Learn to speak Thai
Learn to speak Thai

Chapter 2: Greetings & Introducing Yourself

Hello, my lovely students! you’ve learned a lot about how to construct simple sentences in the first chapter. I hope you enjoyed the lesson and have spent your free time practicing what I told you diligently. With the knowledge of basic Thai grammar together with some vocabulary you’ve collected from your everyday life (or maybe your newly bought dictionary), now you’re supposed to be able to string simple sentences fluently using the very most basic structure Subj. + V. + Obj.

Naahh… don’t tell me you don’t remember. If it be so, you need to go back to the 1st chapter for rehearsal. Remember what I told you? The more you practice, the more fluent Thai speaker you will become. So, don’t slack off! It’s time to study. And for those who have been doing good, I’m proud to tell you that you are ready for Chapter 2.

…So what do I have to offer in Chapter 2?

Well, it’s not about me, it’s about you. In this chapter, you will be prepared for the show — you will learn how to greet, introduce yourself and kick off an easy conversation with the locals. It will be your Le Débutant, an official event to present the new you to the Thai society. Once you’re ready, I’d like you to come up the stage and charm your audience with the latest skills you just discovered. But before that time, I’ll equip you with some vocabulary and the essential Thai grammar you need to know – the Verb to Be.

But first of all, Let’s see this conversation together…

Pa Nipa: “Good morning Khun Paul. Where are you going today?”

Paul stunned a bit, he didn’t understand why auntie Nipa or Pa Nipa would like to know his business that much, so he said…

Paul: “Just my office, like every day.”

Pa Nipa: “You look handsome today? Anything special?”

This, Paul understood. He knew that Thais are generally cheerful and always like to have some fun — teasing him is part of it.

Paul: “Today is my boss’s birthday. We’re going to throw a birthday party, so I dressed up a bit. How do I look?”, asked Paul while showing the yellow necktie he just bought from Talad-nad Jatujak yesterday.

Pa Nipa: Lor mak mak ka.” This means very very handsome.

Realized what she meant, Paul smiled widely and said “Khob-khun krab” before hopping on the bus heading to his office.

…So, what have you learned from this conversation?

You might notice that instead of greeting Paul with “How are you?”, “How have you been?” or “What’s up, dude?” like you usually do in English, Pa Nipa asked, “Where are you going?” Is it because she likes to poke her nose into other people’s business? Well, that we don’t know for sure. But in this case, her question is pretty much a normal greeting because Thais usually greet others by asking “Pai nai ma” or “Ja pai nai” which literally mean where have you been and where are you going.

Apart from these, Thais also use “Sabai dee mai” for how are you. These are common greetings which can be used alternatively depending on the situation and your relationship with the listeners. However, the slight difference is that we tend to use Sabai dee mai with whom we haven’t met for a while and use Pai nai ma and Ja pai nai with whom we meet regularly such as our neighbors or colleagues.

Similar to English language, Thai also has greeting distinctions of good morning, good evening and goodnight but those words seem to be preserved for written language only. Sawasdee is more generic and can be used for all purposes including hello and goodbye. Congratulations! This will make your lessons easier because you remember one word and one word can apply to all. For more common phrases and greetings, please go to the introduction or check out the table below.

Greeting Words & Phrases

English Thai
Hello Sawasdee
Goodbye Sawasdee, Bye-bye
How do you do? Sawasdee
How are you? Sabai dee mai
How have you been? / What’s up? Pen ngai bang
Where have you been? Pai nai ma
Where are you going? Ja pai nai
Good morning Ar-run-sa-wad
Good evening Sa-yan-sa-wad
Goodnight Ra-tree-sa-wad
See you later Laeo phop gan mai

All right, this is just the beginning. Actually, there are more than one way to say hello and goodbye but if you can’t remember them all, Sawasdee and Sabai dee mai are pretty safe for almost every occasion. Next, let’s fill out your vocabulary bank with these new words and phrases.

Chapter 2: Vocabulary

Khun Paul (n.): Instead of using titles such as Mr, Miss or Mrs when referring to a person, Thais usually place “Khun” before a name to show respect and politeness to that person. This can be used with both given name and nickname, for example, Khun Tawatchai, Khun Ton, Khun Ploy, etc. but Thais don’t call others with the family name.

Pa Nipa (n.): Similar to Khun, “Pa” (meaning aunt) and other words indicating family relationship such as “Na” (mother’s younger sibling), “Ar” (father’s younger sibling) and “Pee” (older brother or sister) can be used to replace titles. Usually, you use the word “Pa” in a fun-filled casual way with someone who is much older than you. Otherwise, chances are that you’ll offend that person.

