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Rian Thai Kruu Cherry: Thai Casual Sentences

Rian Thai Kruu Cherry

Thai Casual Sentences…

Thai is a language that uses different words for formal and informal situations. The words we use can also show the relationship between people.

Today I will teach you how to make a sentence sound more casual, like a native speaker would say it. All of the sentences we learn today can be used with family and friends. Sound good? Ok, let’s begin!

1) I don’t want to bother you.

To bother
Formal: รบกวน
Informal: กวน

So to make it more casual, you can say “ฉันไม่อยากกวนคุณ” instead “ฉันไม่อยากรบกวนคุณ”. Anyway, if you want someone to do something for you and you want to start the sentence with “I don’t want to bother you, but..”, you can use the phrase “โทษนะ”, which is from ขอโทษนะ.

Sorry (excuse me)
Formal: ขอโทษนะ
Informal: โทษนะ

*to say นะ in this phrase, makes it sound more natural, in my opinion.


Sorry to interrupt, but this is very important.
โทษนะ แต่(เรื่อง)นี้สำคัญมาก

Sorry to interrupt, but there’s someone to see you.
โทษนะ แต่มีคนรอพบคุณอยู่

I don’t want to bother you, but can you open the window.
โทษนะ ช่วยเปิดหน้าต่างให้หน่อยได้ไหม

I don’t want to bother you, but can you help me with one thing.
โทษนะ คุณช่วยอะไรผมสักอย่างได้ไหม

Sorry if I come across as rude, but I’m a little confused.
โทษนะ แต่ฉันงงนิดหน่อยว่า…

2) No offense

You can start the sentences with “ไม่ได้ว่านะ” (no offense), when giving negative comments such as, “are you getting fat?!?” (I know it’s weird, but it is okay in Thailand).


No offense, but did you get fat?
ไม่ได้ว่านะ แต่แกอ้วนขึ้นเปล่าเนี่ย

No offense, but your boyfriend is ugly.
ไม่ได้ว่านะ แต่แฟนแกขี้เหร่อ่ะ

3) Can I ask you…?

To ask about personal information or sensitive details, you can start with a casual sentence “ถามอะไรหน่อย.”


Can I ask you something personal?
ถามอะไรหน่อย / ฉันถามอะไรหน่อย

The word “personal” is “เรื่องส่วนตัว.”

You don’t need to say “เรื่องส่วนตัว” before asking the question like “ฉันขอถามเรื่องส่วนตัวหน่อย.” If someone starts asking me questions with sentences like this, I will be very tense and won’t want to answer.

Moreover, casual sentences depend on your voice tone. I always use a voice like I am kidding or even ask with a whisper sound sometimes.

I hope all of these tips are useful for you.

One more thing I almost forgot to tell you. The secret of a casual sentence is a smile on your face. Don’t forget to SMILE! 


The pdf below has Thai script, transliteration, and English.

PDF (77kb): Rian Thai Kruu Cherry: Thai Casual Sentences

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Language Exchange Chiang Mai: English, Thai, Chinese, German and more

Language Exchange Chiang Mai

Language Exchange Chiang Mai…

I first heard about the Chiang mai language exchange group back in 2015 from Daniel Styles. Since then Daniel relocated (but still shows up on occasion), the group was taken over by his mate Maik Cook, and they all shifted to CUBE7 after the closure of their former meeting place, FOCUS.

People from all over the world come to Language Exchange meetings every Wednesday and Saturday. The four most spoken languages are English, Thai, Chinese, and German but many more are represented at the group. Many people at Language Exchange are now friends, but everyone became friends the same way – after meeting and talking with people in the group.

The meetups are a perfect size, anywhere from 10 to 25 people each time. And while they welcome visitors who show up from elsewhere to practice their chosen languages, the meetings mostly consist of intermediate and advanced learners who live, work, or study in Chiang Mai.

The group meets all year around except for during Songkran and the Loy Krathong festival. And on top of their regular language meetups, there’s now a ‘Language Exchange Karaoke Night’ was well as a ‘Language Exchange Food Night’. Sounds like fun!

Their Language Exchange Chiang Mai Facebook group presently has around 2,760 members, comprised of those living in Chiang mai and those planning a holiday around a visit to the language exchange.

If you live in Chiang mai or will be there anytime soon, perhaps stop by?

FB: Language Exchange Chiang Mai
Time: 7pm, Wednesday and Saturday
Venue: CUBE7, Siri Mangkalajarn Rd Lane 7, Thesaban Nakhon Chiang Mai

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Proposal: A Thai Language Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange Thai Language

Over at FCLT Jeff Mcneill shared his proposal for a Thai Language Stack Exchange. And as I was unaware of the resource I had to Google.

About: Launched in 2010, the Stack Exchange network consists of 133 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow, the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers. Since then, the Stack Exchange network has grown into a top 50 online destination with Stack Overflow alone serving more than 50 million developers every month.

When I asked Jeff the reasoning behind this particular project, he came back with four:

  1. The impetus for the idea was a Stack Exchange question regarding the Thai script and its possible relation to Sanskrit. I think this was in the Linguistics stack. I browsed around for the Thai language stack… and it didn’t exist!
  2. Also, very high quality resources such as thai-language.com have a forum but they are not used much.
  3. Third is that while it seems everyone is on Facebook and there is good discussion, search and indexing of conversations is very poor. It’s fine for keeping up with recent activity, but older topics that might be relevant on into the future are hard to find.
  4. Stack Exchange isn’t perfect but it has been very helpful to me on a number of topics, and doesn’t require an account to read, unlike Quora.

So, just how does this work?

The goal is to come up with at least 40 questions that embody the topic’s scope. When at least 40 questions have a score of at least ten net votes (up minus down), then the proposal is considered “defined.”

And to do just that, first do a quick walk through the Stack Exchange Tour, then go to Area51: Thai Language Stack Exchange.

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): Returning to Gor Gai (ก ไก่)

Andrew Biggs

This week I completed a circle that has taken me 23 years. I returned to my roots. I returned to GOR GAI (ก ไก่).

That’s the first letter of the Thai alphabet, and if you’re unhappy about all those capital letters jumping out at you on Sunday morning, be thankful you’ve even got that.

I have a great respect for anybody teaching Thai to foreigners, but you can’t speak Thai via the Roman alphabet. There are too many minefields obstructing your path to fluency.

First, the official way of rendering Thai in English has been devised to deliberately confuse any sensible foreigner. The Bangkok district that is written as “Praves” (ประเวศ), for example, should rhyme with “graves” but it fact it’s something like “Bra-wet”. And what person of normal intelligence would ever think “Phuket” (ภูเก็ต) was really “Poo-get”?!

Second, any “karaoke” (คาราโอเกะ) transliteration dispenses with the tone attached to that word, as integral to Thai as tenses are to English. How do you pronounce song when it can mean number two (สอง – rising tone), envelope (ซอง – middle), send (ส่ง – low) — or even a seedy brothel (ซ่อง – falling)?

(What if I wanted to say: “Send these two envelopes to the brothel!” It’d be written like this: “Song song song song pai song” (ส่ง สอง ซอง ส่งไป ซ่อง). Those two envelopes might end up at some karaoke bar!)

Some clever educators get around this by adding little bumps and squiggles on the transliterated words. If you’re going to invest time in learning bumps and squiggles – why not just sit down and learn the real Thai letters for god’s sake?

