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Thai Language: Basic Thai Phrases and Thai Words.

Updated on September 11, 2014

Why are you writing about Thai Language?

Living in rural Thailand where the majority of spoken English extends to 'Yes', 'No' and 'You' has been the inspiration here. As you can imagine communication was to say the least, difficult! With perseverance and a drive to learn Thai, a sizeable amount of language was mastered in short space of time. Outlined here are Thai phrases, Thai sayings and Thai words that are used in everyday conversation. Perfect for first time travellers to Thailand!

Learn how to order food at a restaurant here or, alternatively focus on asking for directions and get some travel advice about important transit hubs in Thailand.


An Introduction to Learning Thai Language

Thai language can be very difficult for Europeans to learn, mainly because it is a tonal language. In basic terms, the same word with the same spelling has a number of different meanings when spoken in a different tone. Thai language has 5 tones. This isn't explored in detail here. However, as an example the word ‘Kaao’ (pronounced cow) can mean either rice, white, news, knee and beard when spoken in a different tone! Don’t let this put you off learning Thai, just be aware of it.

When testing your limited vocabulary you may find Thai people struggling to understand! However, show patience (a highly respected virtue in Thailand), persist, use a few hand gestures and speak slowly. I can almost guarantee you’ll achieve a mutual understanding...eventually. The people very much appreciate your effort and you may just make some friends along the way too. Great!

In Thai language speech differs between the sexes. This is one of the first things you’ll notice when you hear locals nattering at the market. ‘Krap’ and ‘ka’ are used by males and females respectively. Sometimes it'll literally be every other word! This is just a way of showing politeness, honour and respect. As a rule I’d suggest to always you do the same too. You’ll get instant brownie points and find people willing to help you, especially in tourist areas. Perfect when haggling for that brand name knock off your after!

Would a video tutorial be useful here?

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Thai Phrases in English: Greetings and Everyday Words

Enough waffle, let's take you through some basic Thai phrases and everyday stuff. *Note, 'Pom/Chan' is used to say 'I' for males and females respectively. See example below.

Hello/Good bye - Sawas dee krap

How are you? - Sabai dee mai krap?

Fine/good - Sabai Sabai krap

Good Bye - Lagorn krap

My name is - (Male/Female)Pom/Chan Chue….

What’s your name - Kuhn chue arai krap?

Thank you (very much) - Khob kuhn (mak) Krap.

It’s Ok, Don’t worry, never mind, it doesn’t matter - Mai pen rai.

Yes/No - Chai/Mai Chai.

Calm down - Jai yen yen

Basic Thai Phrases: ‘W’ Questions.

Handy Thai sayings I found most useful and I would suggest to learn before arriving in Thailand – include ‘W’ question’s. In some sentence structures, Thai words are placed in reverse order compared to many European languages. When creating ‘where’ sentences for example, ‘Yoo nai’ is used at the end of the sentence.

Where? - ‘Yoo ni ?’ or ‘Tee nai?’

  • Where is the toilet? - Hong nam yoo nai krap?
  • Where is 7eleven? - 7 Eleven yoo nai Krap?
  • Where is Mike? - Mike yoo nai Krap?
  • Where is the beach? - Chay haad yoo nai?

What? - Arai na Krap?

  • Again please - Eek krang krap.
  • One more time please - Eek neung krap.
  • What time is it? - We laa tou ri krap?

When? - Mua rai Krap?

Why? - Tam mai Krap?

Who? - Krai Krap?

Thai Phrases pop quiz!

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Useful Thai Phrases.

*When one asks a question, or is being questioned the term ‘Mai’ is often used at the end of the sentence. For example;

Pai mai? - will/want to go?

Example: Pai cinema mai?

Aw mai? - you want?

Example: Aw beer mai?

Roo/Roo jak mai? - you know?

Example: Roo jak Mike mai?

Mee mai? - you have?

Example: Mee 50 baht mai?

Dai mai? - can you?

Example: Shuay Dai mai? (Help)

* In negative response to these questions the answers are quite straightforward. If you do not want or not agree with the question, the negative is simply ‘Mai’ (no) . When applying this to the above questions, simply swap the structure of the question, ‘Mai pai’ (not go), ‘Mai aw’ (not want), ‘Mai roo’ (don’t know) ‘Mai mee’ (don’t have) ‘Mai dai’ (cannot), depending on the question.

*The positive response is even easier. You can other say ‘Chai’ (yes), or simply use the word used in the question singularly – ‘Pai’ (go), ‘Aw’(want), ‘Roo’ (know), ‘Mee’ (have), ‘Dai’ (can), depending on the question.

Very Useful Thai Phrases: Relationships

Many Thais are open and can be very direct with their questions! These might seem intrusive as common western etiquette would perceive, but there is no harm or malice intended. It’s is just another cultural contrast here.

