Idioms Of Comparison In Vietnamese And English Cultural Studies Essay


Language is a system of communication of your nation. Every nation has their own historical, civilized, ethnical, climatic characteristics, so every country has their own vocabulary. However, different countries have similarities and differences in expressing their ideas. Learning similarities and distinctions between idioms of assessment in English and Vietnamese is likely to help the researcher to affirm that. Moreover, making some comparisons is a good way to memorize British idioms of contrast effectively and enjoyably. Hence, translation skill can be improved upon because of more knowledge about idioms. Furthermore, making comparisons between English and Vietnamese idioms can help the researcher to understand more about cultures of both of countries since similarities and variations in culture indicate coincidences and dissimilarities in ways of thinking and looking at the world of British and Vietnamese people.

Idioms of comparability in Vietnamese and English

A Contrastive Analysis


Idioms of comparison are applied frequently in books and in daily life. It serves as an instrument to help make the language more visual. However, every terms has differences with techniques of expressing the same idea using idioms of evaluation.

The goal of the study is to discover some typically common types of assessment used in British and Vietnamese idioms. Furthermore, the analysis chiefly is aimed at learning some similarities and distinctions between assessment idioms in both British and Vietnamese.

Because there are so many contrast idioms in both languages, it is impossible to include all of them in the analysis. The analysis can just explore evaluation idiomatic expressions which play an important part in the goal of the study.

Theoretical Framework

Theoretical background of idioms in English

Definition of idioms in English

The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines idioms as: "Several words whose so this means differs from the meanings of the average person words" (Hornby, 2006, p. 740).

The viewpoint is supported in A Dictionary of Linguistics & Phonetics. The author respect an idiom as "a term used in grammar and lexicography to refer to a series of words which us semantically and often syntactically restricted, so that they function as a single unit" (Crystal, 1985, p. 225).

According to some Dictionary of Linguistics, an idiom is "any appearance peculiar to a dialect, conveying a definite meaning, definitely not explicable by, once in a while even unlike, the general accepted grammatical rules" (Pei & Gaynor, 1954, p. 95).

Feature of English idioms

When talking about semantic top features of idioms, we had better give attention to the figurative so this means of idioms. It really is the most important attribute of idioms to know whether a manifestation is an idiom or not. Matching to Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary:

A idiom is a group of words which, when they are used together in a particular combination, has another type of meaning from the one they might have if you got this is of the individual words in the group. (Sinclair, 1987, p. 718)

Smiley & Goldtein (1998) also claim that "idioms are certainly more than the amounts of the parts" (p. 76). Which means this is of the different parts of an idiom differs from this is of the whole idiom. That we can guess the meaning of idiom or not depends upon open or sealed classes. As Yong and Peng (2007) suggest:

In open school combinations, specific components are freely recombination and are being used in a common literal sense. As co-occurrence of specific components is expected of the class of combinations, both their interpretation and structures are predictable amenable to research. (p. 178)

For instance, we can suppose the meaning of the idiom "turn over a fresh leaf". "Start" means to "make something change position so the other area is facing towards the exterior or the most notable" and "a new leaf" is a leaf which is more beautiful, more perfect. Therefore, the meaning of the idioms can be guessed as "to improve the right path of life to become a better, more dependable person".

However, in close category combinations, we can not guess this is of idioms. That's because "these are seen as a semantic opaqueness, syntactic limitations and structural balance" (Yong & Peng, 2007, p. 178). For instance, the idioms "spread oneself too slim" or "for the birds".

