Ho chi minh city university of education department of english a contrast of compound sentence between english and vietnamese

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Instructor: Bui Nguyen Khanh

Student: Nguyen Thuy Nhu Quynh

HCMC, 12/12/2011


Language is one means of communication of human. Man uses it in every activity in daily life. However, there is not a united language for all countries in the world. Language is different from country to country, from region to region, and from continent to continent. Every country has its own language. Therefore, to be able to communicate with people from other countries, learning more another language beside the native one becomes popular today.

Because of many benefits, English is considered as an international language and is spoken in almost everywhere through the world. It becomes the language used in many important papers such as various degrees, application forms, etc. Our country Vietnam now is in the process of economic integration, so teaching and learning English plays a very important role. As we know clearly, learning a new language is not an easy work and especially with English, one kind of synthetic languages, which is very different from isolating languages like Vietnamese, the learning becomes more difficult. To fluently use English for communication, it demands learners to master many aspects of the language such as grammar, structure, word order, syntax, phonetics, etc. With finding some similarities and differences between compound sentence in English and Vietnamese, I, a future English teacher, do this research and hope that it will make the learners clear about all the similarities and differences of compound sentence in English and Vietnamese so that they can avoid making mistake in their translation between the two languages.


Sentence is a grammatical unit of language (Wikipedia). There are three types of sentences, which are simple, complex and compound sentence. What is a compound sentence? As for the Oxford Dictionary, a compound sentence is a sentence with two or more main clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction. Wikipedia has one more academic definition about it. A compound sentence is one “composed of at least two independent clauses which are joined by a coordinating conjunction (with or without a comma), a correlative conjunction (with or without a comma), a semicolon that functions as a conjunction, or a conjunctive adverb preceded by a semicolon”. A conjunction can be used to make a compound sentence. However, something seems different between the definition above and the definition of compound sentence in Vietnamese. According to one source on the Internet, in Vietnamese, the category “compound sentence” has a more specific meaning, a compound sentence not only “consists of two independent clauses” but “the clauses have certain relations which must be performed by certain ways”. It also means that compound sentence in Vietnamese is more complicated and wealthy than in English. One typical example is no less compound sentence in Vietnamese becomes another type of sentence (complex sentence) in English when transformed from Vietnamese into English like the sentence “Vì trời lạnh nên tôi không muốn đi bơi.”. It belongs to a kind of compound sentence in Vietnamese; however, it is considered as a complex sentence in English, which is said “Because it is cold, I don’t want to go swimming.”

Therefore, compound sentence is a popular structure in many languages including English and Vietnamese, though they don’t bear much resemblance to each other due to different cultures and typologies. The purpose of this paper is to contrast compound sentence in these two languages by pointing out similarities and differences in types and ways of connecting sentence existing in both languages, at the same time, discussing some useful teaching implications. If you want to widen your knowledge in the beauty of language in a relax manner, it’s a good idea to enjoy this paper immediately.


In English, to be called a compound sentence, a sentence must have at least two simple sentences, or two independent clauses which are connected with a coordinating conjunction or with a semicolon. Compound sentence joined by a coordinating conjunction usually has a comma before the coordinator. Coordinators we usually see in English are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so, which is remembered easily as “fan boys” by linking first letter of coordinators together. Examples of compound sentence conclude:

Last night, Mary went to her mother’s home, and Mark went out with some of his friends.

I am not good at science yet I really like it.

He did not do that, for it doesn’t the right thing to do.

They wanted to go London, because they wanted to see Big Ben.

Mary likes shopping, but Henry likes fishing.

Another kind of compound sentence is sentences joined with a semicolon. A sentence belonging to this kind doesn’t conclude any connecting words.

For example, It rains; I want to stay at home.

The wind flows violently; the tent is soon blown down.

See me tomorrow; I will give you the key of the flat.

One more kind of compound sentence is sentences joined with a conjunctive adverb. With this kind, both comma and semicolon are involved. After the two clauses are linked with a semicolon, the conjunctive adverb should be followed by a comma. Popular conjunctive adverbs in English are: however, moreover, consequently, nevertheless, meanwhile, therefore, also, besides, hence, for example, then, so, finally, as a result, that is, in fact, etc.

For example, I will be glad to help you; besides, I love to do housework.

I am so tired; therefore, I don’t think I can help you to do that.

She is a talented violist; in fact, she won five prizes in big contests.