That was my thinking 23 years ago when I wandered into a Khon Kaen bookshop and asked: “Have you got a book that teaches me Thai letters?”

What transpired was not a happy time. If my life were a Hallmark movie you’d see me seated by an open bedroom window, happily tracing Thai letters, the sounds of traditional Thai music tinkling out of my transistor radio.

Stuff and nonsense. That first year was a nightmare.

The very first letter in the Thai alphabet is that GOR GAI, or the sound of G as in the first letter of the Thai word for “cock” … as in “cock-a-doodle-doo”, dear reader. Where is your mind on this Sabbath?

I traced GOR GAI over and over on page one of that textbook designed for primary school students. Once finished I had this tremendous sense of elation; I knew my very first letter of the Thai alphabet.

I had come out of the linguistic closet — I was bilingual and proud!

I crashed back down to earth when I snuck a look ahead and saw there were 44 letters to learn. Even at three a day, it would take me a little over two weeks to learn them all – an eternity when you’re backpacking in your twenties.

I employed a Thai teacher to help me. I heard from a mutual friend she became a Buddhist nun in 2002. My only surprise was it took so long between teaching me and donning the white cloth.

“Your language has too many letters. I’m only learning the first half,” I pronounced the first time we met. When I came to my senses and learned them all, she then revealed that two of the letters were obsolete. They remain in the Thai alphabet but nobody uses them anymore.

“You … mean … I … wasted … two-thirds of a day … learning letters … I’ll never use!?!?” I asked, as incredulous as I was menacing.

I also hit the roof when I learned there were three ways of writing a “T”; imagine how my teacher must have dreaded revealing there were FIVE ways to write an “S”.

Language reflects culture. At least I was starting to understand why it took seven Robinson staff to ring up my purchase of a pair of socks, or why there are 650 politicians in Parliament when really only 30 are ever attending, let alone doing any work.

When I got to the end of the 44, my ajarn (อาจารย์) dropped another bombshell.

“Now for the vowels.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, throwing down my pen. “In the English alphabet we incorporate the vowels into the alphabet. We don’t separate them!”

“You’re not learning English,” she replied crisply. That shut me up.

Well look on the bright side, I thought. English has five letters that act as vowels. At least there wouldn’t be so many to learn.

Thirty-friggin’-two of ‘em!

My teacher tried to smooth over things by explaining there were actually “only” 18 along with compounds and such. Oh well that makes life easier, doesn’t it? Excuse me while I go rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I was three months into my Thai experience, and quickly becoming a finalist in the Mr Boring Farang pageant of 1990.

While all my western friends were out gallivanting around Silom, calling me from the phone box outside Pussy Galore, I stayed at home and learnt yet another way of writing the vowel sound of “AH”.

When I finally memorized all 76 sounds and letters, I looked contented. Not so my ajarn. She had nothing but foreboding on her face, like a villager whose hut is right next to an active volcano.

“And now,” she said. “… the tones.”

We had to return to those 44 consonants. You see in Thai, some of those consonants are high class. Some are the hapless middle class, but the vast majority are dirty low class consonants. These classes govern the tones.

Spotting the class differences in consonants was nowhere near as easy as spotting it in the Thais themselves. There is no khunying hairstyle or “Na Ayutthaya” (ณ.อยุธยา) tacked onto the end of the letter to make it high class. I had to go back and learn ‘em all over again.

On day one, when I learned GOR GAI, I thought I knew it all. At this stage, the more I delved into Thai, the more I realized I was out of my depth. I knew absolutely nothing.

You would think that this overload of information would build until I exploded like some Khaosan Road backpacker trying to get directions from a tuk-tuk (ตุ๊ก ๆ) driver.

No. Incredibly, the opposite happened.

It all started to gel.

I began being able to reading Thai words. I could hear the nuances in the tones as people spoke. Sentences started to poke out of the cacophony of sound.

After six months there was an epiphany, and my hard work started to pay dividends.

It is now 23 years later, and to this day, I still learn a new Thai word every day. I make mistakes and mix up the tones, especially if it’s the morning after a particularly long session chewing the fat with dear Uncle Smirnoff.

That 23-year-old circle closed this week as I started a new TV show on cable (MCOT World, Channel 99) teaching Thai. It’s called Tongue Thai’d, a title I proudly thought up myself until I found out half the Thai restaurants in the world have that name, not to mention Catherine Wentworth’s wonderful website www.womenlearnThai.com which is a mine of linguistic information.

I must say I felt a tingle of nostalgia as I kicked off episode one, explaining the letter GOR GAI, and returning me to where I started off. Only now I was the teacher, not the student.

What a great thing I did all those years ago. And who would have thought a mere 44 consonants and 32 vowels would open up a new world that I remain in to this day. I got through with a little perseverance, plus the knowledge that if 65 million Thais can speak the language, why can’t I?

And you … dear reader?

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): The Boat Sinks in the Mouth of the Bay

Andrew Biggs

There is a billboard that caught my attention this week while sitting in a taxi flitting in and out of four lanes of traffic on the three-lane city expressway.

It depicts a young man and woman sitting back to back desolately on a bed. It was clear they were desolate by the hang-dog expression on the man’s face, and the ankle-clutching stance of the woman.

It’s not often we see desolation on inner-city billboards. I’m far more used to billboards featuring the lily-white happy complexions of Thailand’s young actors and actors pushing collagen drinks or bird nest soups or any other of the myriad charlatan products out there.

What also grabbed my attention was the Thai writing next to the unhappy couple.

Reua lom bahk ao (เรือล่มปากอ่าว).

The boat sinks in the mouth of the bay.

What a curious headline!

“What does that mean?” I asked my taxi driver, a happy middle-aged fellow who had been enjoying practicing his English on me until I feigned a cell phone call to shut him up.

Reua lom bahk ao?” he asked back. He broke into a great middle-aged Thai smile. “Oh! You know? You know?” He paused and flashed me a leering smile. “You know?”

“No, I don’t; that’s why I’m asking you.”

“You and lady same-same but you no good. You go first but you very fart. No good, you know?”

I have been in Thailand too long; I understood exactly what he was talking about.

Premature ejaculation.

If ever there was an example of my theory that language doesn’t get much more vivid and descriptive than Thai, then there it was.

I’ve spent 25 years in this country and here was yet another colorful idiomatic phrase that completely passed me by. Nobody had ever said it to me before. And thank God for that, judging by its meaning.

No wonder the couple on the billboard looked so dejected! No wonder the woman was clutching her sturdy ankles; that’s about the only sturdy thing she was going to be clutching that evening for any satisfactory length of time.

(And if you’re new in town, the taxi driver wasn’t that bad in English. You just have to know that ‘same-same’ has the added meaning of ‘sex’ here, while ‘fart’ is in reality ‘fast’ since Thais have difficulty with consonant clusters consisting of S and T.)

How clever of the Thai language to equate premature ejaculation with the sinking of a boat just as it was to enter a harbor. When I got to my office I googled the phrase and sure enough, there it was, hundreds and thousands of times over on the internet.

I did get it the wrong way around. The boat is leaving the harbor, not entering it, as my School Director and Senior Sales Manager, both females, pointed out to me over lunch that day.

