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The Thai Language:Useful Words and Phrases

The Thai Language:Useful Words and Phrases

By Mike HoUpdated Oct. 31, 2022

As the official language of Thailand, Thai is spoken by more than 20 million people in Thailand. It is a member of the Tai language family, with plenty of words borrowed from Old Khmer, Pali, and Sanskrit. It is a tonal language, and spoken Thai is mutually intelligible with Laotian.

The script of Thai derives from the Khmer language and is closely related to Laotian. It has a complex orthography, with silent letters used to keep the traditional spelling and many letters with the same sound. There are several different ways to transcribe Thai using the Latin alphabet, and their main weakness is the lack of tonal indication. The first Thai inscriptions date back to 1292 CE.

Thai Language Facts

  • About 40 million people speak Thai all over the world. Native speakers in Thailand are about 20 million.
  • There are five different tones in the Thai language, and there are about 32 vowels and 44 consonants in Thai phonology.
  • Thai is also known as Siamese, which emerged in the area between China and Vietnam in the 13th century.
  • The first occurrence of written Thai language is assumed to be a stone inscription date back to 1292 AD.

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The Thai Alphabet and Tones

The Thai alphabet has 44 consonants and 15 vowels. The vowels can be written with up or down accents and with consonants before or after to modify the vowel. The 15 vowels can also be combined in different ways to produce a further 17 compound vowels.

There are five tones in the Thai language: mid, low, falling, rising, and high. As with any tonal language, they are the core of the language, and they are essential for comprehension and correctness.

Each syllable consists of a vowel (single or compound) and one consonant or more.

Useful Phrases in Thai for Tourists

English Thai
Hello สวัสดีค่ะ/ครับ (sà-wàt-dii kha/krab)
Thank you ขอบคุณค่ะ/ครับ (kob khun kha/krab)
How are you? สบายดีมั๊ย (sà-baai-dii mái)
I can speak Thai. ฉันไม่สามารถพูดภาษาไทยได้ (phoot Thai mai dai)
Do you understand? เข้าใจมั้ย (kao chai mai)
May I take a photo? ขอถ่ายรูปหน่อยได้ไหม (tai ruup dai mai)
What is this? นี่มันอะไรกัน (nee arai)
Good luck to you. ขอให้โชคดีนะ (kor hai chok dee)
Where is the restroom? ห้องน้ำอยู่ที่ไหน (hong nam yoo tee nai)

Numbers in Thai

English Thai
0 ศูนย์ (soon)
1 หนึ่ง (neung)
2 สอง (sowng)
3 สาม (saam)
4 สี่ (see)
5 ห้า (haa)
6 หก (hoke)
7 เจ็ด (jet)
8 แปด (paed)
9 เก้า (kao)
10 สิบ (sip)
100 หนึ่งร้อย (roy)
1000 หนึ่งพัน (pan)
10,000 หมื่น (muern)

Thai Phrases Used in Restaurants

English Thai
Where is the restaurant? ร้านอาหารอยู่ที่ไหน (rahn ahan yoo tee-nai)
I am hungry. ฉันหิวแล้ว (chaan heeloo)
I am thirsty. ฉันหิวน้ำ (heeoo nam)
May I have the bill? ขอบิลหน่อย (check bil nee)
Fork ทางแยก (sawm)
Spoon ช้อน (chawn)
Knife ใบมีด (meed)

General Greetings in Thai

English Thai
Hi หวัดดี (wat-dii)
How are you? สบายดีมั๊ย (sà-baai-dii mái)
Good morning สวัสดีตอนเช้า (sà-wàt-dii dtaawn cháo)
Good afternoon สวัสดีตอนบ่าย (sà-wàt-dii dtaawn bàai)
Good evening สวัสดีตอนเย็น (sà-wàt-dii dtaawn yen)
Thank you ขอบคุณค่ะ/ครับ (kob khun kha/krab)
You are welcome ไม่เป็นไรค่ะ (mai bpen rai)

Read more on Greetings in Thailand.

Asking Directions in Thai

English Thai
Where is the bus station? ป้ายรถเมล์อยู่ที่ไหน (satahnee rohtmeh)
Train station สถานีรถไฟเหรอ (satahnee roht fy)
Airport สนามบิน (sanahm bin)
Embassy สถานทูต (satahn toot)
Toilet ห้องน้ำ (hawng nam)
Hotel โรงแรม (rohng raam)
Post office ที่ทำการไปรษณีย์ (prysanee)

Thai Phrases Used in an Emergency

English Thai
Where is a hospital? โรงพยาบาลอยู่ที่ไหน (rong payabahn yoo tee ny)
I need a doctor. ฉันต้องการหมอ (tonggahn maw rahksaa)
Call a police officer. ตระหนกตกใจ (satahnee tahmroout)
Dangerous อันตราย (antarai)
I need help. ฉันต้องการความช่วยเหลือ (chooay dooay)

Thai Phrases Used in Taxis

English Thai
Stop here หยุดตรงนี้ (yoot tee nee)
Slowly please โปรดใช้เวลาของคุณ (chah, chah-chah)
Turn left เลี้ยวซ้าย (leeow sy)
Turn right ทางขวา (leeow kwah)
Straight ahead ตรงไป (trohng bai)
Be careful  ความระมัดระวัง (rawang)

Asking the Price in Thai

English Thai
How much? ราคาเท่าไหร่ (nee tao-rai)
Very expensive แพงมาก (paeng maag)
Who sell chicken eggs? ใครขายไข่ (krai kai kii )
Please speak slowly. กรุณาพูดช้าๆ (garoona poot chah chah)
I want… ฉันต้องการ (ow)
I don’t want… ฉันไม่อยาก (my ow)

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Dialects of the Thai Language

There are four major dialects of the Thai language in Thailand: southern, northern ("Yuan"), northeastern (close to Lao language), and central.

The central regions’ Thai dialect is called Central Thai or Bangkok Thai. Central Thai is the most widely used dialect around the whole country. All schools in Thailand teach in central Thai. Most video media and paper books are in Central Thai.

Besides the major four dialects, there are some ethnic group dialects in Thailand, such as Phuan and Lue. They are spoken by just small populations in Thailand.

Writing Thai

The Thai script is believed to be derived from the Khmer script (Cambodia’s official language script). Thai is written from left to right. Different from English, written Thai has no spaces to separate words. You can often see a block of text on a page, with little spacing/punctuation.

It is believed that more than half of Thai vocabulary, grammar, intonation, and vowels are common with the Lao language. Thai script is so close to the Lao script that most literate Lao can understand written Thai.

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