What are YOUR Top Useful Thai Phrases?

Thai Phrases you use the most

This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.

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The Thai phrases you use most often…

Moving to a county with a new foreign language to tackle, I depend on two sure-fire phrases. The first phrase I learn is ‘I don’t understand’. And the second phrase is ‘this does not work’. I also practice my blank stare.

Why these three? Ok, I know from past experience that 1) something is going to break on my first day in any new country; and 2) I need someone else to do all the heavy language lifting; and 3) since I’m using their language, even if it’s ‘I don’t understand’, then they are not going to believe me and will start talking really fast until they take pause to admire my really brilliant blank stare.

So if you follow my instructions, eventually everything will be well in your foreign world too.

Hah! Well, let me know how that works out for you, ok?

The recent post about Andrew Biggs, Andrew Biggs on Twitter and Facebook, got me thinking about the phrases people use most often in Thailand. What I mean is, beyond the typical สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee kha/ and all. And since you already know my two phrases, what I did was ask around. I asked those in the know to please pay attention to the Thai phrases they found themselves saying the most, and then send them to me.


Those I asked are from varied backgrounds, so there is sure to be something here for you: Thai, expat, men, women, single, married, students, teachers, employed, retired, moms, pops, and those in their thirties all the way up to grannies and grandpas. Nice.

Benjawan Becker…

Here are phrases that I often use. A lot of them are from Speak Like a Thai Volume 1.

dĭeow gòn
Hold on!

tam à-rai yòo
What are you up to?

bpáep neung
Just one moment.

bpai gòn ná
I have to go now.

dĭeow maa
I’ll be right back.

bòk láew ngai
I told you so.

sŏm náam nâa
It serves you right.

sĭa way-laa jing jing
What a waste of time!

mâi ruay gôr sŭay dâi
You may not be rich, but you can be beautiful.

mâi sŭay gôr ruay dâi
You may not be beautiful, but you can be rich.

láew jer gan
See you later.

kâe née ná
That’s all for now.

ror mâi wăi láew
I can’t wait any longer.

láew dtàe kun
It’s up to you.

òt mâi dâi
I can’t help it.

bâa réu bplào
Are you crazy?

tam dâi ngai
How did you do it?

mâi dâi yin
I can’t hear you.

แน่ นะ
nâe ná
Are you certain?

bpen bpai dâi yang ngai
How can it be?

dĭeow gôr róo
We shall see.

Benjawan Becker,
Paiboon Publishing | Phrases from: Speak Like a Thai Volume 1
On WLT: Interview: Benjawan Poomsan Becker | Learn Thai with Benjawan Poomsan Becker


Besides “Oscar, fetch the ball”, I’ve discovered that my top phrase is “ha ha ha ha” (my hubby makes me laugh). Here’s the third most uttered phrase by me (or if not in actuality, I fancy it is 🙂

Something like that.
(It’s a very “Bangkok” vernacular)

Thai Woman Talks – Language, Politics & Love
On WLT: Thai Sex Talk for St Valentine’s Day

Amy Praphantanathorn…

My angle on this project is child-centered Thai phrases, so I’ve included phrases said quite often to my son Aidan. Yes, these are simple little phrases, but they are honestly used around my house!

roo dǐao
Slow down!

hâam dtee-lang-gaa
No doing somersaults.

jà tam à-rai
What are you going to do?

pôr tam hâi ayng
Daddy will do it for you.

อย่า เพิ่งอย่าเพิ่ง
yàa pêung, yàa pêung
Just wait!

làp sà-baai mái
Did you sleep well?

dâi way-laa sài sêua pâa
Time to get dressed.

bpai bpraeng fan
Go brush your teeth.

réo réo nòi
Hurry up!

bpen nung
Wait up!

The Expat Woman’s Guide to Living in Thailand (no longer online)
On WLT: Learning Thai with Thai Husband and Child | The Expat Women’s Guide to Bangkok

Luke Cassady-Dorion…

เออ /er/
This is a very informal way to reply affirmatively to a question. While it is something that your teachers will tell you never to say, they likely say it with friends.


Q: พรุ่งนี้ไปดูหนังมั้ย
prûng née bpai doo năng mái
Do you want to see a movie tomorrow?

A: เออ /er/
(the more polite answer is ไปครับ /bpai kráp/

ดูก่อน /doo gòn/
Literally translates as “see before” which makes absolutely no sense. Instead, translate this entire expression to mean something like “let’s see, let me check, I’ll let you know”. It is a way of replying to an invitation and saying that you don’t know yet, but will let the person know when you finally decide. It can also be used when you want to reply in the negative but don’t want to offend the other person by directly turning down the invitation. It is often used if you just don’t feel like committing to something.


Q: พรุ่งนี้ไปดูหนังมั้ย
prûng née bpai doo năng mái
Do you want to see a movie tomorrow?

A: ดูก่อน /doo gòn/
Let me see how I feel tomorrow…

เป็นคนที่… /bpen kon têe/
Literally translates to mean “am person that” or “I am a person that” or something along those lines. Usage is relatively clear, it is just that we don’t have an expression like this in English. This expression is used pretty frequently to stress a detail about themselves.


Q: พรุ่งนี้ไปดูหนังมั้ย
prûng née bpai doo năng má
Do you want to see a movie tomorrow?

A: ไปคะฉันเป็นคนที่ชอบดูหนังมาาาาาาาาก
bpai ká chăn bpen kon têe-chôp doo năng mâaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak
Yes! I love watching movies.


kŏr tôht têe mao mâak keun gòn · pŏm bpen kon têe kor mao ngâai
Sorry I got drunk the other night, I tend to get drunk easily.

ai bpen kon têe-chôp sài sĕe sà-daeng sòt săi
I (using the informal English loanword) like wearing bright colors.