In Vietnamese, the category “compound sentence” has a more specific meaning, a compound sentence not only “consists of two independent clauses” but “the clauses have certain relations which must be performed by certain ways”. For example, one of the relations is “cause-result relation” which is certified by the phrase: Vì…nên…

Vì trời mưa nên tôi nghỉ học.

Each sentence in a compound sentence is a clause, or a “type of sentence” which is not involved in meaning with the other clause.

Eg: “Trời mưa, đường lầy lội.”

Sỡ dĩ nó thi hỏng là vì nó lười biếng.”

Nhờ thời tiết tốt, mùa màng bội thu.” (wattpat.com)

Like English, compound sentence in Vietnamese also uses the similar ways of linking clauses. One is using connecting words and another is using comma, semicolon or colon. Compound sentences joined by connecting words are classified into two types: equal compound sentence and main-sub compound sentence, of which Vietnamese equivalences are “câu ghép đẳng lập” and “câu ghép chính phụ”. Equal compound sentence uses coordinators to link clauses together, such as và, hoặc, hay, còn, mà, rồi, và rồi…

Eg: Cô bỏ ra cửa và rồi hắn đuổi theo.

Anh ấy đã xin lỗi mà cô ấy còn chưa chịu nữa.

Anh cút đi hoặc tôi sẽ gọi cảnh sát.

Meanwhile, main-sub compound sentence usually uses connecting phrases or couple coordinators, or adverbs to link clauses together, which is rather different from English. Depending on different types of relations between clauses, we divide main-sub compound sentence into five types and with each, we have corresponding connecting phrases:

-the type with condition-result relation (quan hệ điều kiện-kết quả): nếu…thì…, hễ…thì…

-the type with cause-result relation (quan hệ nhân-quả): vì…nên…

-the type with concession relation (quan hệ nhượng bộ): tuy…nhưng…

-the type with increasing relation (quan hệ tăng tiến): càng… (thì)…càng…

-the type with purposing relation (quan hệ mục đích-sự kiện): để… (thì)…cần (phải)…

Eg: Nếu anh ấy tiết lộ sự thật thì tôi sẽ giết anh ấy.

Vì tôi không giỏi toán nên mẹ bảo tôi nên đi học thêm.

Tuy nhà nó không khá giả gì nhưng cha mẹ nó rất yêu thương anh em nó.

Con bé càng lớn thì tiền ăn càng nhiều.

Để ba mẹ yên lòng thì tôi cần phải cố gắng hơn.

Sometimes, connecting phrases or couple coordinators are not always used in main-sub compound sentence. We can get one word in the phrase or the couple coordinator but the relation between clauses are still secured. For example, we can say “Nếu anh ấy tiết lộ sự thật, tôi sẽ giết anh ấy.” instead of saying “Nếu anh ấy tiết lộ sự thật thì tôi sẽ giết anh ấy.” or another example “Vì tôi không giỏi toán, mẹ bảo tôi nên đi học thêm.” instead “Vì tôi không giỏi toán nên mẹ bảo tôi nên đi học thêm.” In these cases, a comma needs to be used to separate two clauses in the sentence.

One colorful feature of Vietnamese compound sentence is that a sentence in compound sentence can be a clause or “a type of sentence”. “Type of sentence” I mean here is reduced sentence, which can be omitted one of the two main components, subject or verb.

Eg: Vì mưa nên tôi nghỉ học. (subject “trời” in the first clause is omitted)

Tuy nghèo nhưng anh ấy có chí khí. (subject “nhà” in the first clause is omitted)

Vì tôi, ba mẹ quyết định dời về quê sống. (maybe the verb in the first clause is omitted. It should be “Vì tôi ngỗ nghịch, ba mẹ quyết định dời về quê sống.” or “Vì tôi đã bán mất căn nhà nên ba mẹ quyết định dời về quê sống.” or something like that.)

With this kind of compound sentence, people tend to consider clauses omitted subject or verb as adverbs of purpose or reason.

One remarkable difference between compound sentence in English and Vietnamese we can see clearly here is the words “although, if, as if, because, even if, even though, in order to, since, though, unless, while” are not used to make compound sentence in English, in other words, they belong to a category named “complex sentence”. “Although he tried really hard, he failed the exam.” is a complex sentence in English, but when translating into Vietnamese, said “Mặc dù anh ấy thực sự cố gắng nhưng anh ấy vẫn thi hỏng.”, it is called a compound sentence. More certainly speaking, it belongs to main-sub compound sentence with concession relation. Some studies claim that complex sentence in English literally is main-sub compound sentence in Vietnamese for many similarities between them and I agree with this idea.

