Thai Crash Course Part 6: Question Words

Question words are an integral part of any language-learning experience. In Thai, they’re often placed at the end of the sentence. There are also some irregularities and idiosyncrasies I’ll do my best to explain. As always if anyone notices and errors in my explanations or translations please point them out to me!

1. Mai (ไหม)

“Yes/No” question particle

This one’s probably becoming a bit Old Hat by now… you’ve seen it formally addressed in the Questions post, the Adjectives post and the Verbs post. But it’s probably the most common question word and something I’d be remiss to overlook in this post! It’s essentially a verbal question mark put at the end of “yes/no” questions, similar to the “ma” found in Mandarin. I’m sure from an etymological perspective there are a few reasons the word came about, but a possible one that springs readily to mind for me is this: Thai doesn’t change word order to serve the purpose of asking a “yes/no” question as we do in English (“Can you come?” v. “You can come.”), nor is it really possible to indicate a question is being asked by rising the tone at the end of the sentence– as we also do in English– without changing the tones (and therefore, the meaning) of the words themselves. Having a specialized word seems like a logical solution.

This makes asking “yes/no” questions quite easy, once you get the hang of remembering to tack on the mai. We’ve already seen this happen with such questions as “Sabai dee mai?” for “How are you?” (but literally, “Are you well/relaxed/comfortable?”, where sabai dee on its own simply means “well/relaxed/comfortable.”), “Ron mai?” (“Are you hot?”– lit. “Hot yes-or-no?”), and “Pad thai mee mai?” (“Do you have pad thai?”– lit. “Pad thai have yes-or-no?”). It can obviously be applied to more complicated questions as well:

“Hen peun proong-ni mai?” = Did you see your friends yesterday? (Lit. “See friend yesterday yes-or-no?”)
“Ao pai gin kao gahp chan mai?” = Do you want to go eat with me? (Lit. “Want go have rice with me yes-or-no?” NOTE: Remember to replace chan with pom if you’re a man!)
“Wai nam dai mai?” = Can you swim? (Lit. “Swim can yes-or-no?”)

Oh, and for the sake of being thorough: “Chop chan mai?” = Do you like me? (Lit. “Like me yes-or-no?” Again, remember to replace chan with pom if you’re a man.)

2. A-rai (อะไร)


Easily the next-most-common question word. As stated above, and contrary to what we’re used to in our native language, it should be placed at the end of a sentence. You’ve seen this already with “Cheu a-rai?” (“What’s your name?”– lit. “Name what?”)

“Chop gin a-rai?” = “What do [you] like to eat?” (Lit. “Like eat what?”)
“Mee a-rai?” = “What do [you] have?” (Lit. “Have what?”)
“Poot a-rai?” = “What did [you] say?” (Lit. “Say what?”)
“Tam a-rai?” = “What are [you] doing?” (Lit. “Do what?”)
Ma jahk pratet a-rai?” = “What country do [you] come from?” (Lit. “Come from country what?”)

If you haven’t properly heard what someone has said to you and need them to repeat it’s quite common to throw na (นะ) on the end of the word so it comes out as, “A-rai na?” defines “na” as “a word added at the end of the sentence to soften it, make it polite, indicate pleading, disagreement, ordering, surprise, or emphasis,” similar to our “huh.” Basically it’s pretty widely used but I’ve personally only gotten into the habit of saying it in the phrase, “A-rai na?”

3. Nai (ไหน)


You’ve already seen this one as well: Pai nai? for “Where are you going?” (lit. “Go where?”), Pai nai ma? for “Where have you been?” or “Where are you coming from?”

Tee-nai (ที่ไหน) is often used when inquiring about location, but it is acceptable to leave out the “tee”.

