Thai Crash Course Part 2: 5 Useful Questions

In Part 1 I introduced  a few must-have Thai phrases. Here are a few questions that can also be handy to know or at least understand if you are new to Thailand.

1. Gin kao reu yang? (กินข้าวหรือยัง)

“Have you eaten yet?” (Or literally, “Have you taken/had rice yet?”)

2. Pai nai? (ไปไหน)

“Where are you going?”

so they do something similar in mandarin… the graphic was too cool to pass up though. (the mandarin, if you’re curious, is “chi [fan] le ma?”) source: http://www.asiaarts.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=26485

Quiz time! Do you remember how to say, “How are you?” (Hint: It rhymes with, “A tidy guy…” Your blank expression indicates you need another hint… How about, “Shmashmai dee shmai?”) What’s that I hear? “Sabai dee mai?” Good job! Except, as taken from a conversation with Wayne today:

Me: So in my blog today I think I’m going to teach some useful questions.
W: Like, “Gin kao reu yang?” and “Pai nai?”
Me: Yeah… I just feel like those are actually way more commonly said than, “Sabai dee mai?”
W: Yeah… I’m pretty sure we’re the only ones who actually say that.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. It is indeed way more common to have someone ask you whether you’ve eaten or where you’re going. In a way I kind of like this… they lend themselves better to conversation than the standard how-are-you-I’m-fine-thank-you interaction that’s shoved down the throats of Thai learners and much seem far more boring to them (though in my classroom we generally have a “No ‘Fine’!” policy). It also explains why a Thai person who wishes to practice their budding English may come to you with the otherwise-seemingly-strange questions, “You eat rice?” “You have breakfast?” or “Go where?” I’ll admit it took me a while to get used to in my office…

Acceptable answers to the questions, respectively:

“Yang,” or “Yang mai gin,” for “I haven’t eaten yet.” “Gin lay-o,” for “I’ve eaten already.”

“Pai baan!” or “Glap baan!” (with a verrrry soft ‘L’)=”I’m going/returning home.” “Pai gin kao!”=”I’m going to eat [rice].” “Pai rong-rian!”=”I’m going to school.” And to keep with the theme of my photo… “Pai hen peun!”=”I’m going to see my friend!” (As a literal translation… I can’t give you a 100% certain answer as to whether that’s actually an acceptable answer.) I’ll do a places lesson later…

3. Pai nai ma? (ไปไหนมา)

“Where have you been?” 

Though not as common as the straight-up, “Pai nai?” this is also something you’re likely to hear when you’re clearly returning to a place. (And no, it doesn’t come with the same connotations as it might were it coming from an angry mother or lover. Thais are just curious people, I guess!)

Acceptable answers:

“Pai ran-ahaan ma,” for “I was at a restaurant.” “Pai tam ngaan ma,” for “I was at work.” “Pai baan peun ma,” for “I was at a friend’s house.” “Pai Krung Thep ma,” for “I was at Bangkok.”

[Note: “Ma” (มา)is not a past-tense indicator. It means “come,” making “Pai nai ma?” kind of an awkwardly-structured, “You’re coming from where?” (Literally, “Go where come?”) The previously-mentioned “lay-o” (แล้ว) can mean “already” and thus act as a past-tense indicator, in addition to many other things. However in many cases context is enough to demonstrate when something has happened in the past, and no additions or modifications of the verb are necessary.]

4. [Koon] Poot pasa-Angrit dai mai? (คุณพูดภาษาอังกฤษได้ไหม)

“Can you speak English?”

Hey? Am I making any sense at all? Does anyone here speak English? Cuz everyone’s acting like I’m crazy… Is this thing on?!

Yes, always a good one to know, and a funky jam to go with it. Also a good place to point out that, like tense-markers, personal pronouns are often optional. “Koon” means “you,” but “Poot pasa-Angrit dai mai?” is totally acceptable, provided the person to whom you’re speaking wouldn’t have a reason to assume you were referring to anyone else.

Their answer would most likely be one of the following:

“Mai dai!” if they can’t.
“Dai,” or “Dai neet-noi,” if they can. The latter literally means, “I can, a little.” Thais can be very modest, and so will probably give this answer even if their English is quite good.

5. Cheu [len] arai? (คุณชื่อ[เล่น]อะไร)

“What’s your [nick]name?”

In an ages-old post I spoke a bit about the whole nickname ordeal in Thailand; most everyone has one, they’re assigned to children by parents at a young age, from what I can tell they’re generally employed because Thai names on average have at least seven syllables. If you simply ask someone their name (“Cheu arai?”) while, say, making conversation at a bus station, chances are your bus will be halfway to its destination by the time your new friend has finished his or her answer, and you wouldn’t be able to repeat the half of it back if you tried. In my experience I’ve never felt rude by or been reprimanded for asking anyone their nickname, young or old. Definitely the safer bet, in my opinion.

If you’re the one being asked you can respond with, “[Chan/Pom] cheu ______,” with your name right there in that little blank. “Chan” is the personal pronoun for female speakers (“Dee-chan,” if you’re in a formal situation), “Pom” is for males (who, confusingly enough, are actually permitted to use “chan” in an intimate situation); but again, their use is optional.

[Fun language note (if you’re a nerd like me, anyway): “Len” (เล่น) literally means, “to play.” So your “nickname” is really a “play name.” When you make a joke (“puut len” [พูดเล่น]), you “play talk.”]

That concludes today’s lesson, y’all! For assistance with pronunciation you can always turn to the trusty Thai-Language.com site.

Other lessons:

Thai Crash Course Part 1: 6 Useful Expressions | Thai Crash Course Part 2: 5 Useful Questions | Thai Crash Course Part 3: 7 Commonly Used Adjectives | Thai Crash Course Part 4: 5 Useful Verbs | Thai Crash Course Part 5: Numbers |Thai Crash Course Part 6: Question Words

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