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Top 5 Most Useful Thai Phrases

Bangkok

อยู่ไหนเนี่ย

If I were to start learning Thai from the beginning all over again, these are the most useful 5 Thai phrases that I wish my first phrase book taught me. You can use all 5 of these phrases every single day and you’ll hear Thai people say them all the time.

How to Say Hello in Thai

You probably have heard of sawasdee (สวัสดี), but in real life you don’t usually use this word with you friends. It’s much more common to ask them if they’ve eaten yet. If you see them out, you’d ask them where they are going or where they are coming back from. So the next time you run into one of your Thai friends, try one of these:

ไปไหน ppai nai Where are you going?
ไปไหนมา ppai nai maa Where are you coming (back) from?
กินข้าวรึยัง gin khaao ru yang Did you eat yet?

 

How to Say “What are you doing?” in Thai

This is another short, simple and super useful Thai phrase that you should learn right away.

ทำอะไรอยู่ (thum a-rai yuu) – What are you doing?

**Notes:

  • You can add a อยู่ (yuu) after any VERB in Thai to make it function like the -ing ending in English. We don’t need to use any pronouns when it’s obvious that the speaker is talking about themselves.
    • ทำงานอยู่ (tum ngaan yuu) – I’m working
    • กินข้าวอยู่ (gin khaao yuu) – I’m eating
    • ดูหนังอยู่ (duu nang yuu) – I’m watching a movie.
    • นั่งกินกาแฟอยู่ (nang gin gaa-fae yuu) – I’m sitting having a coffee. *The word “eat” is used informally for both eating and drinking.

How to Say “Where are you?” in Thai

Whether or not you are planning to meetup with someone, it’s pretty common to ask where people are in any language. In Thai, you’ll hear it all the time and it’s a super easy phrase.

If you are speaking to a friend online/phone you just say:

อยู่ไหน (yuu nai) – where are you? / Where is it?

If you want to ask where something is or in cases where you need to specify a person, you put it/them before the phrase above:

  • แม่อยู่ไหน ​(mae yuu nai) – Where is mom?
  • กุญแจอยู่ไหน (kun-jae yuu nai) – Where is the key? / Where are the keys?​

 

 

How to Say OK in Thai

There are a few options in Thai for saying ok. You can always just say OK like we do in English, but using Thai pronunciation โอเค (ohh-kay), the main difference being that the Ohh sound tends to be longer than how you might say it in English. While this works fine in many situations, there’s a special phrase you should definitely learn.

ก็ได้ (gaw dai) – ok; I’m ok with that; that works; sounds good to me

A: วันนี้กินอะไรดี (wan nee gin a-rai dee) – What should we eat today?
B: อยากกินพิซซ่า (yaak gin pit-saa) – I want to eat pizza.
A: พิซซ่าเหรอ กินก็ได้ (pit-saa raw … gin gaw dai) – Pizza huh? Yea, I could eat (pizza) / that works

It doesn’t always translate exactly as “ok,” but it express that you are satisfied with or accepting of whatever is being talked about.

  • ไปคนเดียวก็ได้ (ppai khon diaw gaw dai) – I’m fine with going (there) by myself
  • ซื้อให้ก็ได้ (sue hai gaw dai) – I can buy it for you (I’m ok to buy it for you)
  • ไม่ไปก็ได้ (mai ppai gaw dai) – It’s ok if I/we don’t go.

 

How to Say “I don’t understand” in Thai

You may have heard of mai khao jai ไม่เข้าใจ which means “I don’t understand,” but I’m going to give you a more fun phrase that you can use when you REALLY have no idea what’s happening. If you can pronounce that เอือ vowel correctly, you can get some good laughs with this one.

ไม่รู้เรื่อง (mai ruu rueang) – I have no idea what you are talking about / I have no clue / I don’t understand at all

You use this phrase when you didn’t understand a word of what was just said, or in cases where you have no idea what someone is going on about.

Now get out there and practice these phrases. You can use them all the time forever.

