Paying compliments to a woman goes a long way in most societies — and Vietnam is no different. Whether you are flirting, or just want to learn the grammar pertaining to compliments, here are 6 phrases that make women smile.
Do they work? — yes and no. They work in the sense that most women really like a well-timed surprising compliment about their looks and style (and, therefore, their identity). But, don’t think that these simple compliments will give you any immediate reward as pick-up lines — Vietnamese women like to make their male suitors work hard for their first date (as we discuss in our article here).
In any case, these compliments/pick-up lines are great lessons in Vietnamese grammar and culture…
1) How to say “You have a nice dress” in Vietnamese?
Em có chiếc váy đẹp quá
Young Vietnamese women dress very casually. If a woman wears a dress, it is somewhat of a special occasion, so take the time to pay them a compliment.
Em có chiếc váy đẹp quá You have [pronoun] dress beautiful very
Here, notice that we are using the pronoun em, which is appropriate when you are speaking to a female who is equal-or-slightly-younger than you. If you want to compliment a dude, you should use the slightly-older masculine pronoun Anh. Read more about the sex-specific and age-specific nature of pronouns Em and Anh in their respective articles.
Notice also that, in Vietnamese, the ordering of adjectives (like đẹp/beautiful) and modifiers (like quá/very) are such that the modifier follows the adjective. However, this is not a universal rule — which is the reverse of English.
Finally, notice the compound-nature for dress (chiếc váy). The specific word for dress is váy, but the noun the requires a pronoun (chiếc) in-front of it. This is somewhat like “piece of” or “item of” or “bunch of” — such words don’t make sense when directly translated into English, but they are important.
The pronoun chiếc is the most common for inanimate objects. But, there is no rule to deduce which nouns use chiếc and which use other pronouns like mái — you just need to memorize it! However, you can use chiếc for ~90% of nouns, and people will understand you — even though it is not correct.
2) “You have beautiful eyes” in Vietnamese
Em có đôi mắt đẹp quá
Em có (đôi mắt) đẹp quá You have (pair of eyes) beautiful very
Lots of Vietnamese objects must be referred to as a pair of something, instead of referring to them simply as a plural noun (“eyes”). This is also true for “pair of ears” (đôi tai), “pair of shoulders” (đôi vai), “pair of feet” (đôi chân), etc, even though the literal translation sounds awkward in English.
3) How to say “I like your hair” in Vietnamese?
Anh thích mái tóc của em
Anh thích mái tóc của em I like [pronoun] hair of you
Notice that the Vietnamese word for “hair” is a compound word mái tóc. The specific word for hair is tóc, and the pronoun mái can’t be directly translated in English — you just need to memorize it.
Notice also the word for “your” is của em (literally of you), is specifically for younger women. In keeping with Vietnamese word-ordering, this is placed after the noun instead of before the noun as in English (i.e., “thing your” vs “your thing”). This ordering is an example of a more general rule in Vietnamese that adjectives should follow nouns (“dress red” instead of “red dress”).
4) How to ask a Vietnamese woman out to dinner?
Em có muốn dùng bữa tối với anh không? – Do you want to go to dinner?
Em có muốn dùng bữa tối với anh không? You have want eat evening meal with me [question?]
A funny difference between English and Vietnamese is that, unlike English, you must explicitly ask whether she wants to eat dinner with you, and not just passively imply it, as in English. You can’t say “do you want to eat?” without adding “with me”.
RELATED: Dating culture in Vietnamese
Adding không (“no”) at the end of a declarative statement transforms the sentence into a question.
Notice that dùng is pronounced like zoo-ung, with a down-tone.
5) “Where did you get those earrings?” in Vietnamese
Em mua khuyên tai ở đâu đấy?
Em mua khuyên tai ở đâu đấy? You buy jewelry ear where?
This expression is a good lesson about the loose-nature of present and past tenses in Vietnamese, especially as they pertain to questions. In this case, “where did you buy…” and “where do you buy…” have the same written form (Em mua). It is not necessarily the case that the past/present tenses have the same written-form in Vietnamese, but they often do, especially when asking questions.
Notice also that the word for earrings is literally “jewelry ear” (khuyên tai). Vietnamese word-ordering places the adjective/descriptor (ear) after the noun (jewelry).
Finally, notice that the question-word for where (ở đâu đấy?) is placed at the end of the sentence instead of at the beginning, like in English.
6) How to compliment a women’s purse in Vietnamese
Túi xách xinh quá; em thật là phong cách – Nice purse! I like your style
Túi xách xinh quá; em thật là phong cách (purse ..) nice very; you (are ..) styl(ish) very
This expression is a good lesson in how Vietnamese nouns, adverbs and adjectives are often interchangeable, unlike in English. For example, consider style (noun) vs stylish (adverb): it is the same word for both in Vietnamese (phong). So, to say “you are stylish” is written the same as “you are style”.
BONUS: How to say “Hello Beautiful” in Vietnamese?
Chào người đẹp – hello beautiful/ gorgeous/ cutie
Unlike certain Latin-languages (e.g., Italian), it is not common to greet women in Vietnam with “Chào người đẹp” (hello beautiful!).
However, why not give it a whirl and see what happens! More likely you will be laughed at.
We have a whole article dedicated to all the varied ways to say beautiful/handsome/sexy — read more here.
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