Numbers in Vietnamese, counting 1 to 1 billion

Numbers in Vietnamese: How to Count 1 to 1 Billion

Perhaps the most important vocabulary to know as a foreigner in Vietnam is the numbers: shopping will be the core of most things you do as a tourist. You can’t eat unless you know how to pay!

In particular, it is important to know the units that are orders of magnitude of 10, i.e. 10 (mười), 100 (trăm), 1000 (nghìn), and above. The core integers one to nine are only somewhat important, because Vietnamese shopkeepers are very effective at communicating integers with fingers, whereupon, you can infer whether they mean 20,000 or 200,000 by context. In other words, by holding up a “two” (hai) can mean 20,000 (hai mươi nghìn) or 200,000 (hai trăm nghìn), but it should be obvious.

For example, if you asking how much a banh mi costs, and the waiter holds-up three fingers, they mean 30,000 VND (~$1.5 USD). If you are asking how much a motor-bike costs to rent for a day, and the shop-keeping holds up 2 fingers, they mean 200,000 VND (~$9 USD). This will become natural as you spend more time in Vietnam.

Basic Numbers in Vietnamese, 1 to 1 Billion

Numbers are fairly easy in Vietnam. The Vietnamese use common arabic numerals, like in the West. The ordering of numbers is similar to English (i.e., nothing funky like in French). For example, 160 reads as một trăm sáu mươi: which literally means “one hundred six ten”.

· 1 – một – mut, with a down-tone

· 2 – hai – like Hi!

· 3 – ba – like a sheep

· 4 – bốn – like “James Bond?” with an upward pitch

· 5 – năm – like num

· 6 – sáu – like sao as in Sao? Paulo, with an upward pitch

· 7 – bảy – like Bye with a slight downward then upward pitch

· 8 – tám – like tam with an upward pitch

· 9 – chín – like chin with an upward pitch

· 10 – mười – like moi with a downward pitch

· 20 – hai mươi

· 30 – ba mươi

· 40 – bốn mươi

· 50 – năm mươi

· 100 – một trăm, like cham

· 1,000 – một nghìn, like nyin with a downward tone

· 10,000 – mười nghìn

· 100,000 – một trăm nghìn

· 1,000,000 – một triệu, like chew with a sharp down-tone

· 1,000,000,000 – một tỷ, like tea

Units of 100 in Vietnamese

· 100 – một trăm, like cham

The unit for 100 in Vietnamse is called trăm. It is pronunced like “cham” (the tr make a ch sound in Vietnamese). To count 200, 300, 400, … just places the integer before the “trăm”. For example, two-hundred is “hai trăm”.

This unit is important for many day-to-day monetary transactions: for example, renting motor-bikes or paying for a cheap hotel — these are examples of things that cost 100,000 to 900,000 VND. When communicating such prices, Vietnamese people usually drop the last three zeros, and just say “một trăm” (one-hundred) for 100k VND, or “ba trăm” (three-hundred) for 300k VND, i.e., the extra 000 are implied from context.

How to say 1000 in Vietnamese?

· 1,000 – một nghìn, like nyin with a downward tone

The Vietnamese word for one-thousand is nghìn. It is pronounced ŋhin with a down-tone (learn more about tones here).

Most English-speakers will approximate the ng-sound (technically ŋ) like nyuh. This is incorrect and may cause some confusion.

Therefore, to correctly pronounce nghìn, one must study the ng-sound or ŋ (technically called the voiced velar nasal — learn more here, where we have a whole article dedicated to this weird sound). In short, ng is the same sound that occurs in words like running, or talking. If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that such sounds are not just a nyuh, but really deserve their own unique character (i.e. the ŋ).

Ten-thousand in Vietnamese

· 10,000 – mười nghìn

The formal way to say ten-thousand in Vietnamese is mười nghìn (literally ten thousand). 20,000 would be “hai mươi nghìn”.

However, the more common and casual way to refer to 10,000 is một cành which literally means “one branch”. A cành is a funny unit that means ten-thousand. It is kind of similar to American’s one-dollar slag “buck” or Canadian’s slag “toonie”.

10,000 VND is the generally smallest denomination for most items (approximately 50 cents).

100,000 in Vietnamese

· 100,000 – một trăm nghìn

One-hundred thousand in Vietnamese is simply một trăm nghìn, literally one hundred thousand.

However, a more common unit is lit (as a truncated form of “litre”). Are they talking about grams-of-water? Yes and no: “lit” is derived from litre, but it is a colloquial unit for 100,000.

1 Million in Vietnamese

· 1,000,000 – một triệu, like cheeow

1,000,000 is called “một triệu” in Vietnamese. Triệu is pronunced like “chew” with a low deep down-tone.

However, the more-common slang word for 1 million is “củ”, which literally means “tuber” (like a potato). “Give me a potato!” means give me 1 million, in Vietnamese.

How to say “Billion” in Vietnamese (109)

· 1,000,000,000 – một tỷ, like tea

The Vietnamese word for billion is tỷ, pronounced like “tea”. A billion in Vietnamese is like the American billion with nine zeros (109) and not like the UK billion.

Unless you are investing in Vietnamese real estate, you are unlikely to see items priced in billions. A typical three bedroom home in Hanoi may cost approximately 4 Billion VND (~170,000 USD).

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