How to Say Congratulations in Thai

Congrats

ดีใจด้วยนะมึง

If you ever want to say congratulations or praise a friend in Thai for a job well done, some meaningful event or success in their life, you may want to do it in Thai. These are all the phrases you are going to need.

In Thai, there are 2 main phrases you’ll usually congratulate people with, but as is often the case in this language, you may need to adjust or change the phrase you use depending on who you are speaking with, your relationship to them and what you are congratulating them for.

How to Congratulate your Friends in Thai (Informal)

There are a two main phrases you should use and there are a few variations that are worth noting.  While they all mean the same thing, the particles we add at the end can change the feeling behind the sentence. Please note that age does matter here. If someone you are close to is considerably older than you, in most cases, you should add on the polite gender particle at the end of the sentence ครับ/ค่ะ (khrap/kha).

This can get a little tricky if you are unfamiliar with particles.  Particles are usually single words that don’t mean anything by themselves, but add some color or feeling to the sentence they are modifying much in the way intonation works in a non-tonal language.

Best Choice for Congrats

ดีใจด้วย (dee jai doo-ay) – Congrats!

Variations of Congrats:

Can't read Thai yet? Try a few free lessons from my basic Thai course.

Very Close Friends

If you are really close to someone, you may reach a point where you call each other มึง (mung).  Be very careful with this word as it will come across as very rude if you aren’t sufficiently close.  I’d recommend not using this at all until someone uses it with you.  But, keep your ears open as you’ll hear it when Thai friends speak to each other.

 

How to Congratulate Someone Older/Higher Status in Thai

In most cases, you can use the same 2 phrases, but you’ll want to be sure to always include the polite gender particle.  I feel like ยินดีด้วย (yin dee doo-ay) is slightly more appropriate than ดีใจด้วย (dee jai doo-ay) in this situation as the latter feels slightly more informal.

ยินดีด้วย (yin dee doo-ay) + ครับ/ค่ะ/นะคะ (khrap/kha/na-kha)

How to Say Congrats for * in Thai?

While often times a discussion will play out with someone telling you about their news or accomplishment and then you congratulate them, there will inevitably be times when you hear thew news second hand and want to indicate what you are congratulating them for.  We’ll still use the same phrases above, but we’ll need to add ที่ (thii) + event.

Want to REALLY Learn to Speak Thai?

A really important part of learning Thai is mastering the script and sounds.  It’s very difficult to learn the correct pronunciation using any type of English transliteration and spending a lot of time learning to pronounce sentences incorrectly is just plain silly. If you are going to learn a language, is it worth 10 hours of your time to master the sounds if it makes the rest of the journey much easier?

Try a couple free lessons from my Thai foundation course which teaches everything you need to know about the script, sound system and tone rules of Thai.

How to Order Coffee in Thai

coffee in thai

เอากาแฟเย็นแก้วหนึ่ง

If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, learning a few simple Thai phrases for ordering food and drink is going to make your life a lot easier when in Thailand. Many Thai cafes will automatically add sugar and the staff may not speak English very well so if you want to avoid your drinks being sweet or make sure there’s no milk in it, learn these Thai ordering phrases.

How to Say Coffee in Thai

First off, let’s learn how to pronounce coffee in Thai correctly.

กาแฟ consists of 2 syllables. กา + แฟ – If you can read a little bit of the Thai script, it’s easy to identify the 2 very distinct vowel sounds happening in this word. However, when we try to write it in English using transliteration we are left with something like gaa-fae which can be very misleading so I highly recommend you click on both syllables a few times and try to remember the correct vowel sound.

If you can pronounce กาแฟ, then you’re halfway to saying cafe or coffee shop. As with many types of shops in Thai, you just add the word ร้าน in front which means store or shop.

Ordering Coffee in Thai

เอา (ow) + FOOD/DRINK + (# + classifier)

If you don’t know much or any Thai yet, just start by learning the shortest easiest version. Once you’ve said this a few times and are comfortable with it, come back and learn how to add in additional informationใ

*Staff at cafes often shorten the names of the coffee drinks:

Can't read Thai yet? Try a few free lessons from my basic Thai course.
Thai sign that says "a little sweet, super sweet, just let us know!"

