This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Colloquial Thai Terms and Expressions…
My name is Yuki Tachaya. I am a native Thai speaker (and a professional private Thai teacher). I’d like to share my knowledge of colloquial Thai with everyone here as I am well aware that Thai learners have difficult times learning colloquial terms and expressions because Thai textbooks hardly ever mention them, if they do at all. So these are some of the commonly and frequently used idioms and expressions in colloquial Thai that you have probably heard but never understood or have never heard before. Enjoy!
1. แบบ /bàep/
Thai people use the word “แบบ” or sometimes “แบบว่า” as a filler word in pretty much the same way that English speakers use the word “like”. If you pay attention, you would probably hear Thai people say this every day.
He told me flat out that I was fat so I was like… he doesn’t really need to tell me this, does he?
2. บ่นเก่ง /bòn gèng/
a verb followed by เก่ง is quite often used in colloquial language. It literally means to be good at doing something. “บ่นเก่ง“ means “good at complaining.” However, Thai people use this idiom far more often and with more things than English speakers use “to be good at“. Sometimes, it means “do something all the time” rather than “good at doing something”.
The father is a chain-smoker while the daughter is a shopaholic.
3. เนียน /nian/
“เนียน” is a popular slang word among teenagers and young adults. It gets used in various contexts and the meaning keeps changing. It could mean anything from “to fit perfectly” to “to pretend nothing happened” or “to act innocent” to “to pretend one doesn’t know something”, depending on the context. “เนียน“ is very similar to the action of “camouflaging”, where you don’t get noticed and just blend with the environment.
He could fool everyone with his lies (nobody could notice there was something wrong).
Don’t act like nothing happened. I’m not stupid.
It’s OK if you don’t know. Just pretend you do, nobody would notice.
4. ตรงไหน /dtrong năi/
“ตรงไหน“ literally means “where”. If you say “ชอบตรงไหน”, it means “What do you like about it?” (What aspect of it do you like?) We think of aspects as spots so we ask where referring to which spots. Moreover, we also use “ตรงไหน” in phrases like “สวยตรงไหน” meaning “How is she beautiful?” and that suggests that the speaker does not think she is beautiful.
How am I old? (I’m not old!)
5. ไม่เห็น /mâi hĕn/
“ไม่เห็น“ followed by an adjective, a verb or an adverb is commonly used among people of all ages. The literal meaning of ไม่เห็น is “to not see”. For example, “ไม่เห็นสวย” means “It’s not beautiful” or “I don’t see how it is beautiful.” You use “ไม่เห็น“ to give an opinion that is different from what other people or most people think or that turns out to be different than expected. You can even use both “ไม่เห็น” and “ตรงไหน” together, such as “ไม่เห็นสวยตรงไหน”.
6. เก่งออก /gèng òk/
An adjective followed by ออก is another idiom that is frequently used in colloquial language. Literally, “ออก” means “out” but we often use “ออก“ in this context when you want to contradict other people’s opinions. For example, if you say “เขาเก่งออก”, it means “I think he’s quite good!” implying that other people or someone else doesn’t think the same. Usually you use it after someone has already given his opinion first.
The food here doesn’t taste good like I thought!
I think it’s pretty good!
7. ทิ้ง /tíng/
Most people probably know the expression “บอกรัก” which means to confess one’s love. When you break up, the person who breaks up is the person who “บอกเลิก” and the other party is the person who “ถูกบอกเลิก”. “ถูก” followed by a verb is a passive voice structure. In colloquial language, we say “ทิ้ง” which means “to throw away” in the context of relationships. “ทิ้ง” (to dump) is a more informal version of “บอกเลิก” while “ถูกทิ้ง” (to be dumped) is also the same as “ถูกบอกเลิก” in meaning but more informal. It also sounds more emotional as well. People usually empathize with the person who “ถูกทิ้ง”.
8. แถม /tăem/
Generally, แถม means to “give away something for free” usually after someone has already made a purchase of something else. “ของแจกฟรี” means a freebie or a give-away and “ของแถม’ means a gift or a premium. You get “ของแถม” for free in additional to what you buy. However, in colloquial language, “แถม” has another meaning, that is “moreover” or “plus”.
This guy is super hot, plus he’s also a kind person too! (implying that the second quality comes as a gift.)
If you wish to learn more colloquial terms and expressions, please visit my website Pick Up Thai where I devote to teach Thai learners what textbooks don’t usually teach and post everything I know that I believe to be useful for Thai learners from my perspective as a language learner myself. See my Youtube video on colloquial expressions. There’s even more on my YouTube Channel: pickupthai 🙂