Yellow necktie (NP): Well, these are definitely not Thai words but remember the color adjectives I taught you in the first chapter? How can you say yellow necktie in Thai? Yes, it’s Necktie See- lueang. If you don’t have a clue what it means, go back to the first chapter.

Lor mak mak ka (AP): Lor” means handsome, “Mak” or “Mak mak” means very (word repetition is used to intensify the meaning) and “Ka” is a particle showing respect and politeness used only by women. But instead of placing the intensifier before the adjective like in English, Thais put it after the adjective, so “very handsome” has become “Lor mak mak”.

Khob-khun krab (excl.): One of the most common used words in every language is thank you and “Khob-khun” is that word in Thai. “Krab” is a particle showing respect and politeness used by male speakers. If you want to emphasize your gratitude, you can add the intensifier Mak or Mak mak after the word. “Khob-khun mak” or “Khob-khun mak mak” mean thank you very much.

Talad / Talad-nad (n.): Talad” means market. “Talad-nad” is a subcategory of Talad, meaning weekend market or temporary market. Jatujak weekend market or “Talad-nad Jatujak”, sometimes called JJ market, is the most famous and biggest weekend market in Thailand.

…Now, are you ready for the hardest part — the G-R-A-M-M-A-R

Well, you might or might not be ready for this part but to learn every language, this is unavoidable. In this chapter, you’re going to learn about Verb to Be. And when talking about Thai verb to be, there are three words that you need to remember— Pen, Yu, and Kue.

1. Verb to be “Pen

Thais use “Pen” in the meaning of to be someone or something similar to English speakers use “is/ am/are” and “was/were” but Pen, like other verbs in the Thai language, doesn’t change its form because Thai doesn’t have verb conjugation. It is usually followed by a noun or noun phrase and cannot be followed by an adjective. For example, “Khun pen nak-rean” (you are a student) is based on the structure — Subj. + Pen + N. but to say that he is rich or she is beautiful, the verb to be will be omitted. In this case, you would just say “Khao ruay” and “Tuer Suay” which is composed of Subj. + Adj.

Here are examples of using the verb to be “Pen”:

Affirmative Form Thai
I am a teacher. Phom/Chan pen khru
She is my sister. Tuer pen pee-sao khong chan
They are good people Puak-khao pen khon dee
He is smart. Khao cha-lard
They were poor. Puak-khao jon

To negate the verb to be Pen, we usually put “Mai-chai” or “Mai-dai pen” in front of the noun or noun phrase, but if what follows is an adjective, we would replace it with “Mai” which means no or not.

Negative Form Thai
I am not a teacher. Phom/Chan mai-chai/ man-dai-pen khru
She is not my sister. Tuer mai-chai/ mai-dai-pen pee-sao khong chan
They are not good people Puak-khao mai-chai/ mai-dai-pen khon dee
He is not smart. Khao mai cha-lard
They were not poor. Puak-khao mai jon

We can also make a question by placing the words “Chai-mai” at the end of each sentence. Chai- mai will act as a question tag like “isn’t it” or “aren’t they” in English.

Interrogative Form Thai
Are you a teacher? Khun pen khru chai-mai
Is she your sister? Tuer pen pee-sao khong khun chai-mai
Are they good people? Puak-khao pen khon dee chai-mai
Is he smart? Khao cha-lard chai-mai
Were they poor? Puak-khao jon chai-mai

2. Verb to be “Yu”

Yu” means to live at or to be located at. It is followed by a preposition and a noun, usually in this pattern — Subj. + Yu + Prep. + N. Let’s see these examples:

Affirmative Form Thai
I am at home. Chan yu tee baan
The book is on the shelf. Nang-sue yu bon chan
The workers are in the garden Khon-ngan yu nai suan
He is with Tom Khao yu kab Tom

To change it into negative form, we usually put “Mai” in front of this verb to be. “Mai-yu” means to not be there.

Negative Form Thai
I am not at home. Chan mai yu tee baan
The book is on the shelf. Nang-sue mai yu bon chan
The workers are in the garden. Khon-ngan mai yu nai suan

Negative Form

He is with Tom.

Khao mai yu kab Tom

To make it interrogative form, we can add “Rue-plao” at the end of the sentence.

Interrogative Form Thai
Are you at home? Tuer yu baan rue-plao
Is the book on the shelf? Nang-sue yu bon chan rue-plao
Are the workers in the garden? Khon-ngan yu nai suan rue-plao
Is he with Tom? Khao yu kab Tom rue-plao
Where are you? Tuer yu tee nai

Rue-plao” can’t be used with Wh- questions but since where are you is the question you might ask or be asked a lot, I included it here. Also, to use this verb to be efficiently, you need to know some prepositions. Here are the prepositions that mostly used in both Thai and English. But in all cases, please remember that the preposition will always be after the verb to be (Yu).

