Thai Language Thai Culture: Is That a Gan in Your Pocket?

Thai Language

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Is that a กัน /gan/ in your pocket?…

One thing I like to do as a vocabulary building exercise is when I come across a word that I find is often used paired up with other words (making compounds) I like to see how many different combinations I can come up with. Of course it would help a lot if you have a good dictionary or a knowledgeable “informant” (that’s what linguists call a person who knows the language and is willing to help you out by answering silly questions all the time; in this case my long suffering wife Pikun).

I recently did this with the Thai word กัน /gan/ (each other, together). It turns out that this word has lots good of uses. The word กัน /gan/ is often used together with ด้วย /dûay/, to form the compound ด้วยกัน /dûay-gan/, meaning together or along with another person or thing.

When กัน /gan/ is used:

  • Activities that we do with someone.
  • Relationships with someone.
  • Physical location to describe things that are near, next to, or mixed with something else.

Here are just a few examples using กัน /gan/:


Together, at the same time: พร้อมกัน /próm-gan/


rao jà bpai próm gan
We’ll go at the same time (together).

Gather (people), to rally together: ชุมนุมกัน /chum-num-gan/

pûak sêua kĭeow chum-num gan
The Green Shirts staged a rally.

To fight, to compete: (ต่อ)สู้กัน /dtòr sôo-gan/

gong táp dtòr sôo gan
The armies fought each other.

To argue, to talk back: เถียงกัน /tǐang-gan/

mâe gàp lôok săao tĭang gan
Mother and daughter were arguing.

To accept, to agree: ตกลงกัน /dtòk-long-gan/

rao dtòk long gan rêuang raa-kaa kŏng rót
We agreed on the price of the car.

To agree, concur, think similarly: เห็นด้วยกัน /hěn-dûay-gan/

nai têe sùt rao hĕn dûay gan
We finally saw eye to eye.

To chat or converse together: คุยกัน /kui-gan/

nák rian chôp kui gan
The students like to chat together.

To kill (each other): ฆ่ากัน /kâa-gan/

dtam-rùat láe kà-moi kâa gan
The policeman and the thief killed each other.

Crash (e.g. car), to collide (with someone): ชนกัน /chon-gan/

chăn chon-gan gàp rót -grà-bà
I collided with a pickup truck.

Meet, rendezvous: นัดกัน /nát-gan/

เรานัดกัน 8 โมงเช้า
rao nát gan 8 mohng cháo
We have a meeting scheduled at 8 am.

Get along (with someone): เข้ากัน /kâo-gan/

rao mâi kâo gan
We don’t get along (with each other).

Help each other: ช่วยกัน /chûay-gan/

hàak rao chûay gan rao jà jòp réo
If we help each other we will finish quickly.

A pair, a couple: คู่กัน /kôo-gan/

sǒng kon róng-playng kôo-gan
The two sang a duet together.

To live together: อยู่(ด้วย)กัน /yòo-( dûay)-gan/

kăo yòo dûay gan gòn dtàeng ngaan
They lived together before getting married.

Doing something with someone…

The words ด้วยกัน /dûay-gan/ can be used with lots of other words to show you are doing something with someone else.

พวกเขา ทำงาน ด้วยกัน
pûak kăo tam ngaan dûay gan
They work together.

พวกเขา กินข้าว ด้วยกัน
pûak kăo gin kâao dûay gan
They eat together.

พวกเขา ดูหนัง ด้วยกัน
pûak kăo doo năng dûay gan
They go to the movies together.

พวกเขา ไปเที่ยว ด้วยกัน
pûak kăo bpai tîeow dûay gan
They go out together.

Relationships (with someone)…

rao bpen pêuan-gan
We’re friends.

rao bpen sàt-dtroo-gan
We’re enemies.

rao bpen yâat-gan
We’re related.

rao bpen pêe-nóng-gan
We’re siblings.

rao bpen faen-gan
We’re going out together.

rao dtàeng-ngaan-gan
We’re married.

rao rák-gan
We’re in love with each other.

Physical Location…

Attached together, joined together: ติดกัน /dtìt-gan/
Gather (things), combine, unite: รวมกัน /ruam-gan/
Combine, blend, mingle (mix): ผสมกัน /pà~sǒm-gan/

Hugh’s fun word for the month…

Irritated (annoyed) [adj]: หงุดหงิด /ngùt-ngìt/

Thais love alliterative-double-words which start with the same consonants. This one is really fun because of the (very difficult for Farangs to say) initial consonants.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

8 thoughts on “Thai Language Thai Culture: Is That a Gan in Your Pocket?”

