Just a little bit – một chút thôi
If you are traveling and shopping in Vietnam, chances are you will be offered things like copious amounts of alcohol, tea, heaps of fruit, and other items.
In these travel-offerings, a key expression you should know is một chút thôi, which means “a little bit”, or, more literally “just one bit”.
You can also just say một chút, which is a little unnatural, but will be understood (the thôi is a little hard to pronounce — see below).
Pronunciation of “một chút thôi” – A little bit
- một – like mut! with a short down-tone. Means “one”.
- chút – like choot? with an up-tone. Means a “bit” or a small piece.
- thôi – like toy, but a heavy aspirated “huh” sound after the letter t.
In the latter case, notice that in Vietnamese you must articulate the “h” sound separately from the “t”. This is unlike English, where th (as in the or thanks) is a separate phoneme from either t or h (technically it is called the voice/less dental frictive, aka θ). There is no θ-sound in Vietnamese. So, when you read th as in thôi, you must articulate both the t and the h phonetically.
“Want some rice-wine?” – “Just a little bit”
A very common scenario is that you are invited to go drinking, especially as a man. Vietnamese men like to drink socially, and the social expectation is for you to drink as much as them, and with equal gusto as the host – to not drink heartily is considered rude in Vietnam.
So, to avoid awkward situations where you accidentally insult someone, you should learn to say “một chút thôi” (just a little bit) when you are offered a drink (assuming you aren’t eager to spend 3 hours drinking)
Example scenario: Offered Drinks in Vietnam
- Uống rượu không? – Do you want alcohol?
- Một chút thôi – Just a little bit.
Alternatively, you can deflect by saying “later”, after they will probably forget you, allowing you to escape:
- Bạn có muốn uống rượu không? – Do you want to drink some alcohol?
- Lát nữa – Later
- Tôi sẽ uống sau – I’ll drink later
Alternatively, drunk-driving laws are being more strictly enforced in major Vietnamese cities, allowing you to use the designated driver excuse:
- Không, Tôi ko uống. Tôi phải lái xe. – No, i can’t. I have to drive.
Alternatively, if you love to drink, then hanging-out with a group of drinking Vietnamese dudes will be a blast for your liver — just remember to drink enthusiastically. Instead of learning how to say “no”, learn how to say Cheers! in Vietnamese (read more here):
- một, hai, ba, dô! – one, two, three, go!
How to say “a little more” in Vietnamese
The opposite of một chút thôi is thêm chút nữa, which mean a little more.
Literally, thêm chút nữa means “more a little.”