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Unlike Western languages, Vietnamese doesn't change the ending of the verb (that is, verbs don't conjugate) to express when the statement occurs (the statement's tense). Instead, Vietnamese relies on context to express tense. So, where textbooks for other languages will need to spend chapters and chapters, or pages and pages, to teach you how to change tense, we'll teach you in one page! See what we mean by simple?

Tense words[edit]

One way to do this is to add certain words either before the verb itself, or at the end of the sentence, or both:

Present tense[edit]

As in most languages, you don't have to do anything special for the present tense – no words expressing tense need to be added. Example:

Tôi học
I study

Present progressive tense[edit]

Place đang in front of the verb. Example:

Tôi đang học
I am studying

Past tense[edit]

Either place đã in front of the verb, or place rồi at the end of the sentence. You can use both, and it often sounds better when you do use both, but it's not necessary, because both words mean "already." Example:

Anh đã học
He already studied

can also be written as:

Anh học rồi
He studied already

Whereas many other languages have two past tenses – the preterite and imperfect past – Vietnamese has only one.

Future tense[edit]

Place sẽ (will, shall, is about to, plans to) in front of the verb. Example:

Anh sẽ học
He will study

Time words[edit]

There is another, more natural way of expressing tense. Just use words that express time in the sentence:

Present tense[edit]

Again, you don't have to do anything special here. But sometimes it's helpful to add hôm nay (today) at the beginning or end of the sentence, just to clear things up.

Present progressive tense[edit]

Place words like bây giờ (now) or phrases like ngay bây giờ (right now) at the beginning or end of the sentence.

Past tense[edit]

Place words like hôm qua (yesterday) at the beginning or end of the sentence, or words like mới (recently) right before the verb. You can do both, actually.

Future tense[edit]

Place words like ngày mai (tomorrow) at the beginning or end of the sentence.


Although other methods of expressing tense also rely on context in the sentence, another way to express tense has to do with common sense. For example, in the sentence, . . .

(More to come.)