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Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: The Double อยู่

Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary to learn Thai

The Thai Language’s Double อยู่…

To help you learn Thai, for the first Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary post we wanted to start with something a little more interesting than simple subject + verb + object patterns so we chose something fun: The Double อยู่ construct.

The Double อยู่ construct is used to describe an unexpected or surprise action. Depending on how colorful you want to be, it’s interesting how this construct can be translated (or rather, interpreted) into English in so many ways.

The Double อยู่ pattern is usually:

อยู่ๆ … ก็ …

อยู่ๆ: อยู่ อยู่. It’s a doubling of the word อยู่ (one of the many Thai “to be” words). Hope you got the pun.

ๆ: Whenever you see the symbol ๆ (ไม้ยมก /mái-yá~mók/) the word preceding it is spoken twice.

ก็: then (in time), also

Examples:

อยู่ๆ เขา ก็ ร้องไห้
Out of nowhere she just started crying.

อยู่ๆ ตำรวจ ก็ เข้ามา
The policeman burst in unexpectedly.

อยู่ๆ ครู ก็ หยุด สอน
All of a sudden the teacher stopped teaching.

Below are some English enhancements to the same sentences that an interpreter would use to add color to the Double อยู่ construct.

อยู่ๆเขาก็ร้องไห้
I was just sitting around, minding my own business, when out of nowhere she just started crying.

อยู่ๆตำรวจก็เข้ามา
I was just doing my thing when out of the blue the policeman burst in unexpectedly.

อยู่ๆครูก็หยุดสอน
The students weren’t doing anything when all of a sudden the teacher stopped teaching.

High frequency Thai vocabulary used:

เขา: she, he, him, her, they
ร้องไห้: to cry, weep
ตำรวจ: police, policeman
เข้ามา: to enter
ครู: teacher
หยุด: to stop
สอน: to teach

Using the Double อยู่ patterns…

To use this pattern we will need some words from the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List.

Note on using patterns: Look at the pattern and replace the word descriptions with words from the list. Besure to check that the sentence makes logical sense. And remember, the word lists in this post are only a fraction of the 3,000 words of the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List.

After doing these exercises go to the original list and practice some more. Later, when the patterns are ingrained in your head, add words you come across in everyday situations.

Samples from the High Frequency Word List…

Pronouns:

ฉัน: I (female)
ผม: I (male speaker)
เธอ: you, she
พวกเขา: they, them
พวกนี้: these people
พวกเรา: we, they, us, them, all of us

People:

หัวหน้า: boss
เด็กผู้ชาย: boy
แฟน: boyfriend, girlfriend, husband,wife
เด็ก: child
ลูกค้า: customer
ลูกจ้าง: employee
นายจ้าง: employer
ทุกคน: everybody parts, everyone
คนต่างประเทศ: foreigner
เพื่อน: friend
เด็กผู้หญิง: girl
โจร: robber
แม่ค้า: salesperson (female)
วัยรุ่น: teenager
คนไทย: Thai person
นักท่องเที่ยว: tourist
คนงาน workman

Verbs:

พักผ่อน: to rest
พูด: to speak, talk, say
มา: to come
มาเยี่ยม: to come visit a person
มาหา: to come to see someone
ไม่เห็นด้วย: to disagree
ยอมให้: to permit, allow
ย้ายมาอยู่: to move (in)
เรียก: to call (out)
ลุกขึ้น: to rise, get up
ร้องไห้: to cry, weep
โทร: to phone, telephone

Creating complete Thai sentences using the Double อยู่ pattern…

Pattern:

อยู่ๆ + pronoun/person + ก็ + verb (phrase)

Examples:

อยู่ๆเขาก็ร้องไห้
She suddenly began to cry.

อยู่ๆหัวหน้าก็มาหา
Without notice the boss came to see me.

อยู่ๆเธอก็เรียก
With no warning she called (out to me).

How would you say the following in Thai? (Tip: the needed vocabulary can be found in the above lists).

  1. I was just hanging out when he came to see me.
  2. They came unexpectedly.
  3. Unpredictably, the customer called (phoned).
  4. My friend moved in without giving any notice.
  5. The workman, without saying anything, took a break (rest).

Now go to the frequency list to see how many other logical phrases you can create using this pattern. And if you like, share them with us in the comments.

Interpreting Double อยู่ phrases…

How would you interpret the following? Be as colorful as you wish but please keep to the gist of the sentence.

อยู่ๆอากาศก็ร้อน
อยู่ๆนักเรียนก็กลับบ้าน
อยู่ๆหมาก็ตาย
อยู่ๆประธานก็ยิ้ม

Word List:

อากาศ: weather, climate, air, or atmosphere
กลับบ้าน: to go home
ยิ้ม: smile
ร้อน: hot (temperature)
หมา: dog
หัวเข่า: knee
ตาย: to die
นักเรียน: student
ประธาน: president, chairman
เจ็บ: to hurt, be hurt

Patterns to learn Thai…

Patterns are how words in a language are put together to make meaningful utterances. Becoming familiar with patterns is one of the basics to learning to communicate in any language. It’s especially so in learning Thai. In the future we will be exploring more patterns in Thai using the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List. If you have a Thai language pattern that you would like to work with and learn more about, send it on to us and we will try to use it in one of our future posts.

Here’s the updated High Frequency Thai Vocabulary to download. The list has gone through many revisions but there’s still more to do.

