How to Say How Are You in Thai - Learn Thai from a White Guy

How to Say How Are You in Thai

“How are you?” is one of those core Thai phrases you need to know right away.  As with English there are a few different ways to ask this question in Thai language.

We’ll also go over a few different answers to these questions so that you have more than just one expression up your sleeve.

how are you in thai

เป็นยังไงบ้าง

Sabai Dee Mai ? (สบายดีไหม) = How are you?

This is the most basic way to ask “how are you?” in Thai and the main answer you will find on the internet.  If you haven’t seen someone in a while, this is a great phrase to use, but Thai people don’t really use it as often as we say “How are you doing?” in English.

However, it is also not the BEST way to ask this question in most cases.  Thai people use a number of much more colloquial phrases when asking their friends, acquaintances and colleagues how they are doing.

Spoken Thai Tones Tip:

Thai is a tonal language and mastering the Thai tones is an important part of learning Thai.

The yes/no question marker ไหม (mai) has a RISING tone much like the intonation we use an English when we are a little skeptical of what we are hearing: REALLLY?? 

However, in real daily Thai conversation, this question marker word ends up being pronounced as มั้ย (mai) with a HIGH tone.  To say a high tone correctly, you need to start at the high end of the spectrum of your voice’s comfort zone and then slide up a tiny bit higher.

Try to click back and forth between the 2 variations and see if you can hear any difference.  Don’t be discouraged if they sound the same as your ear will probably require lots of exposure before you can distinguish them with easy.

  • ไหม (mai) with a RISING tone
    • A rising tone starts at the low end of your voice and moves across the spectrum of your voice to the top of YOUR comfort zone.
  • มั้ย (mai) with a HIGH tone
    • A high tone starts at the high end of the comfort spectrum of your voice and pops up a tiny bit higher.

The Best Ways to Ask “How are you?” in Thai (Informal)

While we have broken down the vocabulary in each phrase below, we strongly recommend that you just memorize these set phrases as Thai people use them every single day as “how’s it going?” or “what’s happening?” with their friends.

เป็นยังไงบ้าง (ppen yang-ngai baang?) – How’s it going?

Did you eat rice yet??? A Thai greeting.

You’ll often hear this phrase stacked in with a “how are you?” It literally means “Did you eat rice yet?,” but Thai people use it so often that it functions more like a greeting.  I would mark this as one of the top 5 most useful Thai sentences you will ever learn.  Check out our great post on Thai greetings for more examples of this phrase.

This Thai phrase is also used every single day and is arguably even more important than เป็นยังไงบ้าง (ppen yang-ngai baang?)  It literally means “Eat rice or not yet?”  but Thai people often use it as a show of concern for the well being of people they encounter in their daily life.

You can answer this question with either:

If you have ever spent time speaking to Thai people – you will know how much Thai people love to think and talk about food which is understandable given how delicious the food is in Thailand.  It’s a common topic of conversation and a good conversation starter so it’s often used as a greeting amongst Thais.

It’s worth learning all 3 of these phrases in the table below as you will often encounter 2 or even all 3 of them stacked together within one exchange.

Top 3 Ways to Ask “How are you?” in Thai

EnglishThaiRomanization
How are you doing?เป็นยังไงบ้างppen yang-ngai baang?
Did you eat yet? กินข้าวรึยังkkin khaao rue yang?
How are you?สบายดีมั้ยsabaai dee mai?

4 Ways to Answer “How are you?” in Thai

*Thai Grammar Note:

Even though we’ve translated the phrases below to include “I’m,” in Thai, you usually drop the pronoun so we have not included the Thai pronoun since you it’s a bit unnatural to use it in most situations where you’d say these sentences.

Just like in English, there are a number of commonly used variations that let people know that you are doing just fine (or at least that’s what you’d like them to believe!)

This is the vanilla answer to ” sa-baai dee mai / how are you?” and what you’d learn in a beginner text book or a Thai language class.

This is a soft “I’m good” and feels like when you say “I’m fine” in English and it’s ambiguous whether you mean it or not.

This comes from the “OK” you already know in English.  Sometimes people drop the “K” and just say โอ (Ohh).

While this expression is tricky for beginners to pronounce, it’s also a really great answer.  เรื่อยๆ means something that something is happening continuously so in this context, if someone asks you “How’s it going?” it would be like answer “Yeah, it’s going.”  This phrase isn’t negative, so it’s a neutral way to answer similar to “I’m doing ok.”

Need help learning the tone system or how to pronounce the tricky vowels of Thai?  Check out my online Thai program which has 4 courses to get you started at speaking and reading Thai

 

Other Common Phrases to Answer “How are you?” in Thai

It’s useful to add in a time phrase when you want to say things like “today I’m …..” or “lately I’m ….”

I'm tired today.วันนี้เหนื่อย (wan-nee nueay)  
I'm very busy latelyช่วงนี้ยุ่งมาก(chuang-nee yung maak)
Lately, I'm great.ช่วงนี้ดีมาก (chuang-nee dee maak)
So-so; mehเฉยๆ (cheoy-cheoy)

 

Sample Thai Conversations for “How are you?”

Now let’s look at a few short exchanges in Thai so you can see how these phrases might come up in the wild.

Formal / Polite:

We have to include this, but it’s very stiff and we recommend using more fun phrases than these.

Example 1:

Example 2:

This is a much more colloquial and often used exchange.  The reply here can have a feeling like “yeah nothing special is happening.”

Example 3:

You aren’t always going to be feeling great and there are times when you want to tell people how you really feel.  So, here’s an example to use when you want to say you are tired in Thai.

Example 4:

In this dialogue, see how you can stack 2 of the main sentence patterns together.  This is very common in Thai greetings.

Example 5:

Remember how we said that we usually drop the pronouns?  Well, if you want to ask someone how someone else is, you’ll need to specify that person.  In this example, one person asks their friend how their mother is.  We know WHOSE mother we are talking about based on the context alone.  It is not necessary (or natural) to clarify that we are talking about their mother.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to say “how are you” in Thai (and how to answer) it’s to get out there and practice!

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