ไม่หวานเลย

How to Say “No Sugar” or “Not Sweet” in Thai

It’s Thailand and Thai people like their drinks SWEET so if you go to one of the many cafes that automatically adds sugar or syrup, you need to let them know if you don’t want any. You generally don’t need to use these on things like an americano at places that make real barista-type coffee, but watch out at the big Thai franchises as well as small shops which tend to automatically add sugar unless you tell them not to.

How to Say “Don’t put in milk/sugar/etc” in Thai

If your pronunciation isn’t good yet (because you haven’t learned the script) it’s a really good idea to have a backup sentence just in case you are having trouble getting understood.
These sentences say to not add in any sugar/syrup.

Non-Dairy Alternatives for Your Coffee/Tea

Apart from hipster cafes and Starbucks, it’s still not very common in Thailand for cafes to have non-dairy milk alternatives. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but you may get clueless stares back.

How to Say “I’ll have the usual” in Thai

One of the more useful phrases in Thai is เหมือนเดิม which depending on the context means something like “the usual,” or “the same as last time,” or “the same as before.” You can use this phrase once you are known to the staff a particular place. If you go to the same place a lot, they’ll likely start asking you at some point: เอาเหมือนเดิมมั้ย or เหมือนเดิมมั้ย.

เอาเหมือนเดิม (ow muan doem) – I’ll have the usual / I’ll have the same as last time

Thai Phrases for Ordering Food/Drink:

Here are a few common Thai phrases you might need while ordering food or drink at a cafe or restaurant.

Thai Vocabulary for Ordering Food/Drink

Sizes in Thai

You can use these

Starbucks Sizes in Thai

How to Say Cute in Thai

how to say cute in Thai

น่ารักอ่ะ

Want to know how to say “cute” in Thai? Just like in English, the Thai word for cute can be used both with people you find attractive as things, animals and children.

The Word for Cute in Thai

The word for “cute” in Thai is น่ารัก and it consists of two parts.

น่ารัก naa rak cute

The 2nd part: รัก (rak) means “to love.”  You can read more about love talk in Thai here.

The 1st part: น่า – is placed in front of certain words to express that the target is worthy of or looks good to (eat, drink, watch, etc). Have a quick look at the examples below to get an idea how it works:

  • น่าไป (naa ppai)- looks like it’d be worth going to (if someone shows you a picture from a trip they took you might say this)
  • น่ากิน (naa gin) – looks good (for food)
  • น่าดู (naa duu) – looks like it would be worth watching or fun to watch

If you follow the above pattern, then น่ารัก (naa rak) ends up meaning something like “worthy of loving/love.”

how to say cute in Thai

น่ารักจัง

How to Say Someone/Something is Cute in Thai

Examples:

how to say cute in thai

สวยหรือน่ารัก

Cute vs Beautiful in Thai – น่ารัก vs สวย (naa rak vs soo+ay)

This is tough to answer in any language as everyone has a different idea of how these two concepts differ. “Cute,” tends to be used with young or seemingly young people and big-eyed, round-faced, puffy-cheeked and/or fluffy people, animals or things.

People will use น่ารัก to describe attractive men or boys, but not สวย.

น่ารัก can also be used to describe someone’s actions. For example, if a man buys a woman flowers for Valentine’s Day, or surprises a girl with a birthday gift, girls might respond with ขอบคุณนะ น่ารักจัง “thanks, that’s so cute.” Here they are referring to the act rather than the person.

Cute Items and Objects

Objects can both be called น่ารัก or สวย. Clothing, shoes, bags and the like can all be described using these words.

If you are talking about views, nature and most large naturally occurring things, you need to use สวย. A mountain, a view or an ocean can be สวย, but not น่ารัก. There are exceptions, of course. If someone drew a face on a small rock, for example, that could be น่ารัก.

Can’t Read Thai?