Idioms have "a fixed form - that always cannot be altered" (Heacock, 2003, p. ix). However, Heacock (2003) also says:

Not all set phrases are idioms. For example, "close your eyes" is a common preset phrase, but not an idiom because each phrase in it is employed in its standard interpretation. The term "keep the skirt" is an idiom, however, because the key phrase does not indicate "do not remove your skirt" - this means "stay calm". (p. ix)

Idioms can be split into six different varieties or structures:

+ Idioms located at noun entries such as "in addition to'", "for the birds"

+ Idioms located at verb entries such as "look forward to", "take off", "hear about"

+ Idioms located at adjectival entries such as "in a nutshell", "hot under the collar"

+ Idioms located at adverbial entries such as "once more, "worse off"

+ Idioms located at pronominal entries such as "give it up", "come to little or nothing"

+ Idioms located at numeral entries such as "give a hundred percent", "one at a time"

It's important to know that modifying any components and useful words can lose the idiomatic meaning (Yong & Peng, 2007).

Theoretical backdrop of idioms in Vietnamese

Definition of idioms in Vietnamese

According to T» i»n Th nh Ng»‡ v  T»c Ng»‡ Vi»t Nam:

Th nh ng»‡ Ting Vi»t l  nh»‡ng t»- h»p t» ng»‡ c»˜ ˜»nh c cu trєc t» ho·c cu nh ng ho n to n thu»c phm tr№ cp t», ˜ »c mЈ ha hu ht ˜»u c tnh cht cch ˜i»u ngh» thut, v  ch» l m m»t th nh phn trong cu ni. (Nguy»n, 2010, p. 5)

As Nguy»n (2007) has mentioned in his book, "th nh ng»‡ l  tp h»p t» c»˜ ˜»nh ˜Ј quen d№ng m  ngha c»a n th »ng khґng th» gii thch ˜ »c m»t cch ˜ n gin b±ng ngha c»a cc t» to nЄn n" (p. 8).

Features of Vietnamese idioms

Idioms are characterized by figurative and metaphorical meanings. Therefore, it's too difficult to comprehend although we know the meanings of most their components. For example, "ly thєng єp voi", "g  ˜» g  c»c tc", "˜i gu»˜c trong b»ng" Especially idioms are originated from fairy stories, folk storiessuch as "ba que x» l", "th±ng cht cЈi th±ng khiЄng", "n» nh  chєa Ch»-m", "s  t» H  ґng" (Nguy»n, Nguy»n & Phan, 2009).

Idioms usually contain more than 3 components whose counterpoint, alliteration and rhyme are coupled with the other person in many different ways. There are some idioms of contrast such as "nng nh  l»a", "khc nh  m a", "nhanh nh  ch»p" Also, there are a few idioms which are manufactured matching to counterpoint, alliteration such as "tai to m·t l»n", "mi»ng h№m gan s»a", "c№ng h»i c№ng thuy»n", "ong b »m l l i" Besides, some idioms are actually spoken words in day-to-day speech which can be usually used over and over for some time and then develop figurative meanings to be idioms, for instance "ch» c»i v» r»ng", "theo voi ht bЈ ma", "n »c chy ch»- trng", "˜i gu»˜c trong b»ng" (Nguy»n et al, 2009).

Theoretical record of British idioms of comparison

At first, we should find out this is of idioms of comparability which are also called similes. There are a lot of definitions of simile. Regarding to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "simile is a word or saying that compares sth to sth else, using the words "like" or "as", for example "a face just like a mask" or "as white as snow"; the use of such content" (Hornby, 2006, p. 1369).

An idiom of assessment is also thought as:

the assessment of two nouns with different meanings, using the words like or concerning make the bond. Friendship is similar to ice cream, fear moved like light, and leaves feel as slippery as fish are types of similes". (Tucker, 2002, p. 41)

There is also a similar but shorter classification in The Challenge of Effective Speaking: "A simile is a primary comparability of dissimilar things using the term "like" or "as"" (Verderber, Verderber & Sellnow, 2008, p. 197).

The meanings of similes are figurative. Take the simile "as large as a tree" as an example. When you say: "Minh is as stubborn as a mule", you signify Minh is so uncooperative, not Minh is as obstinate as a mule. Therefore, the simile "as uncooperative as a mule" is considered figurative.