“Ma jahk tee nai?” = “Where are [you] from?” (Lit. “Come from where?”)
“Satanee rot fai yoo [tee] nai?” = “Where’s the train station?” (Lit. “Station train is located where?”)
“Hong nam yoo [tee] nai?” = “Where’s the restroom?” (Lit. “Restroom is located where?”)
Koon/Rao yoo [tee] nai?” = “Where are you/we?” (Lit. “You/we are located where?”)
“Koon pahk yoo [tee] nai?” = “Where do you live?” (Lit. “You stay live where?”) (“Yoo” can mean both “live” and “to be located.” I find it helps to clarify the meaning by adding “pahk,” or “stay,” to the question.)

4. Kraai (ใคร)


Here’s an example of one that doesn’t always fall at the end. As a general rule I think as the subject of a sentence it goes at the beginning and as an object (“whom,” really) at the end, but don’t hold me to it. Also, just a pronunciation note: the “r” in this word is very, very soft; pronounced almost in your throat like a French “r”. This happens with many “kr”/”gr”/”kl”/”gl” combinations in Thai.

“Koon pai gahp kraai?” = “Who are you going with?” (Lit. “You go with whom?”)
“Koon rak kraai?” = “Who do you love?” (Lit. “You love whom?”)
“Kraai kaai kai gai?” = “Who sells chicken eggs?” (Haha… a tongue twister I just picked up from that I imagine requires a working knowledge of tones to successfully pull off.)

5. Meua-rai (เมื่อไร)


“Ja pai tam-ngaan meu-rai?” = “When will [you] go to work?” (Lit. “[Future indicator] go work when?”
“Ao gin kao meu-rai?” = “When do [you] want to eat?” (Lit. “Want have rice when?”)
“Pai hen nang gahp chan dai meu-rai?” = “When can [you] go see a movie with me?” (Lit. “Go see movie with me can when?”)

Meua (เมื่อ) on its own can be a sort of past tense indicator; a way to say “before” as well. Meua-wan (lit. “before day”) means “yesterday,” for instance.

6. Tam-mai (ทำไม)


I feel more comfortable using this one at the beginnings of sentences, but I think it can go equally well at the end.

“Tam-mai mai chop gaeng som?” = “Why don’t you like gaeng som?” (A sour orange curry that people eat like crazy in the South of Thailand but that we… genuinely don’t really like. A potential answer: “Preu-wa kit wa pliu gern!” = “Because I think it’s too sour!”)

“Tam-mai mai bork wa ja pai Krung Thep?” = “Why didn’t you tell me you’re going to go to Bangkok?” (A likely question to be asked at my school, even if I’d told them, say, two times before. In this case I’d respond, “Bork sawng krang lay-o!” = “I’ve told you twice already!”)

“Tam-mai ma Muang-Thai?” = “Why did you come to Thailand?” (Potential answers: “Ao son pasa-Angrit tee nee.” = “I want(ed) to teach English here.”; “Kit wa ahaan Thai aroi maak!” = “I think Thai food’s very delicious!”; “Kit wa pu-ying Thai soo-ay maak!” = “I think Thai women are very beautiful!”)

7. Yang-rai (อย่างไร)


So I’ll admit to almost never using this one but… it falls under the 5Ws+H order of questioning as we’re familiar so I suppose it must be included.

“Pai rong-ree-yin pai yang-rai?” = “How do you get to school?” (Lit. “Go school go* how?”)
*I never would have thought to put the 2nd “pai” in there but in I trust and they had it… They tell me it’s a “directional auxiliary meaning ‘away.'” Whatever that means.

“Chee-wit ben yang-rai?” = “How’s life?” (Lit. “Life is how?”)
“Tam kahp tom yum goong yang rai?” = “How do you cook tom yum goong?” (Lit. “Cook tom yum goong how?”)

Oh, I guess this is important too: one of the reasons I use “how” so infrequently here is that it’s not incorporated into the questions “How much?” and “How many?” These are as follows:

Tao-rai (เท่าไร)

“How much?”

