Making and Accepting an Invitation in Vietnamese and English
Lê Thị Kim Ngọc
HCMC University of Pedagogy
Making and Accepting invitation
Everyone knows the importance of Making and Accepting an Invitation in our daily life. They are speech acts which are used very often in communication. People can use it in both spoken and written forms, in formal and informal relationship. In our life we have to communicate and live with other people so no one can never do, in some cases, make and accept an invitation. For instance, we invite a friend to a birthday party, a wedding celebration or we accept an invitation to a dinner or a movie and so on. We do all to make our relationship closer and better. In order to get this goal we’d better know how to make and accept an invitation suitably and cleverly. In this contrastive analysis, I’ve collected some patterns of making and accepting an invitation in English and Vietnamese. They are kinds of structures related to this aspect.
This paper contains three main parts: the first part, the second part and the last part.
The first part comprises the definition of making an invitation, the way people make an invitation and the similarities and differences of making an invitation in English and Vietnamese.
In the second part, we talk about accepting an invitation in two languages mentioned above. This part includes the definition, the structures of an acceptance to an invitation and the contrast between the English and Vietnamese’s actions of acceptance.
For the last part, we discuss some implications for language teaching and learning concerned the speech acts of making and accepting an invitation in English and Vietnamese.
Making an invitation
Before we get to know the definition of the phrase ‘Making an invitation’, we first do through the meaning of the verb ‘invite’ and the noun ‘invitation’.
To ‘invite’, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, means ‘to ask somebody to come to a social event’ or ‘to ask somebody formally to go somewhere or do something’.
An ‘invitation’ is ‘a spoken or written request to somebody to do something or to go somewhere’, ‘the act of inviting somebody or of being invited’, or ‘a card or piece of paper that you use to invite somebody to something’.
Making an invitation in English
After the definitions above, we can have the meaning of the phrase ‘making an invitation’ in English. It is the act of making a spoken or written request to somebody to go somewhere or do something.
English people usually make an invitation directly. That means the inviters have a tendency to give the invited people the direct content of the invitation. For this function, English invitation has some patterns as basic forms including directive sentence, performative sentence, some kinds of questions and the sentence with ‘if’.
2.1. Directive sentence
There are three basic forms of directive sentence. They are directive sentence, directive sentence with ‘let’s’ and directive sentence with ‘please’.
When people use directive sentence to make an invitation, that sentence is as same as a request or an order, people tend to use this form of invitation to invite close friends or somebody who has a very close relationship with the inviter. Besides, this directive sentence is usually used in spoken or in very short note. Here are some examples:
“Come and see me tomorrow.”
“Hey, come here and have a drink.”
“Just sit down and I’ll bring you a cup of coffee.”
Directive sentence with ‘let’s’
“Let’s have a cigarette.” ( Jones, 22)
This form of invitation is often used in close friendship. It also appears in some cases that a person who has higher status inviting a lower status person.
“Let’s brake for lunch.”
“Let’s cheer for the winner.”
Directive sentence with ‘please’
In formal situations we can use a sentence with ‘please’ as a polite way to make an invitation. For example:
“Please be our guests for dinner on Saturday.” (J. Zwier and Hughes, 46)
As for Cao Xuân Hạo (224), a performative sentence is considered as a declarative sentence. When somebody uses a performative word or expression, they are also doing something in their saying. For making an invitation, the performative sentence in English usually has the verb ‘invite’.
“After the movie, I’d like to invite you back for a drink.”
To make an invitation, we can use the performative sentence with the phrase ‘would like to invite’ as in the previous example. Moreover we can use another phrase for this type of inviting. It is ‘want to invite’.
“Are you free on Sunday? I want to invite you to go picnic with us.”
We have three types of questions which can be used for making an invitation in English. They are Yes/No question, Wh-question and tag question.
Yes/No question is used to make an invitation politely. For this type of invitation, people often first mention the event then ask the person to come (J.Zwier and Hughes, 46). Let’s have a look at these following examples:
“We’re having a barbecue on Saturday. Would you like to come?”
“I’m having a few people over tonight. Do you think you’d like to join us?”
More informal situations:
“I am going to hold a birthday party at home on Friday evening. Are you free?”
“There’s a barbecue this weekend. Can you make it?”
According to J. Zwier and Hughes (46), we use some kinds of Wh-questions such as ‘how about’ or ‘how would you like’ to make an invitation in informal situations. Therefore, this kind of inviting is used commonly and regularly in close relationship. It’s used in highest frequency in order to increase friendliness.
