Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: Adjective Patterns

Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary to learn Thai

Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: Adjective Patterns…

Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Thai and English treat adjectives a bit differently. The word order is different. English uses adjective + noun as in “big dog”, and “white rabbit”. The Thai word order is the opposite, noun + adjective, as in “หมาใหญ่” and “กระต่ายสีขาว”.

Thai adjectives also do not use the “be” verb as English ones do as in “the dog is big.” But use the simple noun + adjective pattern as in “หมาใหญ่”. Thai adjectives in fact act very much like Thai verbs do.

There are many adjective patterns in Thai. The following are six common patterns. Simple examples are given here. You can use the vocabulary below to substitute in the patterns to make your own phrases and sentences. To get sound files recorded for your sentences, please put them in the comments of this post.

All the vocabulary needed is listed below in the samples from the High Frequency Vocabulary List (you can download the list here).

Pattern 1…

The first pattern is a simple noun with a describing adjective.

Noun + adjective
หมา + ใหญ่

Examples:

หมาใหญ่
A big dog.

หมาสีขาว
A white dog.

หมาดุ
A vicious dog.

Pattern 1a…

All adjective patterns can also be negative.

Noun + not + adjective
หมา + ไม่ +ใหญ่

Examples:

หมาไม่ใหญ่
The dog isn’t big.

หมาไม่สีขาว
The dog isn’t white.

หมาไม่ดุ
The dog isn’t vicious.

Pattern 2…

All Thai nouns have classifiers. These are usually used when counting nouns but can also be used when describing them. They aren’t required and if left out carry the same meaning as Pattern 1.

Noun + classifier + adjective
หมา + ตัว + ใหญ่

Examples:

หมาตัวใหญ่
The big dog.

หมาตัวสีขาว
The white dog.

หมาตัวดุ
The vicious dog.

Pattern 3…

The verb “be” is usually not used with Thai adjectives but can be used in sentences.

Pronoun/noun + be + noun + (classifier) + adjective
มัน + เป็น + หมา + (ตัว) + ใหญ่

Examples:

มันเป็นหมาตัวใหญ่
It’s a big dog.

มันเป็นหมาตัวสีขาว
It’s a white dog.

หมา(โน่น)เป็นหมาตัวสีขาว
That dog (over there) is a white dog.

มันเป็นหมาดุ
It’s a vicious dog.

Pattern 4…

Other verbs can be used in sentences with adjectives also.

Pronoun/noun + verb + noun + (classifier) + adjective
ผม + ชอบ + หมา + (ตัว) + ใหญ่

Examples:

ผมชอบหมาตัวใหญ่
I like big dogs.

ผมชอบหมาตัวสีขาว
I like white dogs.

ผมไม่ชอบหมาดุ
I don’t like vicious dogs.

Pattern 5…

Thai can also use the equivalent of which/that when describing nouns.

Noun + ที่ + (classifier) + adjective (+ phrase)
หมา + ที่ + (ตัว) + ใหญ่ (+ อยู่ที่วัด)

Examples:

(the following can be read “dog” or “dogs”)

หมาที่ตัวใหญ่อยู่ที่วัด
The dog, which is big, is at the temple.

หมาที่ตัวสีขาวอยู่ที่วัด
The white dog is at the temple.

หมาที่ตัวดุอยู่ที่วัด
The vicious dog is at the temple.

Pattern 6…

Thai adjectives all have “intensifiers”, words that make the adjective stronger. English has words like “very”, and “really”, and other general-use intensifiers. Thai also has general intensifiers (มาก, จริงๆ) as well as at least one specific intensifier for each adjective.

Sometimes there are two Thai adjectives that have the same meaning. When said together they also intensify the meaning (ดุร้าย is “quite fierce, vicious”; อ้วนท้วน is “truly fat, plump”).

One more way adjectives can be intensified is simply by repeating them (ใหญ่ ใหญ่, or ใหญ่ๆ).

Listen to how a native Thai speaker says repeated adjectives and you will find something interesting. Each one is said with a different tone. This is a case where the written tone rules don’t apply. It is why listening to a native speaker is the only way to get it right.

Noun + adjective + intensifier
หมา + ใหญ่ + มาก

Examples:

หมาใหญ่มาก
A very big dog (general intensifier).

หมาใหญ่จริงๆ
A really big dog (general intensifier).

หมาใหญ่เบ้อเร่อ
A huge dog (specific intensifier for “ใหญ่”).

หมาดุร้าย
An incredibly vicious dog (a double adjective).

หมาใหญ่ๆ
A truly big dog (repeating the adjective).

Exercise: Interpreting adjective patterns (answers below):

How would you interpret the following?