Preposition List

English Thai Examples
in nai Nak-rean yu nai hong-rean Students are in the classroom.
on bon Jae-kan yu bon Toh The vase is on the table.
at tee Andrew yu tee sa-nam-bin Andrew is at the airport.
under tai Puak-khao yu tai ton-mai They are under the tree.
between rawang Tong yu rawang Nan kab Prim (kab means and) Tong is between Nan and Prim.
opposite trong-kham Ban khong chan yu trong-kham ta-na-karn My house is opposite to the bank.
in front of khang-nah Rod see-dang yu khang-nah rao The red car is in front of us.
behind khang-lang Khao yu khang-lang sao. He is behind the pillar.
next to khang-khang Ran gafae yu khang-khang tee-tam-ngarn khong chan The coffee shop is next to my office.
inside khang-nai Tuer yu khang-nai ban She is inside the house.
English Thai Examples
outside khang-nok Khao yu khang-nok tuek He is outside the building.
near glai Prai-sa-nee yu klai rong-rean The post office is near the school.

3. Verb to be “Kue”

Kue” means to be equal to or to be something and in many cases can be used alternatively with Pen. Similar to the first verb to be, Sue is usually followed by a noun or noun phrase and cannot be followed by an adjective. The difference is that we generally used Kue to give explanation, clarification or make a comparison between two things, for example, “Tuer kue kwam-fan” means she is a dream. In this case, Kue is used to compare a person to the dream which is an abstract noun.

Here are examples of using Kue in sentences:

Affirmative Form Thai
This is Thai folk dance. Nee kue ram-Thai
She is an angle. Tuer kue nang-fah
My boss is a monster. Jao-nai khong phom kue pee-sad
My name is Suthee. Chue khong chan kue Suthee or Chan chue Suthee (more natural)
The winner of The Face Thailand is Team B Phoo-chana khong The Face Thailand kue Team B

Similar to the verb to be Pen, we can replace “Kue” with “Mai-chai” to make a negative sentence.

Negative Form Thai
This is not Thai folk dance. Nee mai-chai ram-Thai
She is not an angle. Tuer mai-chai nang-fah
My boss is not a monster. Jao-nai khong phom mai-chai pee-sad
My name is not Suthee. Chue khong chan mai-chai Suthee
The winner of The Face Thailand is Team B Phoo-chana khong The Face Thailand mai- chai Team B

For interrogative form, we can add the words “Chai-mai” at the end of the sentence.

Interrogative Form Thai
Is this Thai folk dance? Nee kue ram-Thai chai-mai
Interrogative Form Thai
Is she an angle? Tuer kue nang-fah chai-mai
Is my boss a monster? Jao-nai khong phom kue pee-sad chai-mai
Is your name Suthee? Chue khong chan kue Suthee chai-mai
Is the winner of The Face Thailand Team B? Phoo-chana khong The Face Thailand kue Team B chai-mai

All is what you need to know about Thai verb to be Pen, Yu, and Kue.

I know this is not enough for you to gracefully open the show but at least with these basic structures Subj + Pen / Kue + N. and Subj. + Adj., you can introduce yourself and kick off a few conversations with Thai speakers. Let’s see the example below:

Paul: Sawasdee krab. Yin dee tee dai ruu jak. Phom chue Paul. Khun chue a-rai?” (Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Paul. What is your name?)

Tida: Sawasdee ka. Yin dee tee dai ruu jak chen kan. Chan chue Tida.” (Hello, nice to meet you too. My name is Tida.)

Paul: “Khun tam-ngarn a-rai krab, Khun Tida?” (So what do you do, Khun Tida?)

Tida: Chan pen khru ka. Khun la ka?” (I am a teacher. And you?)

Paul: Phom pen nak-ban-chee krab.” (I am an accountant.)

Tida: “Ka. Khun tam-ngarn tee nai ka?” (I see. Where do you work?)

Paul: “Phom tam-ngarn tee tuek ABC. Man yu bon tanon Sathorn krab.” (I work at ABC building. It is on Sathorn Road.)

See? You can say many things and bit by bit, you’re improving!

However, I’d like to recommend you to speak as much as you can. No matter where you are or what you do, chances are that you will run into local people. It might be in your office where you were recruited as a newbie, at lunch with your friends and colleagues or at drinking party with the dudes in your neighborhood. All these can be a good opportunity for you to spell your charm and test your language skills.

Regarding this self-introduction, we still have a lot to learn but at this point, I guess you’re already exhausted (and so do I). So, I will finish it here. Keep practicing and see you soon in the next chapter.

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