Contrast and comparison of question between English

Running head: QUESTIONS
Contrast And Comparison Of Question Between English And Vietnamese
Trương Thị Anh Thư
University of Pedagogy
Contrastive Analysis
Mr Nguyễn Ngọc Vũ
December 30, 2009
Question is one of the types of sentence used with the high probability in
the process of learning, teaching a language as well as in daily communication.
We use it very often and naturally in our daily life because it is the most useful
sentence to make a request for information. In reality, we sometimes make a
question in order not to get information but we just use the question to greet
someone for instance. However, the ways to use it are not easy. Language
learners always have troubles in receiving as well as making and asking
questions in English. That is just because of some differences between the two
languages. Therefore, I hope that my research will point out the similarities and
differences between English and Vietnamese questions so that learners can
master well.
Nowadays, there are many different opinions about classifying question
forms in English as well as in other languages. According to “English grammar”
by Bui Y and Vu Thanh Phuong (as cited in Le, 2004, p.227), there are four
general kinds of question:
-General questions or Yes/No questions
-Special questions (Wh- questions)
-Alternative questions
- Declarative questions
Beside the way we classify sentenses through grammatical structures, some
Vietnamese linguists also classify questions in many other ways based on the nature
of questions, means of expressing questions. Therefore, we can also divide
Vietnamese questions into four kinds :
-Câu hỏi tổng quát.(Yes/ No questions)
-Câu hỏi có từ nghi vấn.(Wh-questions)
-Câu hỏi lựa chọn.(Alternative questions )
-Câu hỏi dùng ngữ điệu.(Declarative questions)
Contrasting Vietnamese questions with English questions according to this
classification will help learners easily identify the similarities and differences
between them clearly. If we consider the purpose of speaking, both English
questions and Vietnamese questions have the similarities.
English questions
Vietnamese questions
1. Yes/No questions
1. Câu hỏi tổng quát
2. Wh- questions
2. Câu hỏi có từ nghi vấn.
3. Alternative questions
3. Câu hỏi lựa chọn.
4. Declarative questions
4. Câu hỏi dùng ngữ điệu.
However, if we have a look at the structure, these two kinds of questions are also
different from each other. There often appears inversion in English questions word
order. We usually put an auxiliary verb, a model verb or the verb ‘to be’ before
the subject or combine with ‘Wh- word’ to make a question. In English questions,
we make use of intonation in each kind of question all the time. On the contrary,
word order in Vietnamese questions seems to be simpler. Its structure is the
same as a narrative sentence with “subject + predicate”. There isn’t any inversion
and we rarely mention the intonation.
These are examples, which illustrate the contrast and comparison of each kind
of question in English and Vietnamese.
The first kind is Yes/ No questions. Yes/ No questions can be answered with a
"yes" or "no", hence the name. Both Vietnamese and English questions require the
determination with right or wrong.
A: Are you going to Hue?
A: Anh đi đến Huế phải không?
B: Yes, I am.
B: Dạ phải.
A: Does he work in that company?
A: Ông ấy làm việc ở xí nghiệp đó à?
B: No, he doesn’t.
B: Không phải.
In addition, these kinds of questions can be answered by rejecting completely if the
assumption is unreasonable.
A: Is Peter a doctor?
A: Hôm nay cậu khỏe chưa?
B: I don’t know who is.
B: Tớ đâu có bệnh đâu mà khỏe hay chưa.
As we know from the above that Vietnamese questions are like narrative sentences but
at the same time they are often combined with modal particles à, hả, ạ... or some pairs of
adverb có... chưa, có... không, có phải...không to make questions. People rarely raise tone at
the end of the sentence. In English, on the contrary, the question structure is inversion. Auxiliary
verbs, model verbs and the verb ‘to be’ are used before subject. Moreover, we raise voice at
the end of the sentence.
Did he kill himself?
Ông ấy tự tử à?
Is she successful in her life?
Cô ấy có thành công trong cuộc sống không?