ฉันต้องการบ้านหลังใหญ่มาก
มันเป็นวัดสีขาว
หมาน่าเกลียด
รถของพวกเขาเป็นรถที่ช้า
ห้องนี้ไม่แพง ห้องนี้ถูก

Exercise: Creating complete Thai sentences (answers below):

Render the following into Thai.

She has a white dog.
I want a big room.
That car is really fast.
The tree isn’t green.
She bought some red flowers.
The temple is huge.
That is a small rabbit.
It a green snake.
She has an expensive house.
The red car is expensive

Challenge question:

Translate the following. Listen to your inner voice and create a sentence that feels right. There are probably lots of ways to say this. I’ll give my try below.

The big, white, vicious dog is hungry.

Samples from the High Frequency Vocabulary List:

Nouns (classifiers):

dog: หมา, สุนัข (ตัว)
rabbit: กระต่าย (ตัว)
temple: วัด (วัด)
house: บ้าน (หลัง)
car: รถ, รถยนต์ (คัน)
tree: ต้นไม้ (ต้น)
flower: ดอกไม้ (ดอก)
woman: ผู้หญิง (คน)
snake: งู (ตัว)
room: ห้อง (ห้อง)

Pronouns:

it: มัน
I (female)
: ฉัน
I (male speaker)
: ผม
you, she
: คุณ
they: พวกเขา

Verbs:

like: ชอบ
want: อยากได้, ต้องการ
have: มี:
buy: ซื้อ
sell: ขาย
belong to: ของ

Adjectives:

Color (all color words begin with สี, which itself means “color”, but the word สี is not required and can be left out).

white: สีขาว
black: สีดำ
green: สีเขียว
red: สีแดง
yellow: สีเหลือง
blue: สีฟ้า

Quality:

big: ใหญ่
small: เล็ก
vicious: ร้าย, ดุร้าย
kind: ใจดี
fast: เร็ว
slow: ช้า
tall: สูง
short: เตี้ย
expensive: แพง
cheap: ถูก
cute: น่ารัก
beautiful: สวย
ugly: น่าเกลียด
hungry: หิว

Answers to “interpreting adjective patterns”:

I want a very big house.
It is a white temple.
It is an ugly dog.
Their car is slow.
This room is inexpensive. It is cheap.

Answers to “creating complete Thai sentences”:

เธอมีสุนัขสีขาว
ฉันต้องการห้องใหญ่
รถเร็วจริงๆ
ต้นไม้ไม่ใช่สีเขียว
เธอซื้อดอกไม้สีแดง
วัดใหญ่จริงๆ
มันเป็นกระต่ายตัวเล็ก
มันเป็นงูเขียว
เธอมีบ้านแพง
รถสีแดงแพง

Below is my attempt at the challenge sentence: “The big, white, vicious dog is hungry”. Please add yours in the comments below.

หมาตัวใหญ่สีขาวดุร้ายและหิว

Here’s the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary download. The sound files for this post, along with any pertinent Thai sentences added in the comments below, will be in the followup post.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
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6 Responses to “ Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: Adjective Patterns ”

  1. Many thanks to our faithful reader Khun Kru Mia who found a number of my mistakes, which have since been corrected. Thank you dear teacher.

  2. Or could one say: หมาตัวใหญ่สีขาวดุร้ายก็หิวด้วย ? Thanks Hugh, Khun Mia, and Catherine for another great post!

  3. Cat and Hugh – A very interesting post. I think one of the hardest things for anyone learning Thai, at least for an English speaker, is getting your head around the reverse use of nouns, adjectives etc. Once you get used to it then it’s okay, it becomes quite natural, but if like me you stay away from Thailand for 3-4 months at a time, when you arrive back there (Thailand)it can take a few days to adjust again.
    Martyn recently posted…Central Plaza Shopping Mall in Udon ThaniMy Profile

  4. Thanks for the general breakdown. Pattern 5 is a new one for me. I’ll consider that my Thai study for the day. :)
    Lawrence Michaels recently posted…Top 5 Phuket ViewpointsMy Profile

  5. I find the whole thing about adjectives very difficult. Sometimes one should use ที่ and other times the use of ที่ is not wanted. Also, the order of the adjectives is not random (when there are many adjectives used with the same noun). Even after many years of studying Thai, I find it hard to find the most appropriate sentence construction. Sure, I can make grammatically correct sentences – but I might not say it the way Thai people do.

  6. Hi Kris,

    Yes Thai adjectives can be tricky, but so can English ones, especially when it comes to adjective order. For instance, you can say “The vicious white dog.” but “The white vicious dog.” would not sound correct.

    I find that when it comes to speaking a foreign language I try to make the simplest sentences I can control and if there is a complex idea then I break it down into more than one sentence. Like,
    หมาสีขาว หมาดุด้วย

    Hey, Hemingway wrote in short sentences so I guess we can speak that way too. Good luck.

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