By DAN FORTEZA
Are you visiting Thailand anytime soon? If you are, learning a few basic Thai expressions or phrases can immensely help you when traveling around Thailand. Take it from me! As of this writing, I’ve been here for more than a year and have been enjoying my time especially those moments when I interact with the local people. When you try to speak their language, most locals will appreciate the effort and may even have a friendly giggle at your pronunciation.
Although English is widely spoken in touristy areas, having a few Thai words ready in your pocket can surely help.
In this blog article, I am going to walk you through 30 useful Thai expressions that will definitely help you enjoy your trip.
Read also: my one-day tour itinerary in Chiangrai, Thailand.
30 BASIC THAI EXPRESSIONS (with GRAMMAR TIPS and AUDIOS)
In this list, I have also included grammar and pronunciation tips to help you speak like a local! It would also help if you listen to each of the audio to help you guide on the pronunciation. Those audios were recorded by a Thai friend of mine. So good luck or I should say susu na krap!
1. sàwàdee (kráp/kâ)
TIP 1: In Thai language: if you’re a male, you add “kráp” at the end of each expression to make it sound more polite. If you’re a female you add “kâ” instead. Usually, local men would just drop the “r” in “kráp” sounding it more like “káp” or “háp.”
Sàwàdee is basically the usual Thai greeting. So it can also be used when saying “Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening, or even Good bye.”
TIP 2: When you’re greeting an elderly, a teacher, or basically someone you respect, the “wai” greeting is usually paired with the word “sàwàdee”, thereby making it a greeting and also a way in which to show someone respect. The “wai” consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion.
2. sàbaaidee măi (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: How are you?
Reply: sàbaaidee (kráp/kâ) [means: I’m well.]
TIP 3: The word “măi” has no literal translation in English. When “măi” is added at the end of an expression, it makes the expression a question.
Sàbaai literally means “relaxed” while dee means “good”. So the expression “sàbaaidee măi” literally means “Are you good?” or something like “You good?” And most of the time the Thai word for “You” is omitted in either a question or a response.
Sometimes I hear Thai people say “dee dee dee” which means “good good good.” Haha!
3. chai/mâi chai (kráp/kâ)
Translation: Yes / No
Don’t be confused “mâi” with “măi”. Each has actually different pronunciation and meaning. When mâi is added before a word, it becomes”negative” or meant the opposite.
TIP 4: Another way of saying “yes” is kráp or kâ. When you understand and agree with one’s statement, instead of replying “yes” or “right”, you can say kráp (for male) or kâ (for female.)
TIP 5: And another way of saying “no” is “plao”.
4. kòp kun (kráp/kâ)
Translation: Thank you.
The Thai word “kun” means “you” but it could also translate to Mr. or Ms. So “Kun Daniel” would mean Mr. Daniel. Please note that last names in Thailand have only been in used for the last 50 years so it is common for Thai people to call me Kun Daniel.
5. mâi pen rai (kráp/kâ)
Translation: No worries or Not an issue.
This is the usual response to “Thank you.”
TIP 6: It is common to pronounce the “r” sound in Thai like an “l” sound. I personally feel like I am more understood by the locals when I pronounce “r” as “l”. So instead of saying “mâi pen rai”, I’d say “mâi pen lai.”
Before we continue with the list, let me just introduce first the two basic pronouns in Thai.
- Pom/Chan – Pom and Chan both mean “me”, “myself”, or “I”. Take note that Pom is only used by men. Chan is used by both men and women. I personally use pom though.
- Kun – As I’ve explained in #3, this means “you” and could also mean “your”.
6. róo/mâi róo (kráp/kâ)
Translation: I know/I don’t know
In this expression, ” róo” means “know”.
TIP 7: Local Thais usually omit personal pronouns Pom or Chan when saying this but you can also say it as “Pom róo/Chan róo and “Pom mâi róo/Chan mâi róo.