“Nee tao-rai?” = “How much does this cost?” (Lit. “This how much?”)
“Ao tao-rai?” = “How much do you want?” (Lit. “Want how much?”)
“A-yoo tao-rai?” = “How old are [you]?” (Lit. “Age how much?”)
“Dong ror naan tao-rai?” = “How long do [we] have to wait?” (Lit. “Must wait long time how much?”)

Gee (กี่)

“How many?”

So tao-rai can actually be used for both but I think gee is more proper. It’s also useful in certain time expressions.

“Gee mohng lay-o?” = “What time is it?” (Lit. “How many hours already?”)
“Ja pai don gee mohng?” = “[You’re] going to go at what time?” (Lit. “[Future tense indicator] go at how many hours?”)
“Koon yoo tee-nee gee pee lay-o?” = “How many years have you lived here?” (Lit. “You live here how many years already?”)
“Koon ja yoo tee-nee gee pee?” = “How many years are you going to live here?” (Lit. “You [FT indicator] live here how many years?”)
“Mai roo gee kohn ja ma.” = “I don’t know how many people are coming.” (Lit. “Not know how many people [FT indicator] come.”)
“Ao gee kilo?” = “How many kilos do you want?” (Lit. “Want how many kilos?”)


Also one more tiny thing… I’ve recently learned that the who/what/where/when/how question words also serve to mean “anyone/thing/where/time”. As in, “Mai mee a-rai,” for “There isn’t anything,” or “I don’t have anything.”

An especially useful way to use this is followed by “gor dai” as follows:

a-rai gor dai: “Whatever”/”Whatever you like”/”Anything’s cool” etc etc.
kraai gor dai: “Who(m)ever”
tee-nai gor dai: “Wherever”
meua-rai gor dai: “Whenever”
yang-rai gor dai: “However” (as in “any way you like”, not as a synonym for “But”).

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 5: Numbers

i really want to get a thai number clock before i go home!

After going through a few specific lessons I thought it might be a good idea to do something more general but no less useful: numbers. I’ve been making an effort to include phrases that come in handy when shopping, but of course you’ll find it more effective and easier to strike a bargain if you can actually toss around some numbers in Thai rather than just telling a vendor his or her wares are expensive! It’s very true that vendors are almost always more flexible and easy going when you demonstrate that you know a bit of their language. Obviously there are other situations when a working knowledge of numbers can be to your advantage so let’s get on with the lesson.

As you can see, Thais have their own system of writing numbers as well. However, our Arabic numerals are nearly as, if not more, ubiquitous than the Thai system, which is seen more on official documents and house numbers and such. (Source for the following number pics.)

1. Neung (หนึ่ง)

2. Sawng (สอง)

3. Saam (สาม)

4. See (สี่)

5. Haa (ห้า)

 (You’ll often see Thai kids writing “555!” on Facebook or the like as their equivalent of “lol”. Say it out loud, in Thai, and you’ll see why!)

6. Hok (หก)

7. Jet (จ็ด)

8. Bat (as in “vampire” or “baseball”) (แปด)

9. Gao (ก้า)

10. Sip (สิบ)

“10” (the number on the right face. the one on the left you should recognize as “8”!)


Further notes:

  • Soon (ศูนย์) is “zero”. In Thai script it’s written as a big circle (as seen in the number “10” above).
  • Yee-sip (ยี่สิบ) is “twenty”. To continue counting by 10, you say the single digit+“sip”. (Sam-sip for “thirty,” See-sip for “forty,” Haa-sip for “fifty,” Hok-sip for “sixty,” Jet-sip for “seventy,” Bat-sip for “eighty,” Gao-sip for “ninety.”)
  • Et (เอ็ด) is the way to say “one” in any two-or-more digit numbers ending in one. (Sip-et for “eleven,” Yee-sip-et for “twenty-one,” Sam-sip-et for “thirty-one,” etc.) The rest of the numbers remain the same in their position as a final digit. (See-sip-sawng for “forty-two,” Haa-sip-see for “fifty-four,” Hok-sip-haa for “sixty-five,” etc.) Essentially, with the exception of the 20s and numbers ending in 1, you’re saying “[number]-‘ten’-[number].” A pretty simple system, really.
  • Roi (ร้อย) is “hundred,” and standing alone often serves as “one hundred” (though neung-roi and roi-neung are acceptable and even common ways of saying “one hundred” as well).
  • Paan (พัน) is “thousand,” and standing alone often serves as “one thousand” (though neung-paan and paan-neung are acceptable and even common ways of saying “one thousand” as well). The hundreds and thousands work just the same way as in English: [number]+”hundred/thousand.” (Sawng-roi is “two-hundred,” Haa-paan is “five-thousand,” Jet-roi is “seven-hundred,” Gao-paan is “nine-thousand.”)
  • Here it gets a bit more complicated, but as these numbers are so much less frequently used so this is kind of for trivia purposes more than anything. Meun (หมื่น) is “ten-thousand” and Sen (แสน) is “hundred-thousand.” 111,000 would be said as, “neung-sen, neung-meun, neung-paan.” 435,234 would be “see-sen, sam-meun, haa-paan, sawng-roi, sam-sip-see.”
  • Creating ordinal (“1st,” “2nd,” “3rd”) numbers is easy: just add the word “tee” before any normal number. (Kon tee-neung is “first person,” wan tee-sip-jet is “the 17th day [of the month]”.

Quiz yourself!

Part A: How do you say the following numbers in Thai?

1. 7     2. 14     3. 27     4. 86     5. 107     6. 812     7. 958     8. 1,234     9. 4,987     10. 312,683

Part B: How do you say the following numbers in English?

1. bat-sip-gao     2. hok-sip-haa     3. jet-sip-et     4. neung-roi-sam-sip     5. sam-paan-haa-roi-yee-sip-gao 
6. sam-roi-bat-sip-see     7. sawng-roi-gao-sip     8. jet-meun-gao-paan-see-sip-bat

Part C: How much more are you being charged as a foreigner?

(the top figure is for adults and the second is for children)

Answers below: Continue reading

Thai Crash Course Part 4: 5 Useful Verbs

In Thai, verbs can often act in the same way as adjectives, at least in the way they employ the mais [(ไม่) for “not” and (ไหม) as the yes/no question particle ] and maaks [(มาก) for “very” or “a lot”]. And as we’ve discussed before, pronouns are very optional in simple, informal Thai (but if you prefer to use them, remember that “pom” is the male word for “I/me;” “chan” is the female word for “I/me;” and “khun” means “you”).

1. Mee (มี)


To ask the question, “Do you have ____?”, you would say either “____ mee mai?” (_____มีไหม) or “Mee _____ mai?” (มี_____ไหม). Order is also not so important in Thai.

Common things you might find yourself asking about:

In a restaurant:
“Pad thai mee mai?” = Do you have pad thai?
“Bia Lee-oh mee mai?” = Do you have Leo beer?
“Ahaan talay mee mai?” = Do you have seafood?
“Ahaan jay mee mai?” = Do you have vegan food?

In a shop: (Assume you’re holding up a piece of clothing that’s not quite right.)
Yai gwa mee mai?” = Do you have something bigger?
“Lek gwa mee mai?” = Do you have something smaller?

At a hotel:
“Hong wang mee mai?” = Do you have any rooms available?
“Sa-wai-nam mee mai?” = Do you have a swimming pool?

As with adjectival responses, an affirmative answer consists of the verb and the polite particle (if necessary): Mee, [ka/kap](มี[ค่ะ/ครับ]).
The negative answer: Mai mee, [ka/kap].(ไม่มี[ค่ะ/ครับ])

2. Ao (เอา)


This will often follow the same formula as “mee” does. Someone may ask you “Ao ________ mai?” (เอา____ไหม), or even just “Ao mai?” if the thing potentially desired is implied.