Do the students do military Sinh viên có phải làm nghĩa vụ quân sự
In English, with the negative form in Yes/ No questions, people who ask questions often
expect affirmative answers rather than negative ones. In Vietnamese, although the questions
are in affirmative or negative form, people often expect the answers which are appropriate to
A: Isn’t it nice today?
B: Yes, it is.
A: Don’t you know her name?
B: Yes, I do.
A: Ngày mai cậu đi thật à?
B: Ừ, mai tớ đi.
A: Con không tự làm bài được à?
B: Không, con không tự làm được.
Besides, we should pay attention to the answer to Vietnamese questions because
people often tend to answer vâng/ dạ in affirmative or negative form. In English, we have to
answer “Yes” if we are agree that it is right and the following part must be in affirmative form.
We answer “No” if we don’t agree and the following part must be in negative form.
A: Can you speak English?
Con không nói tiếng Anh được à?
B: No, I can’t.
Dạ, con không nói được.
A small part in Yes/ No questions is about the tag questions. Tag
questions are a grammatical structure in which a declarative statement or an
imperative is turned into a question by adding an interrogative fragment. The
purpose of this kind of question is to look for the agreement or confirmation from
the answerer. It only appears in English so the Vietnamese find it difficult to use.
Because they have to raise or low their voice according to the purpose of
speaking. Furthermore, it requires users to practise regularly.
- He is good at English, isn’t he?
- You don’t like cats, do you?
- They arrived yesterday, didn’t they?
- Ba speaks Chinese, doesn’t he?
Most of the tag questions can be transferred to the form of …phải không? …đúng thế
không?... à?... ư?question.
- Nam was there, wasn’t he?
Cậu Nam đã có mặt ở đó phải không?
- You didn’t see him, did you?
Anh không nhìn thấy cậu ta phải không?
Anh không nhìn thấy cậu ta à?
The second type is Wh- questions. Wh-questions use interrogative words to
request information. There are a lot of similarities in this kind of questions. In English, we
have who(m), what, when, where, why, which... while in Vietnamese we have ai,
cái gì, khi nào, ở đâu, tại sao, cái nào,...
When Wh- words are subjects, the questions in Vietnamese and English are the same.
- Who loves Fiona?
Ai yêu Fiona?
- What makes you cry?
Điều gì làm em khóc?
- When will you come back?
Bao giờ cậu về nhà?
- Where are you living?
Anh sống ở đâu?
They are also similar in words or in phrases.
Cái gì
What for
Để làm gì
Tại sao
Why not
Tại sao không
Ở đâu
Where to
Tới đâu
Cái nào
Moreover, in Vietnamese and in English, Wh- words that ask about reason
(why, what reason, for which reason…) are at the beginning of the questions.
- Why do you want to learn English?
Tại sao anh muốn học tiếng Anh?
- For what reason did many people leave their countries for big cities?
Vì lí do gì mà nhiều người bỏ quê hương để đến các thành phố lớn?
- For which reason do birds migrate?
Vì lí do nào mà chim di trú?
However, when Wh- words are not subjets anymore, the questions in English and
Vietnamese are completely different. English questions must be used with operators (auxilary
verbs, model verb...) and be lowered the tone but Vietnamese questions mustn’t.
- Who did you help?
Bạn giúp ai?
- What did most of the students do?,
Phần lớn sinh viên làm việc gì?
When the Wh- word “When” stands at the beginning of the English question
sentence, the answers depend on the tense that we used in the question.
A: When are you going to get married?
B: Next year.
A: When did you get married?
B: Two years ago.
While in Vietnamse questions, “When” can stand at the beginning or at the end of the
A: Khi nào em tốt nghiệp đại học?
B: Sang năm.
A: Em tốt nghiệp đại học khi nào?
B: Năm ngoái.
Furthermore, when we ask about means of transport, we often use “how”
in English. But in Vietnamese, people often ask “Đi bằng phương tiện gì?”(By
A: How do you go to school?