7. mi/mâi mi (kráp/kâ)
Translation: I have/I don’t have
I used this expression a lot when buying something at 7-11. Upon payment, the cashier would ask me “All Member mi krap/ka?” (Do you have All-Member card?), so I just simply respond by saying: “mâi mi kap” (I don’t have.)
8. dâai/mâi dâai (kráp/kâ)
Translation: Possible/Not possible
This can also mean “I can” or “I can’t”
9. kun pôod phasăa ang-grìt dâai măi?
Translation: Can you speak English?
So we’re now in the point where we’ve learn a couple of Thai words and where we can mix and match them to create phrases of different meaning. In this expression, the literal translation word-by-word is:
- kun – you
- pôod – speak
- phasăa ang-grìt – English or English language (phasăa means language)
- dâai măi – can?/can you?
- Pom pôod phasăa ang-grìt dâai krap. [I can speak English.]
- Pom pôod phasăa ang-grìt mâi dâai krap. [I can’t speak English.]
- Pom pôod phasăa ang-grìt dâai nidnoi krap. [I can speak English a little.]
NOTE: When someone asks me if I can speak Thai, I’d normally say “Pom pôod phasăa thai dâai nidnoi krap” or just simply nidnoi (meaning a little.)
10. leaw kun la (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: And yourself?
If you want to ask someone back with the same question, you can say this expression.
To put it into perspective, so here is a sample dialogue in Thai.
- A: kun pôod phasăa ang-grìt dâai măi? [Can you speak English?]
- B: dâai. leaw kun la krap? [Yes, I can. And yourself?]
In the next five sentences, I’ll be using the Thai word “na“. In a nutshell, adding “na” makes the expression “softer” and it adds the sense of sincerity when you use it.
11. kŏr tôht na (kráp/kâ)
12. tôht na (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: Excuse me.
I used this expression quite a lot, too. I used this whenever I want to ask politely for something or I might do something that might affect someone like me getting through a crowded place.
13. susu na (kráp/kâ)
Translation: Fighting! or Good luck!
This is one of my personal favorite Thai expressions. Whenever you wish someone a piece of good luck and just a word of encouragement, you can say “susu!” or “susu na k’ap!“
14. laa gòn na (kráp/kâ)
Translation: Good bye.
TIP 8: Another way of saying goodbye is “jer gan.” It literally means “see you”. I believe this is more colloquial and common to say goodbye.
15. àrai na (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: What did you say? or Say that again, please.
The Thai word for “what” is “àrai“. And when you add the word “na”,you are basically politely asking someone to repeat what he/she said because you didn’t get it the first time.
TIP 9: There is another way of saying this but only with your closed friends. You can say “àrai wa?” which literally translates to “what the heck?” or to some extent “what the f*ck?” This is a bit rude if you are talking to someone you don’t know or someone superior to you.
Now in the next expressions, I’ll be introducing to you the equivalent WH-question words. I won’t be covering them all but the common ones are:
- àrai – what
- têe năi – where
- tâo rài – how much / how many
- mue rài – when
- tham mai – why
- yàang-rai – how
These normally appear in the end of a Thai sentence. Refer to the next sample expressions.
16. kun chêu arai (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: What’s your name?
The Thai word for “name” is “chêu“. Again, you can omit the pronoun “kun” and simply say “chêu alai kap?”
17. kun maa jàak tee năi (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: Where do you come from? / Where are you from?
The Thai word for “come” is “maa” while the Thai word for “from” is “jàak“. Simple as that. =)
18. hông náam yòo têe năi (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: Where is the toilet?
The Thai word for “toilet” is “hông náam” which literally translate to “water room” (hông is room; náam is water.) Yòo is some sort of an article like “at” or “on”.
19. an née tâo rài (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: How much is this?
This is another Thai expression that I used very often. When you’re at the market and you see a fruit you want to buy for instance, then you point it out and you say “an née tâo rài kap“? The Thai word for “this” or “this one here” is “an née”.