Learners can sometimes be perplexed between similes and metaphors however they are really different:

A metaphor, such as a simile, is an evaluation between two essentially unlike things. As opposed to a simile, however, where an explicit evaluation is made (The eye is like a lamp for your body), the metaphor makes an implicit contrast (The eye is lamp fixture of the body). (Robert H. Stein 15)

Huff (2004) asserts that "the only real difference between simile and metaphor is that metaphor will not use the words "like" or "as" to help make the contrast" (p. 98). In other words, two distinctly different things in a simile are connected by "like" or "as" while a metaphor "can be an implied but in many ways even more immediate than assessment because the reader is expected to identify the comparison without the word "like" or "as"" (Osborne, 1997, p. 124). However, "because similes merely become a member of two disparate ideas or images, they are generally less fertile than metaphors, which can evoke additional and fresh shades of so this means" (Ehrenhaft, 2008, p. 145).

Theoretical qualifications of Vietnamese idioms of comparison

In Vietnamese, there are 2 types of idioms of evaluation: one uses the word "nh ", "t»±a", "t y", "b±ng", "t»±a nh " or "cng nh " and one doesn't.

Based on similarities of characteristics of 2 things, 2 phenomena, 2 activities, the Vietnamese create a large volume of idioms designed to use A to name or to change B.

Eg: M·t tri xoan: oval-shaped face.

Star: a famous and accomplished person (usually in skill, sport, culture).

(Nguy»n, 2010)

The other kind of idioms of comparison includes the term "b±ng", "t y", "t»±a", "snh", "nh " or "cng nh " which divides an idiom into 2 parts.

Both of parts can be considered a noun, verb, saying or clause. The next part whose function is predicating and complementing the first part is counted from comparative term.

Eg: Within the idiom "t»i t y ˜nh", "t y ˜nh" is the supplement of the noun "t»i".

In the idiom "chy nh  bay", "nh  bay" is the go with of the verb chy.

(Nguy»n, 2010)

A contrastive research of contrast idioms in English and Vietnamese

Quantity comparison

There are about 700 idioms of assessment in British, for example, "as warm as sunbeam", "to follow such as a shadow", "to work just like a Trojan", There are a similarity in the amount of idioms of assessment in English and Vietnamese. A few examples of Vietnamese idioms of comparison are "lnh nh  ti»n", "xanh nh  t u l"

Similarities of idioms of comparison in British and Vietnamese

Although the culture of two nations is different, means of thinking and looking at the world of British and Vietnamese is somehow similar. Hence, both Vietnamese and English exhibit ideas and concepts just as. In fact, a huge quantity of Vietnamese idioms of assessment are similar with British idioms of contrast in conditions of both idea and image expressing.

English idioms Vietnamese idioms

As dark as coal en nh  than

As black as crow en nh  qu

As dark-colored as printer ink T»˜i ˜en nh  m»±c

As nice as sugar Ng»t nh  ˜ »ng

As black as soot en nh  b»" hng

As short as a desire Ng‡n nh  m»t gic m»ng

As shiny as day Sng nh  ban ng y

As outstanding as superstars Sng nh  sao

As changeable as the weather Hay thay ˜»-i nh  th»i tit

As chilly as ice Lnh nh  bng

As cheerful as a lark Vui nh  so

As cunning as a fox Xo quy»t nh  co

As dark as midnight T»˜i nh  n»a ˜Єm

As dumb as a an oyster Cm nh  hn

As reasonable as a rose Xinh nh  hoa

As fast as a hare Nhanh nh  th»