Learning to read the Thai script is the fastest and easiest way to understand the fairly complex sound system that the Thai language uses. It is the single most important part of learning to speak Thai well. It requires a 10-20 hour time investment to grasp everything you need to know, but until you learn those things, your Thai will forever be severely handicapped.

How to Say I Love You in Thai

 

 

how-to-say-i-love-you-in-thai

รักต้นไม้บ้างมั้ย

Whether you are studying Thai or just have a significant other that you are trying to impress,  you may be interested in learning how to say I love you in Thai. 

Even if you don’t go very deep into Thai language, learning short phrases like this can really win you some bonus points with your partner.

Aside from just knowing how to use and pronounce these Thai phrases correctly, you’ll also hear many of them in Thai songs, Thai soaps and Thai movies.  

In addition to learning the different Thai phrases for “I love you,” we’ll also introduce some of the more common expressions and useful sentences that use the word “love.”

Words for ‘I Love You’ in Thai

how-to-say-i-love-you-in-thai2

หมีมีความรักด้วย

 

The most common expression you’ll probably encounter for “I love you” in Thai in all forms of media is ฉันรักเธอ (chan rak ter).  ฉัน (chan) is generally used as the primary female pronoun, but guys use it in love songs and sometimes on Thai tv and movies. I don’t recommend using this in real life, however if you are male as it can sound a little silly.  You can either drop the pronoun entirely, or use one of the other choices below.  

One thing you will notice pretty quickly in Thai is that the pronouns (like ‘I’ and ‘you’) is often dropped.

When in doubt, just pay attention to how Thai people talk to each other (in real life as opposed to on tv) and copy what they do.  It may take a while sometimes before you can find the answer, but it’s worth the effort.

ฉันรักเธอ (chan rak ter) – I love you.  

ฉัน chan I (primarily used by females)
รัก rak love
เธอ ter you (intimate); she

 

Basic Phrases for “I Love You” in Thai

Choosing the best phrase isn’t always easy.  You’ll probably come across these phrases in textbooks, phrasebooks and other web sites.  I don’t really recommend using them, but they won’t do you any harm.

ผมรักคุณ phom rak khun I love you.  (male speaker)
ฉันรักคุณ chan rak khun I love you.  (female speaker)

 

Thai Sentence Pattern: A รัก B

Here’s the basic sentence pattern saying ‘I love you’ in Thai.

“A loves B,” is what you want to start with, but choosing the correct pronouns to use in Thai can be a little complicated.  Gender, status, age and relationship all have an affect on the words that you should use to refer to both yourself and to whom you are speaking to.

As a learner of the language, you are expected to make mistakes so don’t worry about it too much.  It’s a pretty soft minefield so you won’t lose any limbs. Just keep in mind that the more familiar/intimate/close you are with a person, the more freedom you’ll have to use the informal expressions.

In Thai, it’s very common to drop pronouns when it’s obvious who the target is.  We’ll look at this more in the next section.

Informal ‘I Love You’ in Thai

Since declaring your love for someone tends to be a pretty informal situation to begin with, I’d really recommend becoming familiar with the more informal Thai love phrases you can use with your partner.  You can almost always drop one or both pronouns if it’s clear who is saying what to who.  You can also do this if you just aren’t sure which pronoun to use.

  • รักเธอนะ (rak ter na)
    • รักนะ (rak na)
  • พี่รักเธอ (pee rak ter)
    • รักเธอนะ (rak ter na
  • พี่รัก [name] นะ (pee rak NAME na) 
  • รักกันนะ (rak gan na)

Which Thai pronoun to use?

  • Are you male?
    • ผม (phom) → รัก (rak) GirlsName
    • YourName → YourName รัก (rak) GirlsName
    • พี่ (not found)
      (phee) → รัก (rak) + GirlsName (Only use if you are older than partner)
  • Are you female?