“Ao pai mai?” = Do you want to go?
“Ao gin mai?” = Do you want to eat?
“Ao kao mai?” = Do you want rice?

Of course, the answers would be as follows:

“Ao, [ka/kap].” (เอา[ค่ะ/ครับ]) = Yes.
“Mai ao, [ka/kap].” (ไม่เอา[ค่ะ/ครับ]) = No.

Maybe you simply wish to know what someone wants. In this case you would ask, “Ao a-rai?” (เอาอะไร); “a-rai” being the question word for “what”. If you wish to tell someone what you want, it’s “[Pom/chan] ao ________.”


“[Pom/chan] ao pai ran-ahaan.” = I want to go to the restaurant.
“[Pom/chan] ao gin som tam.” = I want to eat spicy papaya salad.
“[Pom/chan] ao ngo neung kilo.” = I want one kilogram of rambutans. (Good luck saying, “ngo” though! Been here a year and still can’t quite get that rascally “ng” right…)

Also, if it feels strangely brusque to march around telling people that you want something, there are the more polite “yaak” (อยาก) and “kor” (ขอ), which both roughly translate to “would like” (with “kor” being used more specifically for requests). However, in my experience there are definitely different cultural implications concerning the word “want,” and it doesn’t have the same “rude” connotations here as it might in Western culture.

3. Chop (ชอบ)


Hopefully the formula’s becoming a bit more familiar by now… A waitress has just served you your first som tam (spicy papaya sala), or perhaps a Thai friend has ordered it for you, and they wish to know:

“Chop mai?!” (ชอบไหม)… “Do you like it?!”

I feel certain your answer would be: “Chop maak!” (ชอบมาก), or “I like it a lot!” I guess even more likely could be: “Chop maak! Pet maak!” (“I like it a lot! Very spicy!”) Maybe you’re so busy shoveling in bites you only have time for a quick, “Chop, [ka/kap]” (ชอบ[ค่ะ/ครับ]), or “Yes.”

But maybe it’s a little too spicy for you, or underripe papaya just ain’t your thang. It’s okay; you can say, “Mai chop” (ไม่ชอบ).

4. Gin (กิน)


You’re probably already somewhat familiar with this, having seen it not only in the description of “ao” above, but also in a previous lesson with the question “Gin kao reu yang?” (“Have you eaten yet?”). In informal, simple Thai, “gin kao” (กินข้าว), literally “take rice,” is the way to say “eat,” even when you’re not necessarily talking about rice. “Gin nam” (กินน้ำ), literally “take water,” is the way to say “drink.” There are, of course, more formal ways to say these things that you’ll hear on occasion (“tahn” [ทาน] for “eat”; “deum” [ดื่ม] for “drink”), but you can’t really go wrong with “gin.”


“Chop gin ahaan Thai.” = I like to eat Thai food.
“[Pom/chan] gin jay.” = I’m vegan.
“[Pom/chan] gin mung-sao-ee-lat.” = I’m vegetarian.
“Mai gin moo/gai/neu-a.” = I don’t eat pork/chicken/beef.
“Ao gin Tom Yum goong, [ka/kap].” = I want to eat Tom Yum (a spicy/sour soup) with shrimp, [please].
“Ao gin bia Chang, [ka/kap].” = I want to drink Chang beer, [please].

5. Dai (ได้)


Initially, this one can throw new learners for a bit of a loop, in that unlike the English “can,” the Thai “dai” always comes at the end of a sentence. But once you get the hang of it you’ll find it pretty easy and useful.


“Gin [ahaan] pet dai mai?” = Can you eat spicy food?
“[Pom/chan/khun/rao] Pai namtok dai mai?” = Can I/you/we go to the waterfall?”
“Jort tee-nee dai mai?” = Can I park here?
“[Pom/chan] Poot pasa-Thai dai [nit-noi]!” = I can speak [a little] Thai!