B: I go to school by bicycle.
A: Anh đi học bằng phương tiện gì?
Question 10
B: Tôi đi bằng xe đạp.
One more type of question is alternative question. In alternative questions,
people often use conjunction “or”( hay, hoặc là, hay là, hoặc là) between two words, two
phrases or two clauses to choose the options.
- Would you like tea or coffee? (Anh thích uống trà hay cà phê?)
- Does she like watching film or listening to music in her free time?(Chị ấy có
thích xem phim hay thích nghe nhạc lúc ranh rỗi không?)
- Shall we go by bus or train? (Chung ta se di xe buyt hay la tau lua?)
The structure in alternative questions of the two languages has the same abstraction.
- Does he like apples or does he like bananas? Anh ấy thích táo hay anh
ấy thích chuối?
- Does he like apples or like bananas? Anh ấy thích táo hay thích
- Does he like apples or bananas? Anh ấy thích táo hay chuối?
However, in English alternative questions, people often raise their voice in
words, phrases, or clauses before “or” and they often low their voice in those after “or.”
On the contrary, Vietnamese alternative questions do not exist this way.
- Do you want a large or small box?
Anh muốn gói lớn hay gói nhỏ?
- Would you like tea,
or milk?
Question 11
Anh muốn dùng trà, cà phê hay sữa?
The last type of my research is declarative questions. In declarative
questions, the structure is like narrative sentence. They use this kind of questions
to check information or express their surprised feeling. Both Vietnamese and
English people often raise their voice at the end of the sentence. At that time, we
still use modal particles in Vietnamese.
- You want to build a new house?
Cậu muốn xây nhà mới à?
- You are going to the cinema tonight?
Anh đi xem phim tối nay phải không?
- He will speak to the boss today?
Cậu ta sẽ nói với sếp hôm nay ư?
When starting learning a second language, learners have already
possessed and usually bring with them the native speaker’s knowledge of their
first language(s) and culture. The influence of the first language and culture on
the second language use is unavoidable. Based on contrastive analysis between
English and Vietnamese questions with four separate types given above, I
discuss some implications of the study for language teaching and learning.
Firstly, it is necessary for a teacher of English to raise students'
awareness of cultural similarities and differences between making and answering
questions in Vietnamese culture and English culture. The conflicting patterns
Question 12
may require an explanation so that learners can know how to use question in the
two languages easily.
Secondly, English teachers should provide input as much as possible to
develop student’s competence. Together with the advance in technology in
language teaching, it is easier for teachers to provide students with a variety of
websites for information about questions. In order to assist students in asking,
giving and receiving questions, teachers in charge of speaking courses compile
or design those, which sound appropriately for use in class.
Finally, it is more important that students have many opportunities to
practise, to role-play imaginatively in a variety of contexts in which different social
factors are taken into account. However, teachers try their best to create
communicative opportunities for students to practice asking, giving, receiving and
answering more questions in English. Gradually these activities enable students
to engage in successful exchanges of asking and answering questions.
In summary, we know that how important the question is because we use
questions in most of conversations in our daily life. To some teachers,
interrogative sentence are not too complicated at all so they usually do not pay
enough attention to this and spend less time on giving examples and checking
students’ errors. However, in reality, we can recognize that question is one of the
most important and basic matters in English as well as in Vietnamese. Therefore,
contrasting questions between the two languages gives us a general look about
the similarities and differences between them. From that, we can have better
condition in learning and applying English into translation, teaching as well as
Question 13
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Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2009). Question. Retrieved December 27th,
2009 from
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2009). So sanh doi chieu cau hoi giua tieng
WhiteSmoke. (2008). Negative Sentences and Questions in English: The rules
for forming negative and interrogative sentences using auxiliary verbs in
English. Retrieved December 25th, 2009 from http://www. Negative
Sentences and Question Formation in English.htm
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2009). Learning to Question. Retrieved
December 27th, 2009 from