How to Refer to Your Partner in Thai

Informal;
ผัว poo-ah husband (often used even if not married)
เมีย mia wife (often used even if not married)
Formal:
สามี (not found)
saa-mee husband
ภรรยา pha-ra-yaa wife

 

General:
แฟน fan boyfriend/girlfriend/partner
ที่รัก thee-rak dear/lover/babe/sweetie

Bonus Thai Love Phrases

รักผมรึยัง rak phom rue yang Do you love me yet? (male speaker)
รักฉันรึยัง rak chan rue yang Do you love me yet? (female speaker)
รักไม่เป็น rak mai ppen I don’t know how to love.
ตกหลุมรัก tok lum rak Fall in love (fall-hole-love)
แสดงความรัก sa-dang kwaam rak to show or express love

 

 

Noun vs Verbs in Thai

The word รัก (rak) that we looked at above is going to act as a verb in most cases.  In order to form the noun version of “love” in Thai, you just add the word ความ (kwaam) in front of รัก (rak).  You’ll use the noun form in sentences where you are talking about the concept or idea of love.

  • รัก – (rak) to love (verb)
    • Jane รักสัตว์ (Jane rak sat) – Janes loves animals.
    • หมารักแมว (maa rak maew) – Dog loves cat.
  • ความรัก (kwaam rak) – love (noun)
    • ความรักคืออะไร (kwaam rak keu a-rai) – What is love?
    • ความรักมีจริงไหม (kwaam rak mee jing mai) – Is love real? / Does love exist?  

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of ways to say “I love you” in Thai and this list is not exhaustive, but hopefully we’ve given you enough to get started with.  Remember, that part of learning a language (or any skill!) involves making mistakes and embracing this early on will make the journey go much smoother.

Want to Learn to Read Thai?

Perhaps, the most important part of learning Thai is mastering the script, sounds and tone rules.   It’s very difficult to learn the correct pronunciation using any type of English transliteration and the sooner you get away from it, the faster your Thai will improve.

Try a couple free lessons from my Thai foundation course which teaches everything you need to know about the script, sound system and tone rules of Thai.

How to Say YES in Thai

The YES word that you want doesn’t really exist in Thai. The first word you’ll come across is ใช่ (chai), but that’s usually not what you should be using. If you are being asked a question, you generally say YES, by repeating the key word back to the person asking, or you negate that word to say NO, you are not doing that verb.

As is often the case in language learning, asking questions like “How to say YES in Thai?” isn’t the right question. You often can’t just translate a word into another language and expect it to function the same way.

In Thai, you say the equivalent of YES or NO based on the question. Note that we don’t need to use any pronouns at all here. If ใช่ (chai) isn’t in the question, then it’s probably best to not use it in the answer.

Q: ไปไหม (ppai mai) – Are you going? [Go + QUESTION_PARTICLE]

Q: ชอบพิซซ่าไหม (chawp pissa mai) – Do you like pizza?

Now if someone wants to confirm that you like pizza, rather than just ask you, you may hear this:

Q: ชอบกินพิซซ่าใช่มั้ย – (chawp kin pissa chai mai) – (You) like eating pizza right?

The above pattern works in many situations, but when we are talking about states, you are going to hear a different question pattern. Here is one of the most common questions you’ll encounter in Thailand.

Q: กินข้าวรึยัง (kin khaao ru yang?) – have you eaten yet? (lit. eat rice or not yet)

Q: มีแฟนรึยัง (mee fan ru yang?) – Do you have a gf/bf/husband/wife yet?

But, of course, it’s not like there are only 2 question types. Here’s another example where you would never use ใช่ (chai).

Q: พรุ่งนี้อยากไปดูหนังกันมั้ย – (phrung nee yaak ppai duu nang gan mai?) – Do you want to go see a movie tomorrow?

 

Want to Learn to Read Thai?

A really important part of learning Thai is mastering the script and sounds.   It’s very difficult to learn the correct pronunciation using any type of English transliteration.

Try a couple free lessons from my Thai foundation course which teaches everything you need to know about the script, sound system and tone rules of Thai.

