Thai Language Guide – Stringing Sentences Together

In the grammar section we covered an introduction to the composition of sentences in Thai whereby the usual order is:

Subject + verb + object

Simple present: in the simplest possible manner with few prepositions, articles, particles, modals or tense imperfect/perfect modifications (such as ‘will have’), Thais normally converse.

Example: mia glab baan (lit; wife return home).

Adding adjectives/adverbs: this can then include an adjective after the verb and an adverb after the object.

Example: mia ge glab baan cha cha (lit; wife old, return home slowly).

Note! An adjective is turned into an adverb by repeating it (e.g. cha cha)

Tense changes: are made by simply adding of ja (will) ahead of the verb, or laeow (already) at the end of the sentence. Alternatively, you can add a time stamp to indicate the past such asmua-wan-nee (yesterday) or mua-gee (in the past).

Example: mua-wan-nee mia glab baan (lit; yesterday, wife go home)
or phrung-nee, mia ja glab baan (lit; tomorrow wife will go home).

Conjunctions: are used in the same way as they function in English, sandwiched in between two simple clauses using common conjunctions such as la (and), rue (or), laew (then) and others.

Example: rot pai talad, laew mia glab baan (lit; vehicle go market, then wife go home).
Interrogatives (questions)

In order to communicate, you will invariably start by asking a question and interrogatives almost always come at the end of the clause, after the situation has been stated. Here are the most common question words:

What a-rai
Where (thee) nai (some times ‘nai’ is used on its own)
When mua-rai or gee mong (at what time)
How much tao rai
How many gee (comes before the subject, as an exception to the rule)
How (action) yaang rai
Is (is not) mai (rising tone)
Can (cannot) dai mai (falling then rising tone)
Have (action) rue yaang (as in ‘have you finished?’)
Are (to be) rue plow (as in ‘are you Thai?’)

Here are some examples on how to use each:

What: talad nee arai (lit; market this is what?)
Where: talad u thee nai (lit; market is where?)
When: rot ja pai talad gee mong / mua-rai (lit; vehicle will go market when?)
How much: rot nee tao rai (lit; vehicle this how much?)
How many: Mia mee gee