Some compound sentences in Vietnamese use comma, semicolon or colon to link clauses. With this kind, no connecting word is involved. For example, Mẹ tôi cầm nón vẫy tôi, vài giây sau, tôi đuổi kịp. (linked by commas)

Tôi đã lặng im cuối đầu xuống đất: lòng tôi càng thắt lại, khóe mắt tôi đã cay cay. (linked by a colon)

Cốm không phải là thức quà của người vội; ăn cốm phải ăn thong thả, ăn chút ít. (linked by a semicolon) (edu.go.vn)


Because we are native Vietnamese people, making errors in transforming our ideas from Vietnamese into English or any foreign language is common and obvious. The most common one we meet is translating word by word.

Learners almost have the habit of translating word by word. Therefore, they usually make mistakes when transforming one thought from Vietnamese into English. For example, when wanting to express the sentence “Vì trời mưa nên tôi nghỉ học.” into English, many learners tend to say “Because it rains, so I don’t go to school.” Or another example, when wanting to express the thought “Mặc dù trời lạnh nhưng tôi vẫn muốn đi bơi.”, not less people say “Although it’s cold, but I still want to go swimming.” It shows that although learners have a certain property of words and rather master the language, they are still influenced by translating word by word. Examples above are just simple mistakes learners face when expressing the thoughts. Further way, there are examples more complicated for students in translation classes. For instance, with a sentence like “Vì lạnh nên anh ấy không muốn ra ngoài.”, learners tend to translate “Because cold, he doesn’t want to go out.” Here we can see that despite grasping the structure “because…, …” not using “so”, learners still make mistake when forgetting to transform completely the components of the first clause into English. This can be explained that they lack translating skills. “Vì lạnh” here should be understood as “Vì trời lạnh”, so it should be translated “Because it is cold” to become a clause. Another translating way is “Because of being cold” focused on the structure “because of + Ving”. One more mistake learners usually make is that they tend to forget to use semicolon when using adverbs to connect clauses such as in the sentence “He likes fishing, meanwhile, she likes cooking.” instead “He likes fishing; meanwhile, she likes cooking.”. Because English is synthetic while Vietnamese is isolating, a thought can be said in many different ways in Vietnamese while there is one or some ways to express it in English.

Eg: We can say “Vì trời lạnh nên tôi không đi bơi.”

or “Trời lạnh nên tôi không đi bơi.”

or “Trời lạnh, không đi bơi đâu.”

or “Vì lạnh nên tôi không đi bơi.”

or “Lạnh quá nên tôi chẳng đi bơi đâu.”

or “Lạnh, tôi không đi bơi đâu.”

Meanwhile, in English, there are only some ways, more spercificly speaking, some certain structures to express it: “Because it is cold, I don’t go swimming.” or “Because of being cold, I don’t go swimming.” Some people rarely think about this case, so they usually face difficulties in translation.


English and Vietnamese belong to the two different cultures. For this reason, compound sentence in English and Vietnamese is not the same at all. Generally, there are some similarities between compound sentence of the two languages; however, there are still some differences. The most basic difference between English and Vietnamese is that English doesn’t have couple coordinators or connecting phrases while Vietnamese uses them (vì…nên; nếu…thì;…). If learners follow rules about compound sentence in Vietnamese when translating Vietnamese into English, they will easily make mistakes. To master the type of sentence, it demands a learner to acknowledge how to form a compound sentence and how to use connecting words effectively to link clauses.


Having discussed compound sentence in English and Vietnamese so far, it is easy for us to realize the benefit of making compound sentence in teaching.

It is obvious that teaching knowledge about compound sentence is very useful in a translating class. If we grasp a language, we can more easily transform one thought from it into another language. By teaching compound sentence, learners will not only limit to make sentences indirectly but also make the sentences smoother.

Moreover, adding compound sentences to the writing can make the sentence or the writing more interesting and more descriptive for readers. There is a fact that nowadays papers used in every activity as a means of indirect communication. You give papers for application, invitation, meeting or any other formal purpose. The way you write reflects faithfully your education as well as how and who you are. The higher level of education a person has, the smoother and more professional one’s wirting is. We cannot refuse that the essays, especially descriptive essays using compound sentences seem more professional and attractive.


  • Commas vs. Semicolons in Compound Sentences:


  • Examples of compounds:


  • Câu phức, câu ghép:


  • Câu ghép:


  • Cụm từ tự do:


  • Từ ghép đẳng lập trong ngữ pháp Tiếng Việt:


  • SGK Tiếng Việt lớp 5

  • Online Oxford Dictionary

  • English Wikipedia

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