“How about coming over for a barbecue on Sunday?”
“How would you like to come over for dinner tonight?”
Besides these two forms we often use question beginning with ‘why don’t you’. This is also an informal way to make an invitation.
“Why don’t you come on holiday with us?” (Le, 59)
People can use a tag question to make an invitation but it is quite uncommon. Actually, a tag question is often used when the inviter want to confirm or remind the invited people or their previous invitation.
We usually use ‘if’ in conditional sentences but in this case we use ‘if’ to make a polite invitation. This kind of invitation can be used to make the situation more formal and to make the invitation more polite.
“We would be delighted if you could join us for dinner on Saturday.” (J. Zwier and Hughes, 46)
Making an invitation in Vietnamese
In general, Vietnamese people often invite somebody directly. They issue an invitation to a particular person who they want to invite. This can help the invited person to get the information in the invitation easily. Almost Vietnamese are very interested in communicating. This characteristic is expressed in the acts of visiting each other and being hospital or welcoming their guests. In Vietnam, there are two kinds of invitation. They are direct and indirect invitation. Additionally, Vietnamese people usually use three kinds of sentences including performative sentence, imperative sentence and interrogative sentence to make an invitation.
3.1. Direct invitation
For making a direct invitation, Vietnamese people mainly use the performative sentences.
3.1.1. Form 1: Performative sentence with verb phrase ‘Mời/ Xin mời’
Structure: (Subject) + Mời/ Xin mời + (Object) + (content of the invitation)
Following are some illustrations in various situations:
- Full sentences
“Con mời thầy u xơi cơm!”
“Cháu mời chú xơi nước!”
“Mời bác sang chơi!”
“Bác mời cơm!”
“Xin mời tất cả hãy nâng cốc!”
Invisible subject and object
“Mời, mời cầm đũa!”
Only verb phrase ‘Mời/ Xin mời’
Besides the verb phrase ‘Mời/ Xin mời’, to be more polite, Vietnamese people add more words such as ‘Trân trọng’ and ‘Kính’ before the verb phrase above.
“Trân trọng kính mời anh, chị đến dự tiệc chung vui cùng gia đình chúng tôi tại nhà hàng Đông Phương.”
This kind of invitation is usually written form.
3.1.2. Form 2: Performative sentence with ‘Mời/ Xin mời’ and some words expressing modality such as ‘xơi, chơi, cứ, tạm, dạ, vâng, ạ, thưa, cứ’.
“Mời bác ngồi chơi!”
“Mời chú cứ vào!” (emphasis)
“Mời hai ông xơi tạm chén nước nguội!” (modesty)
“Mời anh xơi thuốc!” (Southern language)
“Con mời bác dùng cơm ạ!” (respect)
3.1.3. Form 3: Like English, Vietnamese also first mention the event and then invite somebody.
“Nếu em không bận, anh mời em đến chơi, chả có việc gì!”
“Tiện bữa, mời anh ở lại xơi cơm!”
“Thầy cháu vừa về, mời chú sang chơi!”
3.1.4. Form 4: Performative sentence with verb phrase ‘Rước/ Xin rước’
Although Vietnamese people rarely use this phrase today, it is considered as a very polite and respectful way to invite someone who has high social position.
“Vâng, xin rước các cụ!”
“Rước cụ lại nhà ông chánh ngồi chơi ạ!”
“Xin rước hai vị quan huyện vào xem hát ạ!”
3.2. Indirect invitation
In indirect invitation, Vietnamese don’t use the verb phrases ‘Mời/ Xin mời’ and ‘Rước/ Xin rước’.
3.2.1. Imperative sentence
Without the verb phrases ‘Mời/ Xin mời’ and ‘Rước/ Xin rước’, the speech act of Vietnamese invitation has the same structure as a request or a suggestion. The listeners can understand that it is an invitation only when they are put in a particular context. An indirect invitation is used in a situation that people have a very close relationship such as family members and close friends. Here are some instances:
“Em uống nước đi!”
“A, mình đang định chiều nay đến nhà cậu. Hay lắm, vào trong này đi!”
“Bác vào hàng em đã nào!”
“Hút thuốc, Tú!”
“Anh ở lại, tôi vừa pha một ấm trà ngon.”
3.2.2. Interrogative sentence
In order to make an indirect invitation, Vietnamese people also use interrogative sentences to show their politeness. In these interrogative sentences, the word ‘có thể’ is frequently used.
“Chiều mai, cô có thể đi ăn với tôi được không?”