Hopefully by now you’ll be using that last one all the time. 🙂

Also I wanted to give a little shout-out to another Thai learning website I stumbled on today that I thought was pretty good. As it happens, almost all of their most recent posts were lessons I was planning on doing in the coming weeks so if you want to go ahead and get a head start check them out!

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

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

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:

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 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

Thai Crash Course Part 1: 6 Useful Expressions

For a while now I’ve been meaning to do some work with Thai Language on my blog, for a number of reasons. First, I thought it might simply be of interest. Second, I’m hoping at least some might stumble upon this (these! It’ll be a series!) and find it useful. And finally, obviously, I wanted to show off my skillz. Haha… jokes, jokes…

But really, largely through Wayne’s particular dedication to picking up the language, we’ve really made an effort to become more familiar with and adept at speaking Thai. Our first attempts came in the form of Pimsleur: audio files we’d heard about from a friend in China. The tracks focus largely on learning through repetition, and use loop methodology to incorporate past phrases and vocabulary into later lessons to assist with memorization. These were actually quite useful as a jumping-off point and there are many languages on offer. For a full list (and free lesson for each!) click here.

Shortly after arriving I decided I’d also be interested in attempting to become at least partially literate; to be able to make some sense out of the strange squiggles of which the written language is comprised. I discovered this site (, and more specifically this reading resource that uses a real Thai children’s book (Manee and Friends, evidently long since out of print in Thailand) to teach the characters and some basic vocabulary. I actually found it very useful, and after only a few lessons was already able to start picking words out of signs and sounding out unfamiliar words. (The Thai writing system, though obviously very, very differently structured than our Latin alphabet, is also phonetic.) That being said, I haven’t really bothered to master my writing in any sense of the word, so don’t be fooled by the actual Thai you’ll come across in these posts… it’s all taken from, a most excellent online Thai/English dictionary. ( is another one I like.)

Then there were a few books (the one from TeachYourself being my favorite) and the fact that for a few weeks (months?) last term we were getting lessons twice a week from a lady in town. All to bring my Thai to the level of, well, as I’ve said before, “That of a Toddler, on a Good Day.” But strides are strides and here we are!

Okay, so now that the overture is… over, onto the phrases! In the future I’m thinking of just doing one or two “Words of the Week,” and they may be chosen more for their amusement value than usefulness. But for the first post of the “Crash Course” I thought I’d rather choose a few phrases that could be a bit more necessary.

1. Sawatdee ka (f.)/Sawatdee kap (m.)! (สวัสดีค่ะ/สวัสดีครับ)


“Hello!” (and “Goodbye,” for that matter)

I suppose this is as good a place as any to point out the “ka” (“ค่ะ“) and “kap” (“ครับ“) particles that come after many Thai sentences and expressions. They are gender-based politeness particles; when speaking in formal situations or with someone unfamiliar to you, females should end nearly every sentence with “ka” and males should do the same with “kap,” (also seen written “krup” or “krap,” and indeed there is a Thai “r” [““] in the word. However, with most Thai speakers I’ve come across the “r” in a “kr” combination is hardly pronounced. Plus “krap” just makes English-speakers giggle). In informal situations this can be left off, though in certain expressions (such as “Hello” and “Thank you”) it is almost always heard regardless of the relationship of the speakers. “Ka” and “Kap” also serve as the words for “yes” for their respective genders, again, regardless of the formal or casual nature of the conversation.

When an older person addresses a younger person (especially if he or she feels particularly endeared to that person) he or she may substitute the particle “jia” for “ka” or “kap.” (Though I swear I was once told this was the particle used by ladyboys, and the first time I heard it in real conversation found myself thinking, “That old lady really had me fooled!”)

2. Kap koon ka (f.)/Kap koon kap (m.)! (ขอบคุณค่ะ/ขอบคุณครับ)


“Thank you!