I've often been asked about my salary by people who I’ve only just met, amongst other outrageous questions I wont mention here. This is standard practice in Thailand, but may seem rude to a westerner. My advice is; try not to get offended, certainly don’t get angry and just go with the flow. Embrace the cultural differences and maybe fire some seemingly taboo questions in the other direction! Thais love the banter and joking around.

You are (very) beautiful! - Kuhn suay (mak)!

You are (very) handsome! - kuhn lor (mak)!

You have beautiful eyes! - Tar kuhn suay!

Come home with me?! - Glap ban kap pom mai?!

Do you have a boyfriend/Girlfriend? - Kuhn mee fan mai krap?

I love you - Chan ruk Kuhn!

You are lovely! - Kuhn narak!

I miss you - Pom/Chan (male/female) kit teung kuhn

I will miss you - Pom/Chan (male/female) ja kit teung kuhn

Kiss kiss - jub jub

Go with you - Pai dui

Kor ber? - Can I have your number?

How much?!

Taken in Ayuttayha
Taken in Ayuttayha

Bargaining. Getting the Price Right

Bartering can be a lot of fun in Thailand. If you know a bit of lingo you may just get the price you want! There’s a fine line however between bargaining, being stingy or just downright rude! As a rule I’d say half the price they offer, then meet somewhere in the middle when both parties are happy.

How much? - Tou rai krap?/Gee baht krap?

Can you discount price? - Lod raka dai mai krap?

Expensive! - Paeng!

England is cheaper! - Angrid thook gwaa!

Thook - Cheap

I want/I don’t want it thanks. - Aw Krap/mai aw krap

Thank you - Kob kuhn krap.

Thai Numbers in English

These numbers have been written as you would say them. Many might not be the correct spelling as a translation may suggest. Pronunciation of Thai word is new subject all together with many rules, and subtleties. These may be explored in a later hub, if I ever find the time.

1 – Neung

2 – Song

3 – Sarm

4 – See

5 – Ha

6 – Hock

7 – Jet

8 – Beht

9 – Gow

10 – Sip

11 – Sip Ed

12 – Sip Song

13 – Sip Sarm

14 – Sip See

15 – Sip Ha

16 – Sip Hock

17 – Sip Jet

18 – Sip Beht

19 – Sip Gow

20 – Yee Sip

21 – Yee Sip ed

30 - Sarm Sip

And so on.

100 – Neung Roi

1000 - Neung Pan

10,000 - Neung Meun

100,000 - Neung Sen

1,000,000 - Neung Lan

Other Hubs

Hopefully something here was useful to you today. If you are interested about Thailand, you may find my other hubs useful.

Information about Southeast Asia

Thai Culture and Customs

Thai Culture and Customs: The Wai Greeting. Sawas Dee Krap

Thai Dialling Dialling Code: How to Make and Receive Cheap International Phone Calls to and from a Thai mobile

Information About Asia: Riding a Motorbike in Thailand

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Submit a Comment

  • livingabroad profile image

    livingabroad 5 years ago from Wales, UK

    Hi Bryan,

    Thanks, I hope it's of use to you! If you would like to know anything else just ask. Keep checking back as I will update with some video conversations to help practice the language! Enjoy Thailand :)

  • livingabroad profile image

    livingabroad 5 years ago from Wales, UK

    Hey Brett,

    Your right! Maybe I will split the hub up into smaller chunks and put some videos in to help with pronunciation etc. Thanks for clarifying the "mai" part, this explanation will be good for learners.

    Thanks for the thumbs up and share, hopefully someone will find it useful! :)

  • bryanbaldwin profile image

    bryanbaldwin 5 years ago from Los Angeles

    Awesome! I will use this in Thailand.

  • Brett.Tesol profile image

    Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

    Jeez ... reckon you could have easily made a few hubs out of this one, quite a Thai lesson you have here!

    On the "Mai" part, it is easiest to describe it as a spoken question mark. Where we as use tones and starting question words to signify a question, they use this as a literal signal of a questions.

    Great hub! Full of useful information for anyone traveling or moving to Thailand.

    Sharing with followers, tweeted, up and useful.

  • livingabroad profile image

    livingabroad 5 years ago from Wales, UK

    Hi Paul,

    Your right and I agree with your examples here. Na is often used as a gentle and persuasive form when speaking; also handy for people visiting Thailand to know. There are many slight subtleties when communicating in Thai especially in different regions as you know. I suppose only with experience you can get to know them all. Everyday here I'm learning something new, it's fantastic. After recently moving from Isaan to Southern Thailand I have been struggling with the local dialect but will let you know as soon as I get to grips with it!

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing Paul :)

  • Paul Kuehn profile image

    Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

    You have a very interesting and useful hub. You are right on with your translations for all of the useful conversation anyone living here should know. Many times when Thais ask for a repeat, they will just say "arai na krap or ka. Also when asking for something, to be very polite, Thais will say kho menu noi krap (ka)or they could add a na after the noi and say kho menu noi na krap. Since you are living in Southern Thailand, you undoubtedly have heard a lot of the Southern Thai dialect. Is it much different from Standard Central Thai? Voted up and sharing.