As excessive fat as a pig Mp nh  heo

As fierce as a tiger D»‡ nh  c»p

As firm as rock V»‡ng nh  ˜

As fleet as the wind Nhanh nh  gi

As fresh a rose T  i nh  hoa

As gay as a lark Vui nh  so

As gruff as a bear H»-n nh  gu

As good (valuable) as gold QuЅ nh  v ng

As green as a leaf Xanh nh  t u l

As heavy as an elephant N·ng nh  voi

As hard as a rock C»ng nh  ˜

As heavy as lead N·ng nh  ch

As hot as flames Nng nh  l»a

As willing as a razor S‡c nh  dao co

As light as down Nh t»±a lґng h»"ng

As light as a feather Nh t a lґng h»"ng

As mum as an oyster Cm nh  hn

As pretty as an image p nh  tranh

As quick as lightning Nhanh nh  nh sng

As quick as a adobe flash Nhanh nh  ch»p

As red as blood vessels » nh  mu

As red as a beetroot » nh  gc

As pointed as a razor S‡c nh  dao co

As silly as a calf Ngu nh  b

As sour as vinegar Chua nh  gim

As stink as a polecat Hґi nh  ch»"n

As swift as lightning Nhanh nh  ch»p

As simple as velvet M»n nh  nhung

As poor as a snail Chm nh  sЄn

As swift as an arrow Nhanh nh  tЄn b‡n

As constant as rock C»ng nh  ˜

As timid as a rabbit/ hare Nht nh  th» ˜

As thick as ants ґng nh  kin

As clear as wine glass Trong su»˜t nh  th»y tinh

As yellowish as saffron V ng nh  ngh»

As damp as a drowned mouse  ‡»t nh  chu»t l»t

As white as snow Tr‡ng nh  tuyt

As white as a sheet Nh  t» giy tr‡ng

Like father like child Cha n o con ny

To attack like feline and dog Nh  ch v»i mЁo

To stick just like a leech Bm dai nh  ˜»a

To stay like glue Dnh nh  keo

To cry just like a baby Khc nh  ˜»a tr»

To follow like a shadow Theo nh  hnh v»i bng

To swim like fish B i nh  c

Differences of idioms of assessment in English and Vietnamese

The same content but different images to express

Images of idiomatic evaluations in twp nations are different result from variations in culture. Vietnam gets the cultural custom of the moist rice creation. Therefore, pets have a strong attachment to Vietnamese daily life. That's why Vietnamese idioms of contrast contain images related to buffaloes which are an animal acquainted with rice development agriculture. Buffaloes take ploughs, work very difficult everyday to help farmers in their farming. Because of this, wanting to speak about strength, people often make reference to buffaloes. In fact, to speak about someone very strong, the Vietnamese possess the idiom "kh»e nh  tru" as the English have idiom "as strong as a horse". That's because English people choose horses to buffaloes. Horses will not only pull ploughs but also travel and captivate. They are really energetic and strong enough to help people in life.

In spite of that, it doesn't imply that British people don't consider buffaloes strong pets or Vietnamese people don't consider horses as strong pets. That results just from the difference in culture.

Also, dragons are a kind of canine which is very close in fertile creativeness of Vietnamese people. Due to that, the image as a dragon appear in the Vietnamese idiom of assessment "n nh  r»"ng cu»˜n" to speak about eating large levels of food while the image of a equine is used in the idiom "to eat like a horse".

Lamp, butter are so familiar with British life while sweet potatoes, pig are aware of Vietnamese life, because of this there are distinctions in images expressing their ideas of gentleness and fatness:

English idioms Vietnamese idioms

As soothing as a lamp Howdy»n nh  c» khoai

As unwanted fat as butter Bo nh  l»n

Besides, the variations in the ways of thinking and observing the world make dissimilarities in the images of idiomatic evaluations. Take some following examples to demonstrate that:

English idioms Vietnamese idioms

As easy as ABC D» nh  tr» b n tay

As easy as pie D» nh  tr» b n tay

As easy as anything D» nh  tr» b n tay

As soft as butter M »t nh  nhung

As pale as a ghost Xanh nh  t u l

As lazy as a lizard L »i nh  h»i

As very soft as wax M»m nh  bєn

As merry as a cricket Vui nh  tt

As cheerful as the birds Vui nh  tt

As pleased as a fly Vui nh  tt

As happy as a child Vui nh  tt

As happy as a clam Vui nh  tt

As dark as midnight T»˜i nh  ˜Єm ba m  i

As black as midnight T»˜i nh  ˜Єm 30

As dark as midnight T»˜i nh  h nєt

As close as herrings Ch·t nh  nЄm

As soundly as a log (Ng») say nh  cht

As frigid as marble Lnh nh  ti»n

As dried up as a biscuit Khґ nh  ngi

As red as lipstick » nh  gc

As slender as finger Gy nh  b» x  ng khґ

As vulnerable as a kitten Yu nh  sЄn

As weak as an infant Yu nh  sЄn

As black as a stack of black cats en nh  c»t nh  chy

As dark as the ace of spades en nh  cє sєng

As circular as a barrel Trn nh  qu bng

As old as the hills X a nh  tri ˜t

As hot as mustard Cay nh  »t

Like hot cake ‡t nh  tґm t  i

As silent as the dead Im l·ng nh  t»

As silent as the grave Im l·ng nh  t»

What is more, the differences in individual make dissimilarities between English and Vietnamese idioms. For instance, in Vietnam, you have the idiom "ghen nh  Hon Th " to make reference to a person who is dreadfully jealous. However, in British, the idiom "as jealous as Othello" is used to talk about a one's jealousy. Another example is "s »ng nh  tiЄn" and "as happy as a king". Indeed, Vietnamese people consider a fairy the happiest one while English people look at a ruler the happiest one.

The same components however the dissimilar content

Every so often, some images of comparability can appear in both Vietnamese and English idioms however the meaning of the two whole idioms are very different. That's because this is of components differs in culture.

Indeed, using the idiom "r nh  ban ng y", the Vietnamese want to indicate a event which includes nothing fishy. In the meantime British people use the idiom "as glowing as day" to spell it out a light room. Besides, when the elements is okay and sunny with good natural light, British people say: "It's as bright as day".

Besides, wanting to go with someone on his / her beauty of sight, Vietnamese people say: "M‡t cґ s‡c nh  dao co". Still, British people use the idiom "as pointed as a razor" to refer to one's brainpower.

What is more, whilst Vietnamese people apply the idiom "ch‡c nh  ˜inh ˜ng c»t" to something regular, "as hard as claws" in English idiom means someone who is quite rigorous.

Also, when Vietnamese people say: "N t»˜t nh  v ng", they imply it's worth buying the object due to its good quality. On the other hand, "as effective as gold" cannot be used to go with an object. Quite simply, British people never say: "It's as good as gold" but "The individual is as good as gold". The individual can be an assiduous and submissive child or a well-behaved adult.

Pedagogical Implications for Teaching English Idioms of comparison

Learning English idioms is one of steps so as to help learners grasp English. British idioms of comparison are frequently included in daily life. Therefore, teachers should help their students learn idioms most effectively.

Firstly, it's recommended for teachers to raise students' awareness of similarities and dissimilarities between Vietnamese and English idioms of comparison. When teachers show their students a certain English idiom of comparison, they should let them reckon the Vietnamese idiom which is the same as that idiom, making an evaluation and clarify why they can be similar or different. It's really useful to allow them to have a long-term ram about that idiom of evaluation.

Secondly, idioms of evaluation as well as other idioms are educated and applied in school room but students seldom apply them with their daily speech. That is why teachers should encourage students to use idioms of assessment in their lifestyle as frequently as it can be. Learners will memorize idioms better if idioms of comparison are put into communicative contexts. Don't make sure they are learn by heart and soul.

Thirdly, teachers should draw students' focus on idioms of contrast which are most useful and most consistent. As there are so many idioms of comparison in British culture, about 700, students aren't liable to memorize and apply all of them in their daily life. Students should be trained to really know what idioms of comparison they need to learn.


There are both similarities and dissimilarities between British and Vietnamese idioms of assessment. The same or different image can bear resemblance in this is of English and Vietnamese idioms of contrast. In addition, there are a few idioms of contrast that have the same components however the meaning are quite different. Great as have the researcher made an attempt to do the research, there are a few restrictions on the research out of the limited time and other sudden factors. The researcher hope that the research will a useful material for learners and teachers to learn or coach most effectively.

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