Hard Endings - Learn Thai from a White Guy

Hard Endings

What is a hard ending?

Say the word “deck” in English out loud. Now compare it with the similar sounding word for ‘child’ เด็ก in Thai. The most important difference is in the ending sound. In English, we usually follow through with the ‘k’ sound and it gets a puff of air. We are still breathing. In Thai, this doesn’t ever happen. When we say ‘child’ เด็ก we stop the sound by freezing our tongue (or lips!) in the position of the final consonant and we stay in that position until the sound dies off completely. There is no puff of air. A good method for checking to see if you are doing this correctly is to take a paper napkin and hold it close in front of your mouth while saying words like ‘mop’, ‘cat’, and ‘deck.’ Speak loudly and clearly and you should get the idea. Every /k/, /p/, and /t/ sound that we come across in will end this way. Those 3 sounds cover a number of Thai consonants, but the most common endings we will come across are: ก ด บ (chicken, child, leaf).

For a “k” sound, the back of your tongue moves up and touches the top of your mouth. In English, we release the tongue and a puff of air will usually follow. Put your hand in front of your mouth and say the following words: deck, jack, pack, hack, puck, buck. Can you feel the puff of air at the end of each word?

Now try to keep your tongue in place rather then let it come back down from the /k/ sound. Practice this a few times until you can get rid of the puff of air 3 times in a row. What you’re trying to do is hold your tongue up in this position (touching the roof of your mouth) until the sound of the word dies off completely.

For “p” and “b” sounds, you just close your lips together and leave them closed until the sound dies off. Try saying the following words in English normally and then try them without letting your lips come back apart. Pop, cap, top, mop, hop, cup, lap, sap.

When we have a “t” sound, our tongue touches the ridge at the top of our mouth a little ways back from our top teeth. When we end that “t” in Thai, we will of course have to leave our tongue in place to make the correct sound. Try saying these words normally, and then with the Thai stop (tongue up until sound dies off). Cat, bat, hut, wit, tap, rut, rack, like.


Hard Endings? Who cares?

Oh my กอด!

With the exception of the placeholder , all the remaining middle class consonants are considered hard endings. The basin is not a hard ending as it becomes a vowel when on the right side of another consonant. This is important because the ending of a word (whether it is hard or soft) affects the resulting tone.

When a word begins with a Middle Class Consonant (the 7 letters you hopefully have mastered in the first few lessons)and has a hard ending (the stop endings above) this indicates that it will be pronounced with a low tone. Try to force your voice down into your chest when pronouncing a low tone. Talk like you are terribly depressed today and it should get you close to where you want to be. It’s ok to not entirely understand how tones work yet. We’ll get more into this as you get further into the course.


See if you can figure out how these are pronounced, then click to check your answer. Try to apply your new understanding of hard endings which you hopefully have just practiced above. *All the words in this exercise start with a MIDDLE CLASS CONSONANT and end with a HARD ENDING, therefore they are pronounced with a LOW TONE.

I’ve added the meanings to the backs of the flashcards just so you know you are reading words you’ll need later, but I wouldn’t spend extra time trying to remember them at this stage.

  • กาด
  • กอด
  • ปาก
  • ปอด
  • ตาก
  • ดอก
  • ตอบ
  • บอก
  • จอด
  • จาก
  • All Done!

A number of letters such as and differ only in the way they are produced at the beginning of a syllable. This means that when they are at the end of a syllable they sound exactly the same. So the following two words would be pronounced exactly the same: บาบ บาป.

All words ending in a /p/ or similar letter in Thai will end the same way. Just close your lips together and don’t let any sound escape. Try saying the words “stop drop” really fast one after the other to get a better idea.