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You may have noticed the word la appears in the phrases Tên ti la (My name is…) and Ti la (I am…). In Vietnamese la is called a linking verb and can be roughly translated as to be. However, its use differs a bit from the use of to be in English in that it appears only between subjects and noun predicates, such as:

Ti la Peter.
I am Peter.

Tên ti la Peter.
My name is Peter.

Ti la sinh viên.
I am a student.

La is not used when the predicate is an attribute, i.e. when it contains an adjective. Let’s have a look at some examples:

Ti khoe.
I am fine.

Chi oi.
You (to a somewhat older/similarly-aged woman) are hungry.

Toan kho.
Mathematics is difficult.