“Tối nay anh có thể đến dùng cơm với gia đình chúng tôi không?”
Within the paper, I would like to discuss some contrasts between making an invitation in English and Vietnamese.
The first similarity is that both English and Vietnamese have the verb phrases that contain the invitation meaning or idea. They are ‘invite’ in English and ‘Mời/ Xin mời’ in Vietnamese. These phrases are all used in direct invitation and in performative sentence. Besides, the phrase ‘Mời/ Xin mời’ does not only exist in performative sentence but also in interrogative sentence “tôi có thể mời cô nhảy một bài được không?”. However, though ‘invite’ and ‘Mời/ xin mời’ have the same meaning in each language, they have different function and usage. For example, the verb ‘Mời’ can stand alone regularly in a sentence “Mời vào!” whereas the verb ‘invite’ usually exist after ‘I would like to’ or ‘I want to’.
“After the meeting, I’d like to invite you to come to my palace.”
In addition, in this case the sentence with the verb ‘invite’ shows more formality and politeness than the sentence with the verb ‘Mời’
Secondly, the similarity between making an invitation in English and Vietnamese is that the verb phrases ‘Mời/ Xin mời’ and ‘invite’ don’t have to appear in an invitation.
“Come and have a cup of coffee with me.”
“Lại đây uống một ly cà phê với bố nào!”
Lastly, an invitation can be a short sentence in both English and Vietnamese. However, the elements which can be reduced in each language are different. In English, subject, verb and object are some important and necessary elements. In stead of subject, the verb ‘Mời’ is considered as an important element in Vietnamese because of its highest frequency.
Accepting an invitation
Like part I in this paper, to understand the meaning of the phrase ‘accepting an invitation’, we will first have a look at the meaning of the verb ‘accept’. As for the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, to ‘accept’ means ‘to take willingly something that is offered, to say ‘yes’ to an offer, invitation, etc.’ (7). Thus ‘accepting an invitation’ means saying yes to an invitation or showing one’s agreement to an invitation.
Accepting an invitation in English
In English people usually use an expression of agreement to accept an invitation. They don’t answer the invitation directly such as “I accept your invitation” but they say something before they start to answer the inviter. There are some expressions of agreement that are used most frequently. They are declarative sentence, exclamatory sentence and some other expressions to show certainty to do something.
2.1. Declarative sentence
To give agreement to an invitation immediately, English people often use declarative sentences. These kinds of sentences also show that the invited person is very happy to be invited and to accept the invitation. For example:
These are some sentences illustrating the use of exclamatory for accepting an invitation.
2.3. Other expressions
Besides the sentences above, we have some expressions of certainty such as ‘sure’, ‘why not?’, ‘you bet’, ‘you certainly can’ and so on to accept an invitation. These expressions can make the inviter feel more confident and comfortable.
Moreover, after accepting an invitation, we can ask a question about the details. This action gives the inviter the idea that the invited person is very eager and interested in the event.
“I’d love to. What time?”
“Sure. What should I bring?”
“Great! Do you need any help?” (J.Zwier and Hughes, 46)
Accepting an invitation in Vietnamese
Similar to English, in Vietnam, people don’t usually answer to an invitation directly. Here are some Vietnamese common forms of accepting an invitation.
3.1. Form 1: This form contains subject, object, verb phrases ‘Mặc/ để mặc/ cứ mặc/ đễ đấy’. For example:
“A: Mời bác uống nước!
B: Bác mặc em!”
“Chủ: Cậu Mô ngồi đây chơi!
Mô: Ông chủ cứ mặc con!”
3.2. Form 2: There are subject, object and the words ‘Xin’ or ‘Cám ơn’ in this form of acceptance. For example:
“A: Cô uống nước!
B: Em xin!”
“A: Con mời cô ăn xoài!
B: Cô cám ơn!”
3.3. Form 3: The invited person show his acceptance by using these words ‘vâng/ dạ/ vâng ạ/ được/ được rồi/ cám ơn’. For example:
“A: Thầy cháu vừa về, mời chú sang chơi!
“A: Tối nay, mời em lại chơi!
B: Vâng ạ!”
Nowadays, in this case the answer can be ‘OK/ rồi’. These kinds of answer are only used when the invited person has the higher status than the inviter or even when they have same status but very close and intimate relationship.
Besides, after giving an acceptance, Vietnamese also put a question to show that they are willing to do something as in the invitation. For example:
“A: Ăn kẹo không Béo?
B: Có. Sao nãy giờ không đưa ra đây?”