Luke Cassady-Dorion,
Goldenland Polygot | Single Production Company
On WLT: Interview: Luke Cassady-Dorion: Photographer and Linguist | Grokking the Thai Writing System Part 1: Consonants

Scott Earle…

อี๊อี๊ /ée ée/
An equivalent of ‘Ewwww’.

kít dâi yang ngai
“How could you think that?”

bâa rŏr
“Are you insane?”

bòr bpen-yăng
Isaan/Lao equivalent of ไม่เป็นไร /mâi bpen rai/.

อิอิ /ì-ì/
Cheeky laughter, “hehe”.

กรี๊ด /gréet/
A sound representing astonishment/excitement/hysteria.

เอ๊าะ /ór/
Of a girl – young-looking. e.g. หน้าเอ๊าะ /nâa ór/ or simply เอ๊าะ ๆ /ór ór/.

เขิน /kĕrn/
Embarrassed, e.g. from a compliment.

โหย /hói/
Really really hungry.

แซ่บ /saep/
This is Thai and Lao. It means really delicious. Also can mean really delicious and extremely spicy. You see this in the names of a few shops (such as ‘yum sap’, the chain that sells very spicy Isaan food), and I am sure you’ve heard it before. If you want your som-tam really spicy you can say ‘phet’ until you’re blue in the face, but with the farang face you’re only ever getting it ‘quite spicy’. If you ask for it ‘saep-saep’ you’ll get it proper-spicy.

ไม่ไหว /mâi wăi/
Literally “not able”. “I’ve had enough, I can’t take any more”. Also, ไม่ไหวแล้ว /mâi wăi láew/ is heard often.

I guess that means I need to find nine more? Sigh.

Scott Earle
Scott’s website and blog


As every good language learner knows the best way to learn is to practise in authentic, real life situations. Striking up a conversation out of nothing can be a bit tricky if you don’t know the cultural platitudes or small talk.

The few following phrases come in very handy, being the Thai equivalents of “How are you?” or “What’s up?”, and the kind of small talk one engages in with new acquaintances. They are the natural way to precipitate the slide into deeper conversation, and of course that’s where the good stuff is.

While of course not all of these are appropriate with all people, I find myself using one or two of them at least when I meet a new person.

gin kâao rĕu yang
Have you eaten or not yet?

ไปไหน /bpai năi/
Where are you going?

bpen ngai bâang
How’s things?

mee lôok rĕu yang
Do you have any children, or not yet?

dtàeng ngaan rĕu yang
Are you married, or not yet?

aa-yú tâo-rai
How old are you?

maa jàak jang wàt năi
Which province do you come from?

bâan yòo năi
Where is your home?

yòo tăew năi
Which area do you live in?

tam ngaan à-rai
What’s your work?

I have found that the other side of making the most of good, instructive conversation is to try where possible to convince your conversation partner that your Thai is better than it actually is. This way you are pushed out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone. To do this I throw in as many colloquialisms as I can naturally muster, as well as a few Thai back channel responses (Thai equivalents of the English ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’), and those oh so abundant untranslatable particles.

mâi bpen rai
The colloquialism to end all colloquialisms!

อือ /eu/
like ‘Uhuh’

โอ้โห /ôh-hŏh/
Exclamatory interjection e.g. โอ้โห /ôh-hŏh/ David Beckham วิ่งเร็วมาก /wîng réo mâak/: Wow! David Beckham runs fast.

ละ /lá/
a particle used to form questions (among others) e.g. แล้วคุณละ /láew kun lá/: And how about you?

นะ /ná/
a particle to soften a statement (maybe like asking “…OK?” after a making a command) e.g. อย่านะ /yàa ná/: Don’t … just yet, OK?

สิ /sì/
a particle to add emphasis e.g. ไปสิ /bpai sì/: Go!

เถอะ /tùh/
a particle to add mild emphasis e.g. ไปกันเภิอะ /bpai gan à/: Let’s go!

ไง /ngai/
a particle used to imply that the preceding statement is self evident e.g. นี่ไง /nêe-ngai/: This one!

จ้า /jâa/
a particle used instead of ครับ /kráp/ or คะ /ká/ which is softer and less formal.

จ๋า /jăa/
a particle used to sound affectionate when calling someone’s name.

N.B. All of these particles take on multiple meanings depending on context. I’ve mentioned just one for each. They all take lots of trial and error and careful listening to others’ use to get right.

Tweet Yourself Thai | Twitter @AjarnPasa

Me (sort of)…

Below are more sentences from Andrew Biggs on Twitter. I chose these because (not) sleeping is always on my mind. And if you read through Andrew’s tweets, the subject of sleep is often in his thoughts as well.

chăn nèuay sùt sùt
I’m exhausted.

jà non láew
[I’m] going to sleep

non làp făn dee
Sweet dreams.

ขอ ให้หายเร็วๆค่ะ
kŏr hâi hăai réo kha
Get well soon.

pêung dtèun
I just woke up.

mêua keun chăn làp sà-nìt
Last night I slept like a log.

chăn non làp bpòk-gà-dtì dee kêun
I am sleeping better.

wan née chăn dtèun săai
Today I woke up late.

Btw, a general purpose Thai phrase for “this doesn’t work” is นี่ใช้ไม่ได้ /nêe chái mâi dâi/ but I get straight to the point with ไม่เวิร์ค /mâi wêrk/ or มันไม่เวิร์ค /man mâi wêrk/. The Thai phrase for “I don’t understand” is ไม่เข้าใจ /mâi kâo jai/. These are invaluable phrases one cannot live without in any country (even your own). Now about that blank stare… heh.

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