“It sinks before it even sets out on the journey,” my School Director explained as she popped a serendipitous Isarn sausage into her mouth.

“I thought it to be more like the train entering the tunnel,” I said. “It’s the boat entering the mouth of the harbor. You know?” Curse that taxi driver! He’s got me saying it now!

“Or the sparrow,” chimed my mannish Senior Sales Manager. She was enjoying a lunch of fried oysters, as was her wont. “When the sparrow has a drink of water.”

I gazed at her intently, expecting her to continue, but it appeared she was finished with her explanation.

“And?” I asked.

“That’s all,” she said. “The sparrow drinks water. That’s what we say in Thai. Nok krajok jib nam (นกกระจอกจิบน้ำ).”

“Yes,” said my Director, eyeing a second sausage. “The sparrow takes a sip of water.”

I don’t know, dear reader, but perhaps I’m just a little slower than the rest of humanity. How on earth does a drinking sparrow relate to premature ejaculation?

Being the boss, I was able to demand an explanation.

“Have you ever seen a sparrow drink water?” my Sales Manager asked. Before I could answer, she was making mannish pecking movements with her right hand towards her plate of fried oysters, accompanied by a very vocal: “Jib! Jib! Jib! Jib! (จิ๊บ! จิ๊บ! จิ๊บ! จิ๊บ!).”

“It’s the same as the boat in the harbor,” added my Director, winking, and I fell further down into the Stupid Hole.

It took them five minutes to pull me out.

The idea is that the sparrow’s pecking at water is a very short, spasmodic movement, not unlike a man who finishes quickly during sex. I find that metaphor a little tenuous and not as imaginative as the boat one, but still, how great is the Thai language!

The conversation didn’t stop there.

“What about the one about the dove?” asked Director to Sales Manager. “In Thai we say: nok khao mai khan (นกเขาไม่ขัน), or ‘The dove does not sing’.”

“You can use that when you feel excited for sex but there is no change – down there,” said my Sales Manager, motioning towards my crutch. Despite every conceivable attempt not to, I reddened ever so slightly.

“Speaking of birds, what about the idiom ‘washing the face of the chicken’ (ล้างหน้าไก่)?” asked my Director.

“Stop right there,” I said. “I’m eating.”

There was an uncomfortable pause.

“Oh what the hell; tell me,” I said and they explained, in polite Thai, how it referred to the erect state of a male upon awakening, if indeed such things can be explained in polite Thai.

“That one is not considered a negative phrase,” said the Sales Manager. “Nothing is stronger than the boat sinking.”

Later that day I was back on the freeway and noticed that the billboard in question wasn’t on its own. It was part of three big signs, the first being the sad couple. The second explained in large letters that NEARLY ONE IN THREE MEN SUFFER FROM PREMATURE EJACULATION and there was a website to visit.

The last one revealed the boat had been dredged up out of the harbor, because in that one the couple were now smiling in each other’s arms, as if their love would last forever, which is a relief since it appeared to have lasted three seconds at the most in the first one.

I have a very old book of common Thai proverbs and sayings that are so entertaining, and not just of a sexual nature.

In Thai, for example, if you “make a sculpture out of water (ปั้นน้ำเป็นตัว)” you are telling lies, since this phrase dates back to an era before we could freeze water into ice-cubes. Yet you still hear it today.

If you “build a house over a tree stump (ปลูกเรือนคร่อมตอ)”, you are committing bigamy. A jack of all trades is somebody who “knows things like a duck (รู้อย่างเป็ด)” … whatever that means.

If you “find a good tree after your axe is broken”, you fall in love with a beautiful woman after you’re already married. A “jar of pickled garlic on legs (ไหกระเทียม)” is a short fat girl.

When you look at all those, a boat sinking in the mouth of the harbor isn’t so out of place.

I have only one reservation. Why is the man in the billboard a farang (ฝรั่ง) while the woman is Thai? Would it have been too close to the bone to have used a Thai male? Just sayin’.

Our story should end there, but it has an interesting footnote.

Remember my casual google of reua lom bahk ao? That was three days ago.

Ever since, I have been bombarded with ads for every erectile dysfunction clinic in town, and believe me there are lots of them. In these modern times Big Brother is not only watching me — he is waiting for my boat to sink.

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Thai Slang You Might Need to Know: Free Audio and Spreadsheet Downloads Included

Benjawan Poomsan Becker

Benjawan Poomsan Becker (of Paiboon Publishing fame) has a Thai and Lao Interpreters’ Study Group ล่ามไทย ນາຍພາສາລາວ on Facebook where they share tips and secrets of the trade.

While Benjawan hasn’t lived in Thailand for years she’s passionate about keeping up with new additions to the Thai language. And whenever she comes across new Thai slang, she adds it to the exceptional Talking Thai <> English Dictionary+Phrasebook.

Interpreters and translators will obviously be aware of homegrown slang but they need to have the translations at the tips of their tongues. Understanding Thai slang is also a great way for students to learn more about the language as well.

Just recently Benjawan shared her shortlist of Thai slang with the Interpreters’ Study Group.

With permission from Benjawan (thanks!) below is her list. The notes in the parenthesis are mine (not set in stone) so if you have suggestions, please, don’t be shy (contact me).

At the bottom of this post you’ll find two files to download: audio and spreadsheet (English, Thai script, and transliteration included). Of course, audio files for each of the words (recorded by Benjawan) can also be found in the dictionary. Have fun! I sure did.