3.4. Exclamatory sentence
Accepting an invitation by an exclamatory sentence shows that the invited person is surprised and interested in the content of the invitation. Following is an instance:
“A: Mời bác vào trong dùng bữa ạ!
B: Ồ, tiệc lớn quá!”
3.5. Affirmative sentence
This kind of sentence can be used as a positive remark to emphasize the value of the invitation. Moreover, the invited person also wants to show his gratefulness to the inviter.
“A: Kìa cháu ăn cơm đi! Nhà bác chỉ có mấy món cơm canh đạm bạc này đãi cháu, cháu đừng chê nhé!
B: Ấy, bác đừng nói vậy! Cháu được dùng cơm bác nấu là quý lắm rồi ấy ạ!”
Similarities and differences of accepting an invitation in English and Vietnamese
From what we have covered so far, I will make a contrast between the way people accept an invitation in English and Vietnamese.
As I have figured above, not only English but also Vietnamese don’t usually answer to an invitation directly but they use various ways in stead. In the act of accepting, people also show their willingness and thankfulness for being invited. In general, invited people always show their positive emotion on their acceptance in both English and Vietnamese. This is the first similarity. However, in Vietnamese, the answer to an invitation often begins with the word ‘dạ/ vâng’ to show their respect and politeness. That doesn’t exist in English.
Second, the ways an English person use to accept an invitation are less and they are more restricted than those in Vietnamese. Similarly the way that the inviter understands the answer in Vietnamese is different, more complex and difficult than in English. Some ways or some expressions in Vietnamese can make the foreigners learning Vietnamese confused whether the invited person accepts their invitation or not. On the contrary, it’s much easier for the inviter to realize if the answer is an acceptance or a refuse in English.
Finally, in both Vietnamese and English we can use interrogative form to make an acceptance such as ‘why not?’ in English and ‘Sao tôi có thể từ chối được nhỉ?’ in Vietnamese. However, to some extents, the interrogative form is used more commonly and variously in Vietnamese than English.
Implication on language teaching and learning
After all the contrasts between making and accepting an invitation in English and Vietnamese mentioned above, I have had some ideas that can be some implications for Vietnamese and English teaching and learning. In particular, I would like to discuss some implications at high schools in Vietnamese educational system.
Firstly, in order to help students to understand which is an invitation or an acceptance to an invitation, teachers have to give them the informative inputs related to making and accepting an invitation. Students cannot speak out or write down anything without knowing the words, the phrases or the expressions they need to produce. Thus, the teachers should provide them with the new language items as much as possible.
Secondly, teachers should teach students the culture of two countries which, in this paper, are Vietnamese and English. Before using a language, the students must have background knowledge about that country so that they can use that language naturally and accurately. In this paper, we discuss the English and Vietnamese culture in making and accepting an invitation to help students to use it correctly in daily life. This will bring the students the confidence when they use these speech acts in conversation with each other and the native language speakers.
Next, teachers should be the facilitator in classroom. Nowadays, teachers can easily provide their students with lively and interesting lessons by using modern technology in language teaching. They can also give the students a variety of conversations, dialogs and videos from the Internet, television and radio. Students can learn a lot from daily conversation recorders about this aspect better and more effectively than the theories in their textbooks. Therefore, teachers have to choose the most suitable materials for the students so that they can learn how to make and accept an invitation naturally and accurately.
Finally, teachers should motivate students to practice making and accepting an invitation as much as possible. Teachers must try to give students more and more opportunities to use the pattern sentences for invitation. They can suppose to hold a birthday party and get students involved in the event. Teachers give their students some invitation cards and let them make and accept the invitation to each other. Moreover, teachers can design small games or particular situations for the students to play or to act and to do role-play. These activities are very useful for students to remember and use the function and the patterns of making and accepting an invitation easily.
In conclusion, through this paper we can have an overview of making and accepting an invitation in English and Vietnamese. To make and accept an invitation is simple and easy, to some extents, but it’s not easy at all to make and accept an invitation naturally, politely, cleverly and variously. Moreover, making and accepting an invitation play a very important role in our life. The inviter and invited person can show not only the content of the invitation but also their feeling or their emotion in these speech acts. An invitation can make a relationship better or worse. It all depends on how the inviter extends it. Also an acceptance can keep people close together or make the inviter disappointed by the way the invited person answers to an invitation. Lastly, I hope that both teachers and students can have benefit of this contrastive analysis for teaching and learning of making and accepting an invitation in English and Vietnamese.