Thai Crash Course Part 3: 7 Commonly Used Adjectives


Welcome to Week 3 of the Thai Crash Course series! I thought it might be useful to introduce some oft-heard adjectives.

1. Dee (ดี)


You’ve already seen this in the question “Sabai dee mai?” (“How are you?“). It means “good”. It gets thrown around a lot. It also gets paired with other (positive) adjectives to intensify them sometimes. (“Sabai dee” is actually a prime example of this; literally it would translate as, “Comfortable good”).

The way to say “no” or “not” in Thai is mai” (ไม่). Therefore, the way to say “bad” (or literally, “not good”) is mai dee”. (I’m sure there’s another way to say “bad,” but I don’t know what it is and thus far have gotten by just fine with “mai dee“.)

Now, not to totally confuse you, but I have another “mai” to introduce. “Mai” (ไหม), also as seen in “Sabai dee mai?”, which is the question tag used at the end of yes/no questions in Thai.

2. Ron (ร้อน)


This is a good one to know because Thailand is, well, hot. And relying on the weather for small talk is no Western-specific phenomenon. On any given day it’s not uncommon to overhear people whimpering to their sweaty companions as they fan themselves lethargically, “Ron…” The word alone can serve to mean “It’s hot,” or “I’m hot”– no extra grammar necessary.

It’s also quite likely that you’ll be asked, “Ron mai?” (ร้อนไหม), which, assuming you’ve been paying attention and that I’ve been clear, you’ll understand to mean, “Are you hot?” To answer in the affirmative you just repeat the adjective: “Ron,” (with the appropriate “ka”/”kap” ending if necessary). If you’re not hot, you say, “Mai ron.” If you’re very hot you say, “Ron maak!” or maybe even, “Ron maak maak!” Since I know you’re all very clever I don’t suppose I need to define “maak” (มาก) as “very” or “a lot.”

3. Pang (แพง)


This is a useful one in any of those inevitable situations in which someone is attempting to rip you off. Thai people can be very blunt and straightforward themselves, so especially if you approach the situation in a light-hearted manner you shouldn’t have to worry about offending anyone by telling them their wares are expensive. And as they almost always appreciate someone taking the time to learn even a few words of their language, if you make the observation in Thai you have a good chance at earning yourself a discount.

The use of both mais and maak applies here as well:
Pang mai? (แพงไหม) Is it expensive?
Mai pang! (ไม่แพง)[It’s] not expensive!
Pang maak! (แพงมาก) = [It’s] very expensive!

4. Soo-ai (สวย)


Though “beautiful” is probably one of the mostly commonly known English words amongst Thais (just don’t ask them to spell it), it’s not a bad idea to be familiar with their word as well. They’re very free with their compliments (and have a bit of a nationwide obsession with white skin) so chances are that as a foreigner you might get this one tossed at you a few times by males and females alike. It’s also a good one for buttering up the vendors. Now you should not only be able to tell them how beautiful the dress you’re attempting to buy is, but also complain about its pricetag. Perfect. Haha… just realized how female-oriented that paragraph was… Boys, you might be called “Lor” (หล่อ) (as you might have guessed, “handsome.”)

(And, of course, “Mai soo-ai” is the way to say, “Not beautiful,” which is useful when ensuring that your girlfriend doesn’t get a big head after a few Thai guys have told her she’s beautiful. Next lesson: How to Joke About Selling Your Girlfriend for 1000 Baht, a guest entry by Wayne de Villiers.)

Oh, and one more note… the “ai” sound as I’ve written it here is a long “I”, like the word “eye.” If you mispronounce it you might end up saying something that resembles our word “sway,” which is a Thai word that means “unlucky.”

5. Sanook (สนุก)


(Wow, I’d never heard of the band fun. before but in the course of finding that photo I’ve discovered they’re headed up by a former member of the Format, a band I used to love in my high school days! Can’t wait to give them a listen. What an exciting find!)

If you’re planning a vacation to Thailand, you can see how this would come in handy. If you want to tell someone to have fun you’ll say “Hai sanook!” (ให้สนุก). It’s also okay to say “Mee sanook” (มีสนุก) for “to have fun,” as that’s what it literally means.

6. Aroi (อร่อย)


If a Thai person catches you eating, I give ten-to-one odds that they will ask you “Aroi mai?” (“Is it delicious?”). As with the responses to “Ron mai?”, you will answer either by repeating, “Aroi!”, “Aroi maak!”, or the highly unlikely (since Thai food is so notoriously delicious), “Mai aroi.”

And, going along with the claim I made earlier about “dee” being a postitive-adjective-intensifier, “Aroi dee,” is also a common thing to say about your food. It’s also the basis for a spoonerism that will definitely tickle a Thai person should you choose to drop it: tell them your meal is “Aree doi!” and you’re bound to get some giggles. Not because you’ve said anything wrong, it’s just not something a foreigner would be expected to know.

7. Pet (เผ็ด)


On the topic of food, this is definitely a must-know in Thailand! Thai people love spicy food, and often they either don’t care or fully grasp the meaning of the request, “Not spicy.” Still, on the off-chance that they are willing to satisfy such an outlandish desire I’m sure by now you’ve caught onto the fact that “Mai pet!” is the way to say “Not spicy.” If you want to tempt fate and ask for something to be just a little spicy, you’d say, “Pet nit-noi” (เผ็ดนิดน้อย).

But really though. Sometimes we think people make things extra spicy to spite us, or just have a laugh, when we ask for it not to be spicy. Better to just adjust your taste buds before you come!

Alright… well in the course of writing this many more things came to mind, but I do want to keep things in small digestible (no pun intended!) doses. See you in a week!

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 Party 4: 5 Useful Verbs | Thai Crash Course Part 5: Numbers |Thai Crash Course Part 6: Question Words


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