How to Eat Vegan in Thailand

People often wonder how I could possibly ever survive here in Thailand as a vegan. Considering I’ve been here well over 10 years and I still haven’t died, I think I’m doing fairly well. There is veggie food all around you, and I’m not just talking the salad shops that have sprung up in the last 2 years or. There are tons of veggie spots in town. On Suthep road alone, there are 3 lined up in a row each doing their own thing and there are 3 more down back roads within 5 minute walking distance from the first 3.

There are 2 main types of veggie eats in Thailand and while they both avoid meat entirely, there are a some important differences.

Jeh versus Mung

มังสวิรัติ [mung sa wi rut] comes from the Sanskrit mamsa, which means “meat” and virat which means “without.” So this is essentially an acceptable translation of “vegetarian.” As with in English, some people may or may not eat eggs and/or dairy.
เจ [jeh] comes from the Chinese word 齋 (jai1/jaai1) which is also the source for the equivalent words in Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

If you happen to be reading this in October, then you are in luck, my friend. This is when the Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ) happens. During that time almost everybody gets on the jeh train for a bit. Some people eat jeh for the entire month, the entire 10 day festival, and most franchise restaurants (Black Canyon, MK, etc) offer at least one jeh option, but some actually have a full jeh menu during the festival. The only downside is that a lot of regular jeh restaurants don’t really do anything special during this time except get a lot more crowded than usual and in some cases raise their prices. Yay for jeh.
As far as the food goes, the main difference between Jeh and Mung is that real Jeh forbids eating food with really strong flavours and/or smells as it is believed that each one does harm to different parts of the body. This includes stuff like chives, garlic, parsley, and onions.

So what does all this mean for you? Real Jeh food will always be vegan. But, you need to be careful as some jeh places will have 1 or 2 Mung options which may contain egg. And even though jeh avoids really strong flavours, it can still taste pretty awesome. They often make all kinds of fake vegan meats to help ease the suffering of all those poor meat eaters who torture themselves by abstaining from me for a meal, a day or the entire vegetarian festival.

What are my choices?

  • Jeh – Technically vegan, but watch out for those handful of places that will have one or 2 dishes with egg. Jeh spots will almost always have one or more yellow flags posted both inside and out. The flag will either say เจ, the Chinese character the word is based on or both. They often use a Chinese-y font so sometimes the word เจ looks a bit like the number “17”.
  • Mung(sawirat) – Vegetarian w/eggs. As far as things eaten with rice, dairy is pretty rare, but pastries and other sweets sold at Mung places may contain butter, cream and/or milk.

What do I do if I can’t find a jeh place?

Some regular restaurants may attempt to accommodate you or at least make you think they are doing so.

Avoiding Animal Products:

More than anything else, you’ll want to watch out for oyster sauce.  Vegetable dishes at regular restaurants will almost always be cooked with oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is dark, oily and gummy. And it comes from oysters! If you don’t want it in there, you gotta say so. You’ll know if it’s not in there, because they will probably only have used soy sauce and vegetable oil. So it may be bland, but vegan.
Solution: ไม่ ใส่ น้ำ-มัน-หอย (mai sai nam-man-hoi) – Don’t put in oyster sauce.

Fish sauce is another standard ingredient in a lot of (almost all!) Thai dishes.
Solution: ไม่ ใส่ น้ำ-ปลา (mai sai nam-plaa)
Soup broth – At non-jeh places, even if they say there isn’t any meat in it, it will still have meat stock so skip the soup.

Thai Dishes that usually Contain Egg:

  • ข้าวผัด – fried rice (khaao pad)
  • ผัดไทย – pad thai
  • ผัดซีอิ๊ว – pad see-yu

Notice the word ผัด (pad) appears in all 3 of the words above. ผัด = stir-fried/sauteed

How to say “Don’t put egg in”
ไม่ ใส่ ไข่ (mai sai kai) = don’t put in egg

Even if you ask for something jeh, they don’t always really know what that means so you are better off making it as clear as possible.

Full Sentence: เอา ข้าวผัด เจ ไม่ใส่ไข่ (ow kaaw pad jeh mai sai kai) – I’d like fried rice (jeh) without egg.

