗ đậu xe
you (male) not should buy car because not have place park car

You should not have bought a car because there’s no parking.
Nên means “should” or “ought”

46 – must do something first – đã

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In a previous lesson, you can use đã + verb to indicate the past tense and phải + verb to say “have to do something”.
In this lesson, we’ll learn how to say that you must do something first (before doing something else) with … phải…. đã
Subject (+ phải) + verb (+ object) + đã
It is usually used together with nhưng (but)

Tôi muốn đi ăn tối bây giờ nhưng tôi phải làm xong việc đã
I want go eat evening now but I must work finish job first

I want to go get dinner now, but I have to finish work first.

Trước khi xin visa bạn phải khám sức khỏe đã
Before ask for visa you have to examine health first

Before applying for a visa, you need a health exam first.

Anh đi chèo thuyền không?
You (male) go row boat ?
Có, nhưng đợi anh đi mua nước đã
Yes, but wait I (male) go buy water first

Are you going rowing? Yes, but wait. I (need to) go buy water first.

Khoan đã! and Đợi đã! means “Wait!”
Từ từ! means “slow down!” or “hold on”
You will usually hear these phrases along with phải… đã…

Chúng ta đi bơi đi!
We go swim let’s
Từ từ, để anh khóa xe đã
Hold on allow I (male) lock car first

Let’s go swimming!
Hold on, let me lock the car first!