20. phasăa thai ... pôod wâa yàang-rai (kráp/kâ)?
Translation: How do you say … in Thai?
This is the longest expression in this list but you’ll need this in case you’re now in the stage where you want to learn more vocabulary. So you can simply ask a Thai local and say “phasăa thai an née (this one) pôod wâa yàang-rai (kráp/kâ)? Wâa is some sort of an article connector.
21. chai măi?
Translation: Right? or Correct?
Another favorite expression of mine and I used this all the time! I normally mixed it up with an English expression and then ending it by saying “chai măi?” So basically you’re asking the person you’re talking to if your statement is correct. Say for example: “You’re a student here, chai măi?” If he/she agrees he/she would simply say “chai” (meaning yes.)
22. khâo jai măi?
Translation: Do you understand?
This is useful when you can’t express something in Thai and while you’re saying it in English, you want to make sure you pause and ask them if they indeed understood you so you say “kun khâo jai măi?” or simply remove “kun” and say “khâo jai măi?”
23. jing ná? / jing jing?
Translation: Really? / Seriously?
I think this is a good one. I like using this Thai expression as well. It’s like I’m blending in so much!
24. yin dee têe dâi róo jàk.
Translation: Pleased to meet you. / Nice to meet you.
25. neung, song, sam, see, ha, hok, jet, paed, gao, sip
Translation: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten
These counting numbers are very useful in a normal Thai conversation. And most importantly when you’re at the grocery store, you’ll be aware of how much you’re going to pay for!
Counting in Thai language is easy. You basically just need to mix and match the numbers from one to ten and you’re all set! For example:
- Twelve: Sip song (10 and 2)
- Thirty: Sam sip (3 and 10)
- Eighty five: Paed sip ha (8, 10, and 5)
There are two exceptions though:
- you don’t use “neung” in saying “eleven” (or other tens ending by one. Instead, you use “ed.” So eleven would be “sip ed” and thirty one would be “sam sip ed.”
- also, you don’t say “song sip” for “twenty”, instead you say “yi sip.” So twenty one would be “yi sip ed“
I know this is just a word but if you use it together with other Thai words you just learned, then this is going to be one heck of a relief. If you’re telling a taxi driver to go to “Sukhumvit 55th st., you can say “pai Sukhumvit soi ha sip ha” (soi means street.)
27. kun gin arai?
Translation: What did you eat?
Now we knew “kun” is “you” and “arai” is “what”. The new word here is “gin” and it means “eat.”
28. aroi mak!
Translation: Very delicious!
You’ll be using this so much when you’re complimenting how delicious food is! The Thai word for “delicious” is “aroi” and for “very” or “extremely” is “mak“.
With the word “mak“, you can basically partner this to any word. Say for example; instead of saying “kob kun krap,” you can say “kob kun mak krap” to say “thank you very much.”
29. mâi phet / phet mak
Translation: Not spicy / Very spicy
I bet most of us want to go to Thailand for a food trip, chai măi? I gotta tell you though that Thai food is quite known for being spicy! So if you want to say you don’t want to have something spicy, you can say “mâi phet.” The Thai word for spicy is “phet.” Phet mak on the other hand means “very spicy”.
30. sai krong dâai măi?
Translation: Can you put it in a container?
From the previous list, we knew “dâai măi” means “can you”. The Thai word for “put” is “sai“. This Thai expression is useful when you want to take out food. Krong is a sort of a food container.
TIP 10: Or if you want to say like: “Can you put it in a plastic bag?”, you can just change “krong” to “tong” (the word for plastic bag.)
Well, what can I say… Thai can be a difficult language to learn as it is a tonal language. One word can have multiple meanings depending on how it is pronounced.
You are most definitely going to make mistakes, but don’t let that put you off. Personally, I love learning this language because I love getting wide grins and chuckles from locals when I say something unexpected in their language.
Anyway, please let me know what is your favorite Thai expression. I would love to hear you’re thoughts on this! Kob kun mak krup!