  1. Martyn,

    I don’t speak Issan Thai. But in Central Thai, the sentence “Wannee lao pai Nongkhai gan-ter chai mai” – if we drop the “chai mai”, we get “Wannee lao pai Nongkhai gan-ter” (or วันนี้เราไปหนองคายกันเถอะ /wan-níi rao bpai nɔ̌ɔng khaai gan tùh/) then the meaning is “Today let’s go to Nong Khai.”

    The “ter” at the end of a sentence carries the meaning of “Let’s”. See my post on Telling Tails – Thai Ending Particles.


    The “chai mai” at the end then of your sentence doesn’t sound right.

    If you leave out the “ter”, “Wannee lao pai Nongkhai gan chai mai” you have the question, “Today we are going to Nong Khai (together), right?”

    So the “gan-ter” basically means (quite informally) that you are inviting someone to do something with you.


    ไปกันเถอะ /pai gan-ter/ – Let’s go (together).
    กินข้าวด้วยกันเถอะ /gin-kâao dûay-gan-ter/ – Let’s eat.

  2. Hugh and Catherine

    An excellent post and one which is well worth printing off and filing in my Thai language folder. I feel I can do anything with anyone now I have such an extensive list of ‘we do’ sentences.

    One question….I have got into the habit of saying gan-ter when talking about things we (Wi and I) do. An example in my very basic pidgin Thai is :

    “Wannee lao pai Nongkhai gan-ter chai mai”

    Is gan-ter a Thai word, Isaan word or am I we-ing up the wrong tree?

  3. Hi Hugh,

    Really enjoyed this post. Especially since I’m making a conscious effort to pay attention to these compound words. So this was perfect for me! Incidentally we just learned ngùt-ngìt in Thai class this week too!

    Cheers ~

  4. Tod,

    I just looked up “กัน” in Ajarn Benjawan’s Three-Way Software Dictionary (As an aside, I just had lunch with the lovely ajarn and husband Nicholas here in Chiang Mai and she tells me that the number of entries in the dictionary will double in a month or so and then double again later in the year, and she recorded every word in the dictionary – she is even more hyperactive than I am. And of course there are free updates that we can download from the web.)

    There are a number of quite different meanings to the word กัน. One is the meaning which I wrote about (one another, each other, together with) and a second meaning is the one you refer to (protect from, obstruct).

    You can see the second meaning clearly in the word

    ป้องกัน /bpɔ̂ng-gan/ – to protect.

    Also there is

    กันขโมย /gan-kà~mooi/ – anti-theft, as in alarm (literally: protect against thieves)
    กันชน /gan-chon/ – car bumper (literally: protect against a crash)
    หมวกกันน็อก /mùuak-gan-nɔ́k/ – helmet (literally: hat which protects against a knock)

    Then there is another one that I like to use a lot.

    กันเอง /gan-eeng/ – informal, shows a close and friendly relationship (literally: together alone).

    Thank you for ช่วยกัน /chûuai- gan/ – helping (literally: helping together).

  5. Also, don’t forget the word กัน when used as a prefix before a thai word makes it carry the meaning of “proof”, as in these examples;
    กันแดด – sunproof as in แว่นตากันแดด – sun glasses
    กันฝน – rain proof as in เสื้อกันฝน – rain coat
    กันน้ำ – waterproof
    กันไฟ – fireproof
    กันยุง – mosquito proof as in ยากันยุง – liquid mosquito repellent or those smoky coils.
    กันน็อก – ‘knock’ proof as in หมวกกันน็อก – a motocy helmet (also I think, contemporary slang for a ‘condom’)

    Still กัน is quite the useful thai word to know and use. ..

    As far as Hugh’s fun word for the month…

    All my thai friends know that at least my definition of หงุดหงิด in american english means ; ‘cranky’. .. When I come out of my apartment in the morning they will often ask me in thai; “Tod are you cranky today?”, lol…

    Good topic though, keep up the great work!!

  6. Hi Hugh, I think this is a great way of building up a Thai vocabulary. I think it is easy to quickly pick up hundreds of words when you can see relationships between them.


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