Verbs in Vietnamese
In Vietnamese, động từ translate to verbs. It literally means "motion-words".
Verbs in the Vietnamese language are not bound to time. In other words, you can say a verb in a sentence without binding it to the past, present, or future. That might sounds confusing if your native language has time built into the verb. But trust me, it's really simple. Let's look at an example of ăn (to eat) in its affirmative form.
Kim ăn bánh mì. (Kim eats/ate/will eat bread.)
In the example above, the verb ăn alone does not give any information about which timeframe the bread gets eaten by Kim. So if the verb appears the same in all tenses, then how do I know which timeframe the speaker is referring to? Well, good point. You don't. And it's OK. You can always assume that without context, it's most likely the present tense. :-)
However, Vietnamese speakers often use other words to give more context to the timeframe to indicate when the action happens. Observe the following examples.
Hôm nay, Kim ăn bánh mì. (Today, Kim eats bread.) Hôm qua, Kim ăn phở. (Yesterday, Kim ate pho.) Ngày mai, Kim ăn bún bò Huế. (Tomorrow, Kim will eat bun bo Hue.)
As you can see, depending on the context, the verb will have its tense in the present, past, or future. The verb ăn itself never changes its form.
In fact, Vietnamese does not have any conjugation!
No conjugation for verbs, no inflection for nouns, no gendered changing adjectives, etc. You get the point. It's all quite simple really. Now, that's not to say that Vietnamese does not have ways to express different tenses, but we can dive deeper into this topic in other lessons.
While I have your attention on verbs, let's take a look at how to form negative sentences with verbs. You can do so by adding không in front of the verb.
Tôi không biết. (I do not know.) Minh không ăn thịt bò. (Minh does not eat beef.) Họ không hiểu. (They do not understand.)
And for forming yes-no questions with verbs, you can just move không to the end of the sentence.
Bạn biết không? (Do you know?) Minh ăn thịt bò không? (Does Minh eat beef?) Họ hiểu không? (Do they understand?)
Sometimes, natives add có in front of verbs and không at the end of the sentence. The meaning is the same. It just sounds more natural.
Mẹ có hiểu không? (Do you understand [mom]?) Chị ấy có uống bia không? (Does she drink beer?) Họ có ăn bánh mì không? (Do they eat bread?)
And to answer the questions, you can just use the verb in its affirmative form.
Chị ấy có uống bia không? (Does she drink beer?) Chị ấy uống. (She does [drink].) Minh ăn thịt bò không? (Does Minh eat beef?) Minh ăn. (He does [drink].)
Easy, right! Now that you know how Vietnamese verbs work, I challenge you to list 10 Vietnamese verbs that you know in the comment below. Good luck practicing.