And I suppose this is a good place to point out that you might end up seeing a lot of the “same” words (ie, “kap” and “kap”) pop up with different meanings. There are a few reasons for this, but the most important is that Thai, like Chinese, is a tonal language. Unlike Chinese, which has four tones, Thai has five. I won’t claim to have made any attempt at mastering the tones. It’s a really hard thing for native speakers of a non-tonal language to do, but in theory they are really important. That being said, context can be of great assistance when determining the meaning of words. “Gai” in one tone (“ไก่”) means “chicken” and in another (“ไก”) means “latch.” If your tone’s slightly wrong, and you’re in a restaurant, chances are your waitress will know you’re not asking for some latch in your fried rice. (Though we have come across some pretty daft waitresses…)

For the record, the potential “kap”/”kap” confusion in an expression like, “Kap koon kap!” isn’t actually even tone related… the words are spelt completely differently; the vowel sounds and final “p”s actually differ ever-so-slightly, but to an English speaker, at least initially, they’re relatively indistinguishable. Just remember the “a” is pronounced as “ah.”

3. Koh tot (ka/kap)! (ขอโทษ [ค่ะ/ครับ])

“Excuse me!” [Whoa… a Google image search for “Excuse me” kicks back some really braincell-killing results, though this almost made the cut. Take it away Chris Brown…]

From here on out we’ll just assume the “ka”s and “kap”s are optional (but when in doubt, err on the side of caution and use them). In addition to a simple “Excuse me,” Koh tot can be used as “I’m sorry!” (as an apology, not to express sympathy) and to get someone’s attention.

4. Sabai dee mai? (สบายดีไหม)


“How are you?”

Literally, more or less, “Are you well?”. Sabai is a very versatile word in Thai… “comfortable”, “okay”, “relaxed”, and “fine” are among its many meanings. You’ll see many bars/bungalows/restaurants in Thailand called “Sabai Sabai” (doubling an adjective can intensify its meaning), a popular Thai phrase that illustrates Thai mentality to a large degree.

“Sabai sabai” also makes an appropriate response to the question. Others include, “Sabai dee!” (“I’m well!”), “Sabai dee maak!” (“I’m very well!”) and “Mai sabai…” (“I’m not well…” This is also a way of saying, “I’m sick.”). Again, “ka” and “kap” are optional endings for any of these statements.

5. Mai kao jai! (ไม่เข้าใจ)


“I don’t understand!”

If you were familiar with any of my China blogs (or at least the last two: the ting bu dong diaries and the ting bu dong diaries 2) you’ll know that I become reliant on expressions that indicate my linguistic ignorance to the point of blog-title-worthy infatuation. And for good reason! Though it’s generally pretty obviouswhen there’s a lack of understanding, what with the blank stares and nervous giggling that accompany the condition; I think locals do appreciate you being able to express the fact in their native tongue. As a teacher, it’s also a good one to know as students generally aren’t shy to blurt it out after you’ve given what you thought was a very simple set of instructions at a slow pace in graded English.

6. Mai pen rai! (ไม่เป็นไร)


“No worries!”

I really wanted this to be a five-item list but “Mai pen rai” could simply not be left off a bare-essentials Thai list. It’s like Thailand’s “Hakuna Matata“… a problem free philosophy indeed. Much like “Sabai sabai,” “Mai pen rai” captures the easy-going Thai spirit very well. “No problem,” “Don’t worry about it,” “I don’t mind,” “Whatever!”… or anything of this nature could serve as a translation given the situation. For the most part, it’s a really great atmosphere to be in the midst of. Of course there are those moments (like when your drive to work would be much improved by the completion of a repaving of a significant section of the road that’s been “in process” for three months) when you think maybe there are some things some people should worry about! (Ugh! What a downer thing to say! Nevermind all that, I’m loving it! Mai pen rai, baby, mai pen rai!)

Other lessons:

Thai Crash Course Part 2: 5 Useful QuestionsThai 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