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Some Helpful Thai

Generally speaking, it is best to communicate with Thai people in English, because as poor as their English is, it will probably be much better than your attempts to speak Thai! Whether you speak in English or Thai, it is best to try to keep the communication simple and direct. Don’t worry about grammatical niceties, just try to be understood. Usually, people are very forgiving of foreigners trying to communicate in their language so keep that in mind. Below are some simple expressions and phrases which might be useful. Always carry you dictionary with you so you can point to words when trying to communicate.

Greeting: One can greet Thais with the standard greeting, sawadi,  which means good moring or good evening. You can ask some how they are doing with the phrase, sabaai di, which means are you happy? Thais might very well ask you the question, pai nai?, which means where are you going but is really used more as a greeting. The question is not really intended to learn about your plans! Just answer with your destination and smile, Bangkok.  Good bye is pai koon.

Yes/No: Everyone should be able to say “yes” or “no!”  For yes, men say Krap or cup and women say Ka (helicopter). These words can also used to say thank youNo is mai. These words could beused to indicate if you like or don’t like something but thephrases phom shobb (I like) and phom mai shobb (I don’t like) are more appropriate. Maybe or I don’t know is  banng-thi or kaw penh dai. It should be noted that almost all Thai people know the meaning of the English  word, “okay!”

When? Visitors to Thailand also need to ask “when” questions a lot. For example, visitors might want to know “When does the restaurant open?” or “When does the train arrive?”  The Thai word for when is meua and word for time is  wey lar. The simplest way to communicate is just to ask “meua movie” or “wey lar train.” The clerk will probably grasp what you are trying to get.  Be sure you have a note pad for the other person to write on because they will answer you in Thai…and you very well will not be able to understand!  Some verbs that might prove helpful here are arrive – ma teuhng, leave - awk, begin – rerm-tonh, and finish – chob.

Where? Visitors to Thailand also will probably want to ask many “where” questions, such as “Where is the toilet?” or “Where is the bus stop?” Where is expressed as nai? Or thi-nai? It is placed after the thing you want to find. Connect them together with “you.” For example, where is the toilet? is expressed as hong nam you thi-nai? (hong nam is toilet) and where is the bus stop? is expressed as thi chawd-rot pracham-thanng you nai? If you don’t know the the words for items  or places such as bus, bus stop or toilet, you can usually use English as many Thais are familiar with these English words.

Eating Out: There are lots of great places to eat in Thailand, and many ofthem are extremely inexpensive. Always ask for the menu! “Do you have a menu in English?” is  Mi menu aharn phasa Angkrit mai? When you want to order, you can say,  “Please bring me…” which is “Karuna aow…” or “Can we have….” which is Khaw… At this point, you only need to learn the names of some common Thai foods to complete the phrase.  Two common and very “safe” foods to order are fried rice,  khao-phad (khao_phad kai is fried rice chicken) or  fried noodles, Phat thai sai khai. When ready to go, you can ask for the bill,  Proad khid ngoen duai? If you were pleased with the meal, it is appropriate to offer appreciation,  A-harn aroi di.. Note: many places in Thailand do not have an English language menu so it is important to be able to recognize the type of cuisine the restaurant or street stall serves, and know how to ask for a few basic dishes.  

Some additional  foods or dishes you will probably want to order at some time are khao-phad mu (fried rice pork),  khao man gai (baked chicken on steamed rice), pa ka na mu kup ( crispy pork and vegetables), mu daneg (red roast pork), gai yang (barbecued chicken), pot ka paw gai (chicken on basil leaf and steamed rice),  kuay-tio gai (chicken noodles), and  me krop (krispie noodles). Often, rice must be ordered separately. The Thai word for “rice” is khao.

Shopping: Thailand is a great place to shop and shoppers always have a lot of questions. The Thai phrase for “Do you sell?” is mi khaai mai? Thus, one could ask, “Pepsi mi khaai mai? If you want to see some more items, you can say, Mi hai dou ik mai? In shopping, of course, the most important question is “How much does it cost?” which is Thao-rai? If you feel that asked for price is too expensive, then say, Phaeng Pai, which means “that is too expensive.”  When shopping, a note pad or calculator should be available since a clerk will probably not be able to tell you prices in English.  Most Thais who do business with foreigners on a regular basis, however,  have pretty good shopping English so usually there will not be serious problems with communication.

On the town:  when out for a night on the town, one can use many of the same phrases which are used for shopping and eating out. Below are some additional phrases which might be helpful. Phom  tong chaii thao rai? – how much do I have to pay?;  khid phaeng kern pai – the charge is too high!

Basically, English equivalents are used by Thais for many concepts such as bar fine – the amount of money someone must pay a bar to take a lady home, short time – a duration of time, usually two hours, a man pays a lady to be with him, usually in his hotel room; long time – a duration of time, usually a night, in which a lady stays with a man. Long time and short time assume sexual activity.  Typically, a lady and a man usually negotiate about the rate of pay for a long time and a short time. Usually the lady understands basic English numbers. If not, just write them on a note pad. All Thai night nightlife places also understand the English phrase, how much? And everyone understands what TV and music are, as well as snooker.

Some words you might here are: jao choo – playboy, jai dee – good heart or good person, farang keen ok – bad foreigner (foreign shit),  and ki niu – cheap man. Basically, the last two phrases tend to be used for foreigners who are careful with their money, although it is better to be a ki niu than a farang keen ok.


Romantic Phrases: below are some romantic phrases one can use with  the object of ones romantic affections. A lady is quite likely to respond that you are a bagwon, or a sweet mouth!

Do you have a boy friend?  Koon mee feen reu yang? For “yes”, the reply is mee, and for”no” the reply is yang.

What is your phone number, please? Kor ber tor koon dai mai? For “yes” the reply is dai, and for “no” the reply is mai dai. Give the lady a pad of paper to write the number down.

You are the one I have been waiting for.  - Koon keu kon nun tee pom ror.

Are you free tonight? – Keun nee koon want mai? For “yes” the reply is wang and for “no” the reply is mai wang.

Can  I see you tomorrow? – Proong nee jer gun dai mai? For “yes” the reply is dai and for “no” the reply is mai dai.

I won’t forget you.  -  Pom ja mai leurn koon.

I can’t live without you.   - Pom yoo mai dai to mai mee koon.

I thought about you all night.  - Pom kit teung  koon tung keun.

I want to marry you – Pom dtong gan dtangan gub koon  [USE WITH EXTREME CARE!!!]

Politenes: To express politeness, say karuna for please or proad khaw for please give me. Thank you is expressed khob khun or khob chai. You’re welcome is expressed mai pen rai, which is also used to mean don’t worry  or don’t worry about it. To apologise (I am sorry), say khaw thod or prathaan thod, which is more formal. It should be noted that almost all Thais know the meaning of  the English word “sorry!

Okay, now are you are ready – sort of – to go out on your own and give it a try!! Don’t worry too much. Fluency takes a lot of practice. Just be sure to take your notepad and dictionary with you. Good luck!


Bangkok to Pattaya

Pattaya Attractions

How to Get Around In Pattaya

Festivals and Special Events

Muay Thai In Pattaya

Shopping In Pattaya

A History and Introduction to Pattaya

Do’s and Don’t in Pattaya

The Cost of Living in Pattaya

Weather and The Best Times to Visit Pattaya

Sports in Pattaya

Guide to Street Food

Bangkok or Pattaya? Which one is better?

Some Helpful Thai

Other Useful Guide