So the word for "love" in Vietnamese is "yêu". That doesn't change. But the "I" and the "you" change all the time in a constant flow of relationship exchange and community spirit of familial understanding. (confused yet??)
To try to say "I love you", I might say "em yêu anh" (I love you) if I was talking to Greg but if I was talking to my grandmother I would be a cháu not an em and she would be a bà not an anh. So "I love you" would be "Cháu yêu bà". Of course I might want to say that to my grandchildren, at which I'd be the bà and they would be the cháu. So this time "I love You" would look like: Bà yêu cháu. So at any given point in time for any kind of conversation, I might be a chị or a cô or a bà or a cháu, (sister, older aunt, grandparent, or grandchild) and I might be speaking to an em, or a cháu or a con or an ông (sister, grandchild, child or a grandfather)! And since everyone here feels related to each other, everyone uses family terms, even if there is no relation. It's the polite thing to do!
I haven't memorized this chart yet.....a list of all the possible pronouns....
|Term||Reciprocal||Literal meaning||Non-kinship usage||Note|
|cha||con||father||a priest||Many other terms are used, depending on the dialect: ba, bố, tía, thầy|
|mẹ||con||mother||mẹ is the Northern form, má is used in the South. Many other terms are used, depending on the dialect: u, bầm, mạ|
|anh||em||older brother||an older man of the same generation; the man in a romantic relationship; a man (formal use)||Can be used to address any male regardless of status. e.g. By military personnel to those of lower ranks.|
|chị||em||older sister||an older woman of the same generation; a woman (formal use)|
|em||anh or chị||younger sibling||a younger person of the same generation; a child; the woman in a romantic relationship|
|con||cha, mẹ, bà, etc.||biological child or grandchild||a young child; a person at least one generation younger|
|cháu||ông, bà, bác, chú, etc.||grandchild; niece; nephew; cousin of junior generations||a young child; a person at least one generation younger|
|ông||cháu or con||grandfather||a middle-aged man||paternal and maternal grandfathers are differentiated as ông nội (paternal grandfather) and ông ngoại (maternal grandfather), respectively|
|bà||cháu or con||grandmother||a middle-aged (married) woman||paternal and maternal grandmothers are differentiated as bà nội (paternal grandmother) and bà ngoại (maternal grandmother), respectively|
|cô||cháu||father's sister||a female teacher, an older woman as old as one's father, a young (usually unmarried) woman (formal)||in some dialects, literal meaning is restricted to father's younger sister|
|chú||cháu||father's younger brother||an older man as old as one's father, a slightly younger man (formal)||in some dialects, literal meaning is restricted to father's younger brother|
|bác||cháu||a parent's older sibling; his/her spouse||a person older than one's parents||in some dialects, can also refer to father's elder brother or sister as well as mother's elder brother or sister|
|dì||cháu||mother's sister, stepmother||a woman as old as one's mother,||in some dialects, literal meaning is restricted to mother's younger sister|
|cậu||cháu||mother's brother||a man as old as one's mother, a close friend (Northern variety)||in some dialects, literal meaning is restricted to mother's younger brother|
|mợ||cháu||cậu's wife||in some dialects, used by the husband to refer to his wife, children to refer to mother, or parents-in-law to refer to a daughter-in-law|
|dượng||cháu||the husband of cô or dì, stepfather|
|cụ/cố||cháu||great-grandparent||a very old person|
|họ||clan||they||third person plural for a group of people|
It's just downright exhausting!
Fortunately, a smile and a "Xin Chào" (hello) seem to work for nearly everyone - and we end up with lots of happy faces in spite of our communicative limitations!