Vietnamese grammar lesson: plurals
Vietnamese has several ways of indicating plurals. The two most common are the indefinite plurals: “các” and “những”. They are both used before the noun.
“Các” indicates that there is more than one of a thing. For example, “book” is “sách”. The word “books” would be “các sách” in the sentence “I have books in my house.”
“Những” indicates more than one but less than all. This word is used to refer to one group of things which are part of a larger group. For example, the word “books” would be “những sách” in the sentence “I have read the books on the shelf but I haven’t read the books on the table yet”.
Another way to refer to plurals is to simply use the number of items: “two books” would simply be “hai sách” or “2 sách”. Instead of a number, a word that indicates a less specific amount can be used, such as the following:
(Một) vài sách: some books, a few (roughly 2 or 3) books
Nhiều sách: many books
Một số sách: a number of books
Mấy sách: several (less than 10) books
(Số) ít sách: few books, a small number of books
The word “những” can also be combined with a specific number to indicate that the number is large. In this way, it is like the opposite of “chỉ” (“only”) used to indicate that a number is small. For example:
“20 đô” is “twenty dollars”.
“chỉ 20 đô” is “only twenty dollars” meaning “20 dollars is cheap”.
“những 20 đô” is “twenty dollars” meaning “20 dollars is expensive”.