Tip: The Double อยู่ followup post will include sound files. In the meantime, go to Does Your Computer Speak Thai? for instructions on how to get your computer reading Thai outloud.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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16 Comments

  1. Great article, thanks.

  2. อยู่ๆ มีข้อความคิดเห็นจากคีธสองคนครับ :-)

    I think I have heard อยู่ๆ ดีๆ on one of the LTPC lessons although it doesn’t get as many hits as อยู่ดีๆ

  3. Keith,

    อยู่ดีๆ is a good one. According to thai-language.com อยู่ดีๆ = everything was just going fine… (when suddenly and unexpectedly)

    I had to look up the word คีธ. That is how you would spell Keith in Thai I see.

    Your sentence left out the ก็. This words sort of gives us the “and then” part of the sentence. For an interesting exercise look up the word ก็ on thai-language.com. Lots of good stuff.

  4. Dear Lord Almightly! This post is kicking me in the butt. It’s like a workout but for my brain! I think I’d rather do squats or lunges :P Arrgggggg!!!!!

  5. Doh! There it was, right in your article:
    Pattern: อยู่ๆ + pronoun/person + ก็ + verb (phrase)

    Thanks for the correction Hugh!

  6. Note:The updated vocab list is now in the post. A new column was added to the spreadsheet showing which words have been addressed (in orange).

    Mia has kindly offered to go through the list as well. And thank goodness, because my eyes are bugging out from looking at all those squiggles :-)

  7. Lani,

    Exercise is good for you. Keeps you strong and svelte. It is good for your brain too. Have fun.

  8. Now I couldn’t get rid of อยู่ดีๆ or อยู่ๆ off my head.
    This remind me of a lot of Thai songs worth listening and practicing the use of อยู่ดีๆ or อยู่ๆ
    Example
    อยู่ดีๆน้องหาว่าพี่โกหก รู้มั้ยน้ำตาพี่ไหลตก เสียอกเสียใจน้องไม่ฟังพี่
    Out of the blue, you are accusing me of lying.
    อยู่ๆก็หายไปทนไม่ได้หรอกเธอ
    Suddenly you’re gone, I couldn’t bear it my dear.
    How to say “the same” in Thai

  9. If I may add my 2 สลึง’s worth. A โจร can also mean a thief and in the wider sense: a person who commits a crime. I think that a แม่ค้า is more a trader (female). A “salesperson” would be a พนักงานขาย or พนักงานเซลส์ if we were to use ทับศัพท์.

  10. Hi David,

    Thanks for your contribution. The definitions “robber” and “salesperson” come directly from the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List and are probably listed that way for brevity.

    โจร is defined as “robber” or “thief” although the combination of โจรผู้ร้าย (thief wrongdoer), one of those double Thai words, is an even better description.

    แม่ค้า, for female (พ่อค้า for the male), does mean a person who sells something but is most often used for someone selling something in an open air market or shop house store.

    The word พนักงานขาย would be equivalent to “salesman” or “salesperson”, someone who works in the sales department of a company พนักงาน = employee, ขาย = sell.

    Personally, I would never say พนักงานเซลส์, using the borrowed word เซลส์ = sell. A while back I expressed my opinion about using loan or borrowed words in the post “Perfectly Good Thai Words (http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/thai-language-thai-culture-perfectly-good-thai-words/). There are good reasons for using loan words but in my own idiolect I prefer to try and use the original Thai word. Check out the post and see how lots of borrowed words already have perfectly good Thai ones.

  11. Wow, fantastic post! Thanks to all involved. I have come across อยู่ๆ before but never knew what to make of it. Now I do.

  12. I can already see that this series is going to be one of my favorite things ever

  13. Gaelee – I feel the same! This series is going to be fabulous.

    Hey all… the followup post will have recorded phrases so please do share your phrases in the comments.

  14. Speaking of โจร, anyone know the origins of โจรห้าร้อย?

  15. John,

    It took me a while but I think I have an answer for you. First of all โจรห้าร้อย (Thief 500) is used to indicate a really bad guy (thief, criminal).

    I got on some Thai Q&A sites and it seems like lots of Thais have the same question as you; where does this term originate? And there were some really interesting answers. One person says that it comes from the Jataka Tales, the stores of the Lord Buddha’s past lives. Another says that a long time ago 500 baht was a lot of money and anyone who stole 500 baht was a really big thief. Questionable answers at best. But here is the one that works for me.

    นานมาแล้ว (literally a long time ago but it is usually used in stories the same as “Once upon a time…”) there was a group of really bad guys, thieves and cut throats. They numbered 500. Basically today we would call them a gang. Their name was “The 500 Thieves”. They named gangs back then as we do today, like “Bloods”, “Crips”, or the names that seems the closest, “The 300”, a pretty fun movie, or the gang of sword fighters from the great epic Quniton Tarantino movie “Kill Bill”, “The Crazy 88” (Uma Thurman did a job on them BTW. “Those of you who are wounded can go, and take your body parts with you, Sofie, you stay.”)

    So anyone who was one of the โจรห้าร้อย was a really bad guy. And this term is still used when we want to refer to a very bad person, criminal, etc.

    By the way, the story of the 500 took place during the time of the Lord Buddha. I am not sure how he worked it out but the 500 were all converted, gave up their bad ways, and became his followers after hearing him speak.

  16. Forgiveness Please!

    As occasionally happens I have led you astray once again. Here is the correct quote by Uma from Kill Bill Vol 1 – sure glad I wasn’t Sofie (Uma is The Bride):

    The Bride: [in Japanese] Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.

    [in English]
    The Bride: Except you, Sofie! You stay right where you are!

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