กรอบ /gròp/ dirt poor
กร่อย /gròi/ boring
กระตั๊ก /grà dták/ abundant
กระต่ายตื่นตูม /grà-dtàai dtèun dtoom/ chicken little and the sky is falling (rabbit frightened of noise)
กิ๊ก /gík/ boyfriend, girlfriend, lover in a non-serious relationship
เกิด /gèrt/ have a chance to shine
แก้มือ /gâe meu/ try to do better when given a second chance (to fix a new hand)
ไก่อ่อน /gài òn/ inexperienced person (innocent chicken)
ขาประจำ /kăa bprà-jam/ regular customer
ขี้เต่า /kêe dtào/ armpit
ขี้เลื่อย /kêe lêuay/ dull minded (sawdust)
ขึ้นกล้อง /kêun glông/ photogenic (rise in the camera)
เขี้ยวลากดิน /kîeow lâak din/ tough, not easily give in (long in the fang)
ควาย /kwaai/ stupid person (buffalo)
ค่าโสหุ้ย /kâa sŏh-hûi/ overhead (cost / expense – Chinese origin?)
คุณไสย /kun-săi/ black magic
เครื่องร้อน /krêuang rón/ act immediately with enthusiasm (hot engine)
งก /ngók/ stingy
งงเต็ก /ngong dtèk/ confused
งูๆปลาๆ /ngoo ngoo bplaa bplaa/ knowing very little about something (snake snake fish fish)
จ๋อย /jŏi/ be sad and dejected (to be pale)
จับกบ /jàp gòp/ stumble and fall (to catch a frog)
จ๊าบ /jáap/ cool (Onomatopoeic word?)
จิ๊ก /jík/ steal little things (the sound of pecking something?)
เจ๊ /jáy/ older sister (Chinese word)
เจ๊ง /jéng/ going out of business (collapse)
เจ๋ง /jĕng/ cool, great!
เจาะลึก /jòr léuk/ investigate thoroughly (to drill deep)
แจ๋ว /jăew/ wonderful! (Onomatopoeic word?)
แฉ /chăe/ reveal (possibly from English ‘share’)
ชวด /chûat/ miss, lose out on (rat, animal of the Thai zodiac)
ชะนี /chá-nee/ “woman” used by gay men (gibbons sound like ผัว /pŭa/, husband)
ช้างน้ำ /cháang náam/ big, fat person (hippo)
เช้งกะเด๊ะ /cháyng gà dé/ beautiful and sexy woman (Onomatopoeic word?)
เชย /choie/ old-fashioned
เชียร์แขก /chia kàek/ try to get customers to buy (English loanword: ‘cheer’ on guests)
ซวย /suay/ unlucky
ซา /saa/ subside
ซ่า /sâa/ showy
ซิ่ง /sîng/ brave and hip in expressing oneself (shortened from ‘racing’)
เซ้ง /sáyng/ lease (Chinese origin?)
เซ็ง /seng/ dull
ดอกฟ้า /dòk fáa/ high-ranking woman of rich and powerful family (sky flower)
ดองงาน /dong ngaan/ procrastinate on one’s work (pickling the job)
ดำน้ำ /dam náam/ guess (diving without knowing what you’ll hit)
ดีแตก /dee dtàek/ turning out to be not so good (broken goodness)
ดูไม่จืด /doo mâi jèut/ not looking good (look not bland?)
เด็กกะโปโล /dèk gà-bpoh-loh/ dirty, uncivilized and innocent child (childish child)
เด็กแนว /dèk naew/ young person that follows all the new trends (stylish kids)
เดิ้น /dêrn/ stylish and modern, go-go (shortened from ‘modern’)
เดี้ยง /dîang/ dead, out of order, broken
ไดโนเสาร์ /dai-noh-săo/ old-fashioned (dinosaur, English loanword)
ตกม้าตาย /dtòk máa dtaai/ fail before reaching success (fall down from horse and die)
ตงฉิน /dtong-chĭn/ work honestly (Chinese origin?)
ต้ม /dtôm/ bamboozle, trick, deceive (to boil)
ต่อยหอย /dtòi hŏi/ very talkative (to keep punching a shell to break it)
ตัวซวย /dtua suay/ jinx (unlucky person)
ตาถั่ว /dtaa tùa/ be careless (peanut eyes)
ติ๊งต๊อง /dtíng-dtóng/ wacky (Onomatopoeic word?)
ติดดิน /dtìt din/ down-to-earth, earthy (to stick to the ground)
ตีนแมว /dteen maew/ burglar (cat feet – cats walk softly, soundless)
เตะฝุ่น /dtè fùn/ unemployed (to kick the dust)
เต่าล้านปี /dtào láan bpee/ very old-fashioned person (million year old turtle)
แต๊ะอั๋ง /dtáe-ăng/ grope or touch sexually (Chinese origin?)
ทึ่ง /têung/ amazed (Onomatopoeic word?)
ทุเรศ /tú-râyt/ obscene, shabby (ugly)
นกเขา /nók kăo/ cock, penis (dove)
นกต่อ /nók dtòr/ informant (bird decoy)
นั่งนก /nâng nók/ sleep while sitting (sitting bird)
น้ำเน่า /nám nâo/ soap operas (drains are not filled with good water)
นิ้ง /níng/ superb (Onomatopoeic word?)
เนี้ยบ /níap/ perfect, smart
บอกผ่าน /bòk pàan/ inflate the price of something
บ๊อง บ๊องๆ /bóng · bóng bóng/ crazy (Onomatopoeic word?)
บ้าๆบอๆ /bâa bâa bor bor/ crazy (Onomatopoeic word?)
ปล่อยไก่ /bplòi gài/ embarrassed, make silly or careless mistakes (to release chickens)
ปอดแหก /bpòt hàek/ chicken-hearted (broken lungs)
ปั้นเรื่อง /bpân rêuang/ make up a story (to mold a story)
ปากหอยปากปู /bpàak hŏi bpàak bpoo/ someone who gossips and causes damage to others (shell mouth, crab mouth)
ปิ๊ง /bpíng/ click – between lovers (Onomatopoeic word?)
แป๊บ /bpáep/ one little moment (Onomatopoeic word?)
ผีเสื้อสมุทร /pĕe sêua sà-mùt/ big ugly woman (character from Thai literature)
เผา /păo/ gossip about, talk behind one’s back (to burn someone)
ฝรั่งจ๋า /fà-ràng jăa/ Western idolizer
ฝอย /fŏi/ chat, brag
เพื่อนซี้ /pêuan sée/ very close friend
แพะรับบาป /páe ráp bàap/ scapegoat (goat sin)
ภาษาดอกไม้ /paa-săa dòk máai/ language of love (flower language)
ม้ามืด /máa mêut/ dark horse (unexpected winner)
มีกะตังค์ /mee gà dtang/ rich (to have coins – gà dtang comes from satang สตางค์ which means coins/money)
มือขึ้น /meu kêun/ having good luck (hand up)
มือตก /meu dtòk/ having bad luck (hand down)
เมาท์ /mao/ speak with friends for fun, chat (shortened from ‘mouth’)
แมงดา /maeng-daa/ pimp (insect, giant waterbug)
ไม่ใจ /mâi jai/ coward (no heart)
ไม่เป็นสับปะรด /mâi bpen sàp-bpà-rót/ bad tasting or low quality (not a pineapple)
ยาบ้า /yaa bâa/ methamphetamine, meth, amphetamine, speed (crazy medicine)
ร้อนตับแตก /rón dtàp dtàek/ darn hot (row of dried nipa palm leaves used as a roof – doesn’t break but feels like it)
รู้อย่างเป็ด /róo yàang bpèt/ jack of all trades, master of none (to know like a duck)
เรื่องขี้ผง /rêuang kêe pŏng/ easy matter or trivial (story dust)
ลองของ /long kŏng/ try something usually bad
ลักไก่ /lák gài/ cheat in a game (to steal a chicken)
ลูกมือ /lôok meu/ helper or assistant (small hand)
วาบหวาม /wâap wăam/ provoking sensation or sexually explicit (Onomatopoeic word?)
เวอร์ /wer/ too much (shortened from ‘over’).
สวิงเด้ง /sà-wĭng dâyng/ scream with excitement
สะเออะ /sà-ùh/ meddle
สันดาน /săn daan/ trait
ไส้แห้ง /sâi hâeng/ destitute (dry intestines – to be starving)
หน้าโหล /nâa lŏh/ common looking face (a dozen faces – everything the same)
หมดตูด /mòt dtòot/ dead broke (finished pooping)
หมวย /mŭay/ young Chinese woman (Chinese origin?)
หมาวัด /măa wát/ poor man (temple dog)
หมาหมู่ /măa mòo/ group of dangerous men (a group of dogs)
หมู /mŏo/ easy (pig)
หยวน /yŭan/ give in reluctantly
หลุดโลก /lùt lôhk/ eccentric or quirky (out of this world)
หวย /hŭay/ lottery, lotto
ห่วย /hùay/ bad, no good
ห่วยแตก /hùay dtàek/ crap! (bad broken)
ห้องกง /hông gong/ jail (cell room – hông gong rhymes with Hong Kong)
หายต๋อม /hăai-dtŏm/ disappear for a long time (disappear + the sound of throwing something into the water)
แห้ว /hâew/ lose one’s opportunity, to blow it (chestnut)
เฮง /hayng/ fortunate, lucky (Chinese origin?)
เฮี้ยน /hían/ manifesting the power of an evil spirit
ไฮโซ /hai soh/ high-class (shortened from ‘high society’)

Speak Like a Thai 1&2…

Many of the words (with phrases) in this list can be found in Benjawan’s Speak Like a Thai series.