First thing you want to do is find out if they are willing to try to make you something jeh/mung. And just because they tell you they can, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to forget and give you something wish oyster sauce or fish sauce. Aside from being a tonal language, Thai also contains a whole lot more vowel sounds than English and when you say the vowels wrong, people probably won’t understand you. Be patient with them as you are the one who needs something from them and may not be able to
speak their language.

I remember this one time, a buddy of mine ordered a bottle of water and got a coconut, so watch out friends, watch out.

Look for the yellow flag!

How to Determine the Tone of a Thai Word

How to determine tone of a Thai word?

Each syllable gets its own tone and there are a few steps we need to take to find out the tone of a word in Thai.  If you aren’t yet familiar with what tones there are in Thai or how a tonal language works, start here.

First, we need to determine the CLASS of the syllable or word.  We do this by having memorized the Middle and High Class letters so we can identify them instantly.  If it’s not Middle Class or High Class, it must be Low Class.  If you haven’t already done so, start with the MIDDLE CLASS STORY which will help you tie together the 7 most important middle class consonants.

  • Step #1: The class of the first letter determines the the class of the word.  This rule applies even if the first letter of the word is silent.
  • Step #2: Check the word for any “modifiers.”  There are 2 types of modifiers: TONE MARKS and HARD ENDINGS.
  • Step #3: Apply rules for consonant CLASS + STATE.

There are 3 possible “states” for a Thai word or syllable.  Each “class” or group has a formula to follow once you know the state of the word.  Remember, CLASS = the group of letters of which there are 3 in Thai.  STATE refers to whether or not the word/syllable has any modifiers.  There are 2 types of modifiers: TONE MARKS and HARD ENDINGS.  If a word has no modifiers, it will always take the DEFAULT tone for its consonant CLASS.  If it has a modifier, you will need to apply the rule for that consonant CLASS + the corresponding rule.  Read this paragraph a couple of times.  It’s not as hard as it sounds, but you probably won’t get it on your first read through.

  1. Default
  2. Has Tone Mark
  3. Has Hard Ending

The tricky part is that each class has its own default starter tone and its own set of rules.  Middle and High class are very similar which is why we want to master them first.  Low class turns everything upside down and is considerably more difficult so it’s a good idea not to even get into it until you have completely mastered the middle and high class rules. If you want to do it the easy way, than at least have a look at my course which holds your hand and guides you though all of this.

Default tones for each class: =

  • Middle Class = Mid Tone
  • High Class = Rising Tone
  • Low Class = Mid Tone

Did you ever study trigonomotry?  I didn’t until I was at university here in Thailand and I was very surprised to see that Thai works in a similar way.  When you look at a word, you have to determine which of the 3 classes(groups of letters) that the word is a part of.  This is based on the first letter of the word (even if it is a silent letter).  Then, you go follow the formula for that CLASS.  So if we take a couple middle class words as  examples:

บ้าน = house

  1. What class is บ ? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = Yes (middle class + 2nd tone mark = Falling Tone)

ไก่ = chicken

  1. What class is ? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = Yes (middle class + 1st tone mark = Low Tone)

ตาย = to die

  1. What class is ต? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = No
  3. Does it have a hard ending? = No
  4. Default tone = Mid Tone (We checked for 2 modifiers.  There were none so we apply the default tone for Middle Class)

จาก = from

  1. What class is จ? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = No
  3. Does it have a hard ending? = Yes (Middle Class + Hard Ending = Low Tone)

Now practice it until your eyes bleed!  Mastering the process =  Mastering the tone rules

Still don’t get this stuff?  Consider joining thousands of other learners and taking my 50+ lesson Thai foundation course, Read Thai in 2 Weeks which covers everything you need to get started towards fluency in Thai.   Yes, you can learn the script and sound system in a couple of weeks with the right tools.

  • จาน
    จาน
    mid tone
  • แจก
    แจก
    low tone
  • จ้าง
    จ้าง
    falling tone
  • จอด
    จอด
    low tone
  • จ่าย
    จ่าย
    low tone
  • จน
    จน
    mid tone
  • All Done!