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PickUpThai: Colloquial Thai Terms and Expressions

Colloquial Terms and Expressions

Colloquial Thai Terms and Expressions…

My name is Yuki Tachaya. I am a native Thai speaker (and a professional private Thai teacher). I’d like to share my knowledge of colloquial Thai with everyone here as I am well aware that Thai learners have difficult times learning colloquial terms and expressions because Thai textbooks hardly ever mention them, if they do at all. So these are some of the commonly and frequently used idioms and expressions in colloquial Thai that you have probably heard but never understood or have never heard before. Enjoy!

1. แบบ /bàep/
Thai people use the word “แบบ” or sometimes “แบบว่า” as a filler word in pretty much the same way that English speakers use the word “like”. If you pay attention, you would probably hear Thai people say this every day.

Example:

เขาบอกฉันตรงๆว่าฉันอ้วน ฉันก็แบบ..ไม่ต้องบอกก็ได้มั๊ง
He told me flat out that I was fat so I was like… he doesn’t really need to tell me this, does he?

2. บ่นเก่ง /bòn gèng/
a verb followed by เก่ง is quite often used in colloquial language. It literally means to be good at doing something. “บ่นเก่ง“ means “good at complaining.” However, Thai people use this idiom far more often and with more things than English speakers use “to be good at“. Sometimes, it means “do something all the time” rather than “good at doing something”.

Example:

พ่อสูบบุหรี่เก่ง ส่วนลูกก็ช้อปปิ้งเก่ง
The father is a chain-smoker while the daughter is a shopaholic.

3. เนียน /nian/
“เนียน” is a popular slang word among teenagers and young adults. It gets used in various contexts and the meaning keeps changing. It could mean anything from “to fit perfectly” to “to pretend nothing happened” or “to act innocent” to “to pretend one doesn’t know something”, depending on the context. “เนียน“ is very similar to the action of “camouflaging”, where you don’t get noticed and just blend with the environment.

Examples:

เขาโกหกได้เนียนมาก
He could fool everyone with his lies (nobody could notice there was something wrong).

อย่ามา(ทำ)เนียน ฉันไม่โง่นะ
Don’t act like nothing happened. I’m not stupid.

ไม่รู้ก็ไม่เป็นไร ทำเนียนๆไปไม่มีใครรู้หรอก
It’s OK if you don’t know. Just pretend you do, nobody would notice.

4. ตรงไหน /dtrong năi/
“ตรงไหน“ literally means “where”. If you say “ชอบตรงไหน”, it means “What do you like about it?” (What aspect of it do you like?) We think of aspects as spots so we ask where referring to which spots. Moreover, we also use “ตรงไหน” in phrases like “สวยตรงไหน” meaning “How is she beautiful?” and that suggests that the speaker does not think she is beautiful.

Another example:

แก่ตรงไหน
How am I old? (I’m not old!)

5. ไม่เห็น /mâi hĕn/
“ไม่เห็น“ followed by an adjective, a verb or an adverb is commonly used among people of all ages. The literal meaning of ไม่เห็น is “to not see”. For example, “ไม่เห็นสวย” means “It’s not beautiful” or “I don’t see how it is beautiful.” You use “ไม่เห็น“ to give an opinion that is different from what other people or most people think or that turns out to be different than expected. You can even use both “ไม่เห็น” and “ตรงไหน” together, such as “ไม่เห็นสวยตรงไหน”.

6. เก่งออก /gèng òk/
An adjective followed by ออก is another idiom that is frequently used in colloquial language. Literally, “ออก” means “out” but we often use “ออก“ in this context when you want to contradict other people’s opinions. For example, if you say “เขาเก่งออก”, it means “I think he’s quite good!” implying that other people or someone else doesn’t think the same. Usually you use it after someone has already given his opinion first.

Example:

A: ร้านนี้ไม่เห็นอร่อยเลย
The food here doesn’t taste good like I thought!

B: ฉันว่าอร่อยออก
I think it’s pretty good!

7. ทิ้ง /tíng/
Most people probably know the expression “บอกรัก” which means to confess one’s love. When you break up, the person who breaks up is the person who “บอกเลิก” and the other party is the person who “ถูกบอกเลิก”. “ถูก” followed by a verb is a passive voice structure. In colloquial language, we say “ทิ้ง” which means “to throw away” in the context of relationships. “ทิ้ง” (to dump) is a more informal version of “บอกเลิก” while “ถูกทิ้ง” (to be dumped) is also the same as “ถูกบอกเลิก” in meaning but more informal. It also sounds more emotional as well. People usually empathize with the person who “ถูกทิ้ง”.

8. แถม /tăem/
Generally, แถม means to “give away something for free” usually after someone has already made a purchase of something else. “ของแจกฟรี” means a freebie or a give-away and “ของแถม’ means a gift or a premium. You get “ของแถม” for free in additional to what you buy. However, in colloquial language, “แถม” has another meaning, that is “moreover” or “plus”.

Example: ผู้ชายคนนี้โคตรหล่อแถมยังใจดีอีก
This guy is super hot, plus he’s also a kind person too! (implying that the second quality comes as a gift.)

If you wish to learn more colloquial terms and expressions, please visit my website Pick Up Thai where I devote to teach Thai learners what textbooks don’t usually teach and post everything I know that I believe to be useful for Thai learners from my perspective as a language learner myself. See my Youtube video on colloquial expressions. There’s even more on my YouTube Channel: pickupthai :)

Yuki Tachaya
Pick Up Thai | YouTube: PickUpThai | twitter: @PickupThai

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A native professional teacher of Thai as a second language and co-producer of PickupThai Podcast : educating and entertaining audio lessons that teach people the real spoken Thai.

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13 Comments

  1. It’s nice to see you, Yuki, working with Catherine ! Really two exceptional persons teaming together, who make very good sites to help humble learners of thai language – we are. Thanks for all the time and knowledge you two pour in your respective so interesting pages. This time, again !, Yuki you did it. Very interesting words and expressions that one can really use in daily life.

  2. Excellent post! Some very useful vocabulary AND very well explained. Hopefully there will be more like this :)

  3. Good post. Thanks.

  4. สุดยอดที่สุด!!! I can never get enough about colloquial Thai. Check out this video from Yuki. Easily one of the best videos I’ve seen on the subject: http://youtu.be/DQWDw4UoR0I

  5. Thank you always, Khun Bernard, for your support :) I truly appreciate it. Thank you, Khun Bert, as well for your kind comment (^n^). You can learn more colloquial expressions from my website. There’s plenty of stuff textbooks never mention (^3^).

  6. I’m absolutely going to make the time to watch all of Yuki’s videos – it’s great stuff!

  7. Ajahn Yuki,

    Very good and clear descriptions. I have come across most of these and usually have to guess at their meanings. Your explanations really help. Thanks.

  8. Thank you khun Dan, khun John and khun Hugh for your kind comments ka (^n^)/* I’m very happy to hear that my article is helpful to all of you :) And thank you again, Catherine, for giving me the opportunity to write a guest post on your website :)

  9. BTW, please don’t forget to come visit my Facebook page. I just posted this compilation of frequently used vocabulary related to work and employment :) Hope you guys find it useful as well (^n^)/* https://www.facebook.com/PickUpThai

  10. Another thumbs up!

  11. Thank you very much ka, Khun Jim :)

  12. Yuki; yery well thought out and well explained post! I’m in the process of watching your videos now.. Hope they’re as good!!

    There is a real need for someone like you in the “teach-thai-2-foreigners” marketplace.. Thai teachers who will take time to go over things like this are thin on the ground here in Thailand.

    Most teachers and in fact most schools teach foreigners to speak Thai like Thais wish they spoke it. By that I mean we (foreigners) are taught an overly polite, too sugary-sweet, too indirect version of mid-to high register Thai. In fact after 8 years here, meeting all walks of Thais from CEO’s, high ranking government officials right on down to the Soi side somtam seller, I’ve never ever heard even a single Thai speak Thai like we foreigners are taught to speak it. It truly is one of the strangest thing I’ve ever seen..

    Slang, colloquial expressions, idioms, etc are a vital part of Thai (or any language really). If you don’t know at least some of them, you end up sounding like an ‘unnatural’ speaker. Face it, foreigners don’t need to sound any more unnatural because we’re already speaking foreign accented Thai to begin with. Knowing phrases and constructs like you have in your post is a way to take the edge off our foreign sounding Thai.

    Keep up the great work!!!
    Tod

  13. Thank you very much, Khun Tods :) Glad you liked my post.

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