Speak Like a Thai Volume 1
Speak Like a Thai Volume 2

Smartphone Apps: Talking Thai <> English Dictionary+Phrasebook…

There is no better Thai dictionary with audio and phrases than the Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Dictionary by Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand. It’s an amazing resource that keeps on getting better. Most of the slang used in this post will be in the dictionary.

iOS app: Talking Thai <> English Dictionary+Phrasebook
Android: Talking Thai <> English Dictionary+Phrasebook

Thai slang download files…

Spreadsheet Download (zip): Thai Slang To know – 498kb
Spreadsheet Download (pdf): Thai Slang To know – 80kb
Audio Download (zip): Thai Slang To know – 1.9mg zip

Note: These files are for personal use only (please do not place them on other websites).

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Bab.la’s New (Community Driven) Online Thai-English Dictionary

Bab.la's Dictionary

Congrats to Bab.la! They’ve now added Thai-English to their massive collection of crowdsourced online dictionaries, making the Thai language number 42.

Just check it out!: Bab.la’s new online Thai-English Dictionary

About bab.la: bab.la is a language project by Andreas Schroeter and Patrick Uecker.

The idea has been on Andreas’ mind for quite some time. During his high school and university years he lived in Canada, France, Sweden and the USA. He noticed that just knowing the exact translation often doesn’t really help. You really need to “live” the language to come up with the right word.

Andreas has been collecting dictionaries from different languages for a long time. Putting the things together was just a natural step: Starting a portal where language lovers can meet and exchange their ideas and learn languages from each other.

Who is a better teacher than a native speaker who likes to share his knowledge?

Side note: To support the foreign language community, Bab.la hosts the amazing Top 100 Language Lovers Competition each year. It’s a huge effort (kudos to their team).

Whether your goal is to get your head around some basic Thai survival phrases for your travels around the country, or if you plan to stay in the longer term and need a more in-depth understanding, the bab.la Thai-English dictionary will come in handy.

Did you know that you can contribute to bab.la’s dictionaries? By joining the bab.la community, you can suggest new words and verify words contributed by others. You can also ask for grammar, translation, spelling or pronunciation help in babla’s forum.

For fun, be sure to check out bab.la’s infographic sharing interesting facts about the Thai language and the Thai culture.

Again, congrats to bab.la! I’ve been patiently waiting for this to happen :)

Twitter: @babla
Website: en.bab.la
Blog: lexiophiles.com
Facebook: babla.languages
Dictionary: Thai-English Dictionary

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Thai Style: Feeling Like a Thai: Don’t be Sad

Thai Style

Feeling Like a Thai Introduction…

You may have read my first post, Be Happy, in my Feeling Like A Thai Series and it may have made you feel a bit downhearted when seeing so many different feeling words to learn in order to express yourself naturally in Thai. When you think you can express yourself quite well sometimes you may be misunderstood by native speakers and/or do not understand why they react in such a way when you feel differently.

To elaborate, to feel like a Thai I mean to understand how Thais would think and feel towards different situations. In my opinion, you probably would never be able to feel like native Thais unless you have been living, working and socialising with Thais for decades and/or have Thai family since in order to understand how natives think and feel, you should understand Thai culture, customs, beliefs, personality, attitudes and the ways Thais express themselves. To understand these aspects can take a life time. Moreover, words can not always be translated directly into another languages. To understand a word you need to understand the elaborated meanings of that word.

For example, if you were looking in a phrase book or in a dictionary for a Thai translation of the word ‘sorry’, most of the time you probably translate the meaning as ขอโทษ /kŏr-tôd/ however, did you know that this is only used when you would like to make an apology to someone and not when you feel sorry when you hear sad news, in which case we would use the word เสียใจ /sĕar-jai/. For that reason, you should also learn to look up the definition; a statement of the exact meaning of a word, not just a direct translation. Personally, I believe a good language book or good dictionary should include comprehensive definitions, usage explanations and example sentences to help you correctly understand the meaning of new words.

There are many factors, as stated above, that may effect how and when to use different feeling words. Therefore, in this series, I write a list of different types of feelings to help you to use correct words to indicate your feeling in Thai language as well as explanations on how and when to use them. There are six posts in total; ‘Be happy’, ‘Don’t be sad’, ‘Oh no! A Thai is angry!’, ‘So scary!’, ‘I’m confused. What have I done wrong?’ and lastly, ‘Wheel of Feelings’.

For those who haven’t read my first post, I suggest you to have a read before learning the vocabulary in this post. There are principles and grammar points that you need to understand to help you correctly construct a sentence to express your feelings. After reading that, you are ready to continue with this one. Good luck and don’t feel discouraged!

Feeling Like a Thai: Don’t be Sad…

Grammar point: In language, there is not always a direct feeling verb that can be used to indicate one’s feeling. We sometimes use other types of words, e.g. modifier (adjective or adverbs) or nouns, to try to describe our feelings as best as we can and there are certain grammar rules you should know. The following are different ways to construct a sentence to indicate one’s feeling.

Direct verb / Direct form of verb (Active Voice)…

เขาเสียใจ /kăo sĕar-jai/ = He/She is sad.

เสียใจ /sĕar-jai/ is a direct feeling verb which can be used after a subject to clarify the subject’s feeling.

More examples:

เขาเศร้าใจ /kăo săo-jai/ = He/She is sorrowful.
เขาเหนื่อยใจ /kăo nùeay-jai/ = He/She is drained.
เขาอับอาย /kăo ub-aai = He/She is disgraced.


1) Negative modifier ไม่ /mâi/ is used before the word it modifies except a noun e.g. เขาไม่เสียใจ /kăo mâi sĕar-jai/ = He/She is not sad.

2) Negative in grammar & logic (of a word, clause, or proposition) is to express denial, negation, or refutation; stating or asserting that something is not the case.

Expressing one’s feeling by using quality modifiers (adjective or adverb)…

เขารู้สึกแย่ /kăo rûu-sùek yâe/ = He/she feels bad/terrible.

Feeling verb รู้สึก /rûu-sùek/ = to feel.

แย่ /yâe/ is a quality modifier (adjective or adverb) meaning be bad, be terrible and is not a direct feeling verb. Therefore you need to use the word รู้สึก /rûu-sùek/, meaning to feel, which is a direct feeling verb used after a subject to clarify that the subject feels as in the stated quality modifier.

More Examples:

เขารู้สึกล้มเหลว /kăo rûu-sùek /ó’m-lăew/ = He/She feels defeated.
เขารู้สึกไร้ค่า /kăo rûu-sùek rái-kâa/ = He/She feels worthless.
เขารู้สึกต่ำต้อย /kăo rûu-sùek dtùm-dtôi/ = He/She feels humbled.

Note: Negative modifier ไม่ /mâi/ is used before the word it modifies except a noun e.g. เขาไม่รู้สึกแย่ /kăo mâi rûu-sùek yâe/ = He/she does not feel bad/terrible.

Expressing one’s feeling by using a state noun…

1) เขารู้สึกทุกข์ /kăo rûu-sùek tóok/ = He/She feels miserable.
2) เขาเป็นทุกข์ /kăo bpe’n tóok/ = He/She is in misery.
3) เขามีทุกข์ /kăo mee tóok/ = He/She has miserableness.

All three = He/She are unhappy, distressed or in misery.

1) Feeling verb รู้สึก /rûu-sùek/ = to feel
ทุกข์ /tóok/ is a state noun meaning adversity, misery, hardship, suffering and is not a direct feeling verb. Therefore you need to use the word รู้สึก /rûu-sùek/, meaning to feel, which is a direct feeling verb used after a subject to clarify that subject feels something as sentence 1 above.

2) Status / state of being verb เป็น /bpe’n/ = to be, is/am/are (used in front of a noun). We can also describe that a person be in the state of having adversity as sentence 2 above.

3) Existence verb มี /mee/ = to have/has/had, to own, to possess, there is/are/was/were, consist of, contain of (used in from of a noun), to undergo. Or we describe that a person has or undergo adversity in ones mind as sentence 3 above.

More examples:

เขาเป็นแผลในใจ /kăo bpe’n plăe nai jai/ = He/She be in the state of having a wound in the heart (feels wounded).

เขามีแผลในใจ /kăo mee plăe nai jai/ = He/She has a wound in the heart (feels wounded).

เขาไม่มีความสุข /kăo mâi mee kwaam+sóok/ = He/She doesn’t have happiness. He/she is not content. He/she is unhappy with life.

Note: Negative modifier ไม่ /mâi/ is used before the word it modifies except a noun. Therefore we would not say ‘เขารู้สึกไม่ทุกข์ /kăo rûu-sùek mâi tóok/’.

Expressing one’s feeling by using an abstract noun…

(existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence)

1) เขา(รู้สึก)มีภาระหนักหน่วง /kăo (rûu-sùek) mee paa-rá nùk-nùang/ = He/She feels having a heavy burden. He/She feels undergoing a heavy burden.

2a) เขา(รู้สึก)มีความทุกข์ /kăo (rûu-sùek) mee kwaam+tóok/ = He/She feels having adversity. He/She feels undergoing adversity.

2b) รู้สึกมี /rûu-sùek mee/ = to feel having/undergoing or มี /mee/ = (see explanation above).

1) ภาระ /paa-rá/ is an abstract noun meaning burden and is not a direct feeling verb therefore you need to use the word (รู้สึก)มี /(rûu-sùek) mee/ after a subject to clarify that subject feels or have/undergo something.

2) ความทุกข์ /kwaam+tóok/ is an abstract noun meaning adversity, misery, hardship, suffering and is not a direct feeling verb therefore you need to use the word (รู้สึก)มี /(rûu-sùek) mee/ after a subject to clarify that subject feels or have/undergo something.


1) You do not need to say รู้สึก /rûu-sùek/ with abstract noun if the explanation obviously exhibits one’s feeling.

2) We cannot say เขารู้สึกภาระ /kăo rûu-sùek paa-rá/, as it would mean ‘He/She feels burden’ which is weird to say.

3) We also cannot say เขาเป็นภาระ /kăo bpe’n paa-rá/ as it would mean ‘He/She is a burden’ not ‘‘He/She feel/is burdened’.

4) Negative modifier ไม่ /mâi/ is used before the word it modifies except a noun. Therefore we can either say: ‘เขารู้สึกไม่มีภาระหนักหน่วง /kăo rûu-sùek mâi mee paa-rá/ = He/She feels not having a burden. He/She feels not undergoing a burden’ or ‘เขาไม่รู้สึกมีภาระหนักหน่วง /kăo mâi rûu-sùek mee paa-rá/ = He/She does not feel having a burden. He/She does not feel undergoing a burden.’

Although, the two sentences above have subtle different meanings they can exhibit the same feeling.

Downloads: Feeling Like a Thai: Don’t be Sad…

Same as with the previous post, Feeling Like a Thai: Be Happy, this resource is enormous, making it impossible to include everything here. Instead, the 25 pages filled with examples and audio files are in downloads for you to enjoy.

Pdf: Feeling Like a Thai: Don’t be Sad: 402kb
Audio: Feeling Like a Thai: Don’t be Sad: 9.8mg

Note: These files are for personal use only (please do not place on other websites).

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Thai Time: Using Pronouns Like a Pro (Part 1: How to Say ‘I’ in Thai)

Bingo Lingo

Using pronouns like a pro…

“I” for males is ผม /pǒm/ and for females is ดิฉัน /dichán/, “you” is คุณ /kun/, and “he” and “she” are เค้า /káo/. Every student knows that. Every student uses these. That’s how the Thais do it. Or do they?

One of the blessings of the English language is the ease of the choice of pronouns. It is generally agreed that there are 7: I, we, you, he, she, it and they (we’ll put vernacular variations such as “one”, “y’all”, “youse” aside). There are only 3 factors that govern the choice of these pronouns: person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), number (singular or plural) and sex (masculine, feminine, or non-human neuter).

And that’s it. “I” will always be “I” no matter who “I” am. “You” will always be “you” whether “you” are a president or a beggar. However, if you have even a little bit of knowledge of the Thai language, you must have at least heard that there are OODLES more pronouns than just 7. If a learner asks “How do you translate the pronoun XXX into Thai?”, they will get something like this as a result:

Bingo Lingo

The tabulated mess above is caused by the Thai pronoun system which reflects the interconnected relationships amongst Thai people. Thai people’s choice of pronouns is NEVER absolute; they will choose a pronoun that suits the situation and the relationship between them and the person they’re speaking to. They can refer to themselves and others in many different ways.

Bingo LingoAt this point, you would probably think, “Yeah, it’s all well and lovely that Thai language is so profound, I get it, but please just give me one word for each English pronoun to use, just one word!” After doing some quick look-up on your favourite phrasebook, your wish is granted:

And I think that these equivalents are a good place to start. When you start learning a language, no one wants to have the entire grammar book shoved down their throat. You tear off each page, chew, swallow, and digest. These words are perfectly functional and will get the job done. However, learners will benefit greatly from the ability to shuffle between different pronouns appropriately, as the ability to do so is another milestone that will move you up a few steps from “poot Thai daai nit noi”, and you will convince Thai people you have an understanding not only of their language but of Thailand’s social structure, which encourages Thais to speak to you in Thai. If you sound natural then Thais will think you ‘get’ them.

But before we go into each individual word, let’s look at some of the factors that influence the choice of pronouns.

Factors that govern the choice of Thai pronouns…

This is a deep, hard, complex subject to touch upon. I do not dare to claim I have it all figured out and certainly cannot provide you the perfect formulae for the choice of pronouns. It seems there are countless variables at work when it comes to this, but I can give you what I think of as the most important for determining your relationship with whomever you’re conversing with. So here goes:

Person: This factor is universal for all languages, not just Thai. The 1st person is the speaker (or yourself in this case), the 2nd person is the person you are speaking to, and the 3rd person is the person you mention while speaking to the 2nd person.

Sex: Obviously. Some pronouns can tell you the gender of the person being referred to. Everyone knows ผม /pǒm/ is for male and ดิฉัน /dichán/ is for female. However, a lot of Thai pronouns can be used to refer to either sex, such as เขา /káo/ which can either refer to the male or female 3rd person.

Formality: The situation or circumstance people are in restricts the way in which they refer to one other. You might call your friend such obscene nicknames in private, but when you refer to him during a formal quarterly meeting—for whatever reason—you will most definitely have to refer to him as ‘Mr. (followed by surname)’. Formality also comes from your audience. Rude nicknames that you give to your friend can’t be used when both of you are talking to your university professor. A respected individual brings about a formal air wherever they go, so take that into account.

Respect: In Thailand, you would want to express your modesty to people who are ranked high in the social hierarchy, be it through age, authority, or other criteria. This can be done in two ways: address the listener or the mentioned individual with a respectful pronoun and/or refer to yourself with a humble pronoun. Beware however, as excessive reverence can be seen as sarcasm.

Politeness: A lot of people seem to mix this one up with the respect factor. Being polite means that you’re following social norms because you want to show the world that you’re good-mannered and educated, while being respectful means that you want to display some kind of reverence to a particular individual because society dictates that they deserve it. Politeness is more about ‘expressing your virtue’ but respect is more about ‘expressing your subservience’.

Familiarity: You wouldn’t call a guy you just met ‘Toby Boo Boo’. That would be such an egregious violation of personal space. This factor is not really apparent in English, but in Romance languages there are pronouns designated for different levels of intimacy: tu-vous in French, tú-usted in Spanish, and so on (for reference: “T-V distinction” by Brown & Gilman, 1960). In Thai, there are also pronouns you reserve for people you don’t know well and pronouns you exclusively use with those you are close to.

Please note that I’m missing the ‘Number’ factor from this article, because most pronouns in Thai can be used to refer to a single person or a group of people. If you must express that you’re referring to more than just 1 person, you can stick the พวก /pûak-/ prefix in front of that pronoun. However, the reality is that Thai people do not use it that much and I imagine if you’re here reading this, you want to speak like a native speaker, not the Thai language that follows English’s grammatical rules (the only exception being เรา /rao/ which I’ll talk about in the pronoun list).

There is also another important factor: ‘Moods & attitudes’. Our state of mind and our attitude towards people or things are reflected in our speech. This is how humans can read each other; through their rhetoric. You know your Mum is in a good mood when you’re referred to as ‘Ben honey’ and you know her wrath is about to rain down upon you when that turns to ‘Benjamin’. However, we’re not going to talk much about it in this article because of its complicated nature. For instance, some forms of moods can change the speaker’s intention entirely. To give you an example, while the word คุณ /kun/ shows politeness [+polite], it implies that you and the person you’re speaking to are not that close [-intimate]. However, if it’s meant as a sarcasm or irony towards your friend (like when you’re being extra polite to your best friend as a joke), suddenly it is not polite [-polite] but very familiar [+intimate]. As you can see, this is going to be problematic for our simplistic, box-ticking method, so I’ll leave it out until someone cares enough to do a proper analysis on it.

How to say ‘I’ in Thai…

With the factors explained above combined, you can read through this list to see what attributes each pronoun has. I’ll also give a short description and concrete examples of interpersonal and situational context where the pronoun may be deemed appropriate. If that factor has blank (-) at any pronoun, it means that that factor isn’t really relevant and the pronoun can be used in either situation.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the 1st person pronouns first.

Some 1st person pronouns also have a counterpart which is normally used in the 2nd person as its pair. I’ll note which word each pronoun is paired with, if any.

Let’s start!

ผม /pŏm/
Person: 1st
Sex: Male
Formality: Yes
Respectful: Yes
Polite: Yes
Familiar: No

If you’re a guy, you’ve probably used this word hundreds of time by now. This very convenient male pronoun for men can be used with pretty much everyone and will never offend anyone. However, keep in mind that ผม /pǒm/ carries an air of formality, so while it is a nice little polite word, it can also sound stuffy when using with friends.

  • When to use: Pretty much with everyone e.g. teacher, older people, younger people that you don’t know well, in a (mature) relationship, strangers, acquaintances, etc.
  • When not to use: Probably with close friends or with friends you want to get close to.
  • Paired pronoun: คุณ /kun/

ดิฉัน /dichán/
Person: 1st
Sex: Female
Formality: VERY
Respectful: Yes
Polite: Yes
Familiar: HELL NO

I can’t think of many pronouns that are more official-sounding than ดิฉัน /dichán/. While it is true that it’s polite and you’ll never offend anyone with it, it sounds frighteningly distant and is rarely used among people who have any kind of relationship of any degree of familiarity with each other rather than professional. Thai teachers use it a lot in Thai classrooms because it’s easy to teach, but in reality you’ll only hear this word from Thai females in situations which they consider formal, such as in meetings with clients, in interviews, making a speech. Some female friends of mine say they have never even used this word in their lives!

For female learners who want to sound natural, I suggest you find another strategy, such as referring to yourself by name (I know, some of you think it’s silly, but hey, that’s what we do).

  • When to use: Dealing with Thai officials, people you have a professional relationship with, being interviewed, with strangers, etc.
  • When not to use: In any situation that requires solidarity. Not with your friends, partner, partner’s family, colleagues, bosses, or anyone you wish to love you.
  • Paired pronoun: คุณ /kun/

ฉัน /chán/
Person: 1st
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: –
Respectful: Sometimes no
Polite: –
Familiar: Yes

ฉัน /chán/ is a funny one—it is considered a default ‘I’ pronoun, this is why you’ll hear this word used a lot in songs and literature. In real life, it is commonly used by females in informal situations, but can also be used by men as well, especially when talking to females of equal or lower status. Many male learners think this word is exclusively feminine and are reluctant to use it. It’s a fun word to use with female friends who you are close to!

Another myth I want to debunk, there is nothing polite about the word ฉัน /chán/. If anything, with a sharp tone of voice and a wrong attitude, it makes you sound arrogant! It’s not impolite, it’s just not polite either.

  • When to use: Talking to friends of the opposite sex, people who do not mind you being a bit cheeky to them.
  • When not to use: When you need to be extremely polite. Certainly not with people of higher status, such as doctor, monks, university professors. Probably not even with your Thai teachers, unless they don’t mind. (Chances are they won’t, because they’re the one teaching this word to you!)
  • Paired pronoun: เธอ /ter/

เรา /rao/
Person: 1st
Sex: Both
Formality: –
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: Somewhat

If you look up a dictionary you’ll see เรา /rao/ being translated as ‘we’ in English, but in fact this word is often used as singular. (Think of the royal singular ‘we’, it’s not the same but you get the point.) This nice little word is very versatile—both male and female speakers can use it with almost everyone around the same age or younger, as long as the circumstance doesn’t require you to be formal.

  • When to use: Talking to friends or acquaintances of the same age. Pretty much with anyone who isn’t older or who doesn’t have a higher social status.
  • When not to use: With older people or people you should be showing respect to.

หนู /nǔu/
Person: 1st
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: –
Respectful: Yes Polite: Yes
Familiar: Somewhat

The literal meaning of หนู /nǔu/ is ‘rat, mouse’. The metaphorical use of this word as a pronoun expresses deference towards the listener who is of a higher status or deserves respect; calling yourself a rat surely makes anyone feel small! It is normally used by females when talking to their parents, older relatives, teachers, bosses or more senior colleagues, although some small boys may use this word when talking to their parents as well. (In which case they generally drop this use when they’re older—or not, I know a few male adult ‘rats’!)

This word is a good word to show respect to older Thais while sounding friendly as well. At first they might be surprised when female foreigners try to use this word. I say keep at it, if you want to win over their heart.

  • When to use: You’re female and you want to show respect and win favour from older Thais.
  • When not to use: You’re male. (unless you want people to second-guess your sexual orientation.)

กู /guu/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: HELL NO
Respectful: HELL NO
Polite: HELL NO
Familiar: VERY

Years ago before the polite pronouns had been invented, กู /guu/ used to be the default pronoun for ‘I’. Everybody used it, including kings. Nowadays it is considered a profanity. The only context in which this would be acceptable to use is with your really close friends to express intimacy, and even then you mustn’t use it in the presence of a respected audience; you can call yourself กู /guu/ with a friend who doesn’t mind that, but if your professor is there too then their presence will automatically create an environment where only polite language is allowed. Violate this and prepare to be scolded, or at least judged!

Also, if you try and use this word with people you’re not close to, it will immediately be interpreted as a provocation. For a nation that avoids confrontation at all cost, provocation is a serious issue for Thais! No matter how angry you are with anyone, do not attempt to use กู /guu/ and มึง /mueng/ with them unless you’re prepared to handle the ramifications that may follow… it can turn pretty ugly, in my experience.

I say avoid using this word until your Thai proficiency is right up there first. Don’t run before you can walk, don’t swear before you can talk.

On a side note, males tend to use this word more than females but it is not really an uncommon thing to hear Thai females using it any more, if they feel comfortable enough with their company.

  • When to use: Very limited use. With close friends (only when they initiate it, and only when respected individuals are not around).
  • When not to use: When you’re not sure you can get out of it alive.
  • Paired pronoun: มึง /mueng/

ข้า /kâa/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: VERY

Similar to กู /guu/ above, this one is also considered vulgar, although it is nowhere near as vulgar as กู /guu/. However ข้า /kâa/ sounds quite archaic for the 21st century. Its implication is that the speaker is of an older generation or that he or she comes from quite a remote part of Thailand. You’ll see this word a lot in old literature or in stories set in the past. Granted, there are people still using this word, but it’s not really a fashionable word people use today. It’d be an odd choice of pronoun for non-native speakers, dost thou not agree?

  • When to use: Never? Unless you’re writing a Thai epic novel.
  • When not to use: When you’re not writing a Thai epic novel.
  • Paired pronoun: เอ็ง /eng/

ข้าพเจ้า /kâapajâao/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: VERY
Respectful: –
Polite: Yes
Familiar: HELL NO

The use of ข้าพเจ้า /kâapajâao/ is restricted only to the ‘frozen register’—the level of language that is highly ceremonial and unchanging, often in one-directional communication style, such as formal speeches, pledges, contracts or declarations, etc. Therefore, normally you’ll only see it written, not said.

  • When to use: Drafting a speech or a housing lease.
  • When not to use: In general two-way communication.

อั๊ว /úa’/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: Yes

This word comes from the Teochew word我 [ua˥˨] (I). This word is used mainly by people of Teochew ancestry who migrated to Siam/Thailand throughout its history. As the influence of the Chinese-Thai grew, ethnic Thais also started picking up Chinese words to use in their speech as well.

In Chinese-Thai families where the Chinese identity is still strong, code-mixing between Thai and Chinese is very common and it is perfectly fine and inoffensive, but when spoken by Thai people (who have no Teochew background) this word can be off-putting because it has a harsh, angry tone to it. This is not to mention it might also confuse your listener, because why would you use a word of Teochew Chinese origin when speaking Thai?

  • When to use: When you’re Chinese-Thai.
  • When not to use: When you’re not Chinese-Thai.
  • Paired pronoun: ลื้อ /lúe/

เค้า /káo/
Person: 1st
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: No
Respectful: –
Polite: –
Familiar: Yes

Confused? You should be. Me too. This word is originally a 3rd person pronoun, but you might have witnessed overt Thai lovebirds referring to themselves by this word. เค้า /káo/ as a 1st person pronoun is largely used by Thai females who have a ‘sweet girl’ personality. You know, lovely and cute and naive. They won’t just use it with anyone either, it has to be their close friends, boyfriend or husband. This pronoun, used in this way, expresses the speaker’s affection towards the listener, albeit a little nauseating. So it’s a good thing! I guess…

  • When to use: Should you use this word? No. At least save it for when talking to your boyfriend/girlfriend only.
  • When not to use: Need I say more?
  • Paired pronoun: ตัวเอง /dtua-eeng/

…And that was just the words for “I”! In my next post, Thai time: Using pronouns like a pro (Part 2: What should I call ‘you’), in addition to the factors we’ve learnt in this post we’ll also explore the crucial concept of ‘social status’ and how to apply that to addressing Thai people appropriately. It’s not as straightforward as in English, but at least I hope you’ll find it interesting.

Until next time!

Part 2: What Should I Call ‘You’
Part 3: To ‘He/She’ or Not to ‘He/She’, That is the Question

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Thai Time: Thai Sentence Expansion Drills

Bingo Lingo

Thai Sentence Expansion Drills…

The idea for this brief post came from Aaron Myers’ handy Language Learning Tip: Sentence Expansion Drills (see his post for further explanation). For sure, it’s a quick way to increase your Thai skills!

How It Works: You can do sentence expansion drills in a lot of different ways. The simplest is to just have these sorts of conversations with yourself about the things you see around you. You could also do this drill on paper. Another great way to do these sorts of drills is to do them with a native speaker.

Using this method, below are sample sentences. Added words have been underlined.

–>> And please don’t panic. Pdf files with and without transliteration are in the downloads below. Audio downloads are included.

I go to school.

I like going to school.

I like going to study at school.

I like going to study Thai at school

I like riding a bicycle to go to study Thai at school.

My friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school.

My Chinese friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school.

My Chinese friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school every morning.

My Chinese friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school every Saturday and Sunday morning.

My Chinese friend and I don’t like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school every Saturday and Sunday morning


Tips and rules…

1. Thai is an SVO language; the word order is subject-verb-object.

2. In Thai, adjectives come after nouns, e.g. เพื่อนคนจีน (friend human-China) “a Chinese friend”.

3. When using multiple verbs in one sentence, you can often just “stack” them up without using any connector, e.g. ฉันชอบไปเรียน (I like go study) “I like to go to study”.

4. When doing sentence expansion drill in Thai, it’s easier start from the core components first (nouns & verbs) and then use descriptive words such as adjectives and adverbs (time, place & manner) to expand sentences.

Downloads: Thai Sentence Expansion Drills…

Thai Sentence Expansion Drills (pdf with transliteration): 174kb
Thai Sentence Expansion Drills (pdf without transliteration): 170kb
Thai Sentence Expansion Drills (audio): 796kb

Note: These files are for personal use only (please do not place them on other websites).

Until next time!

(Bingo) Arthit Juyaso
Principal of Duke Language School
My book on reading Thai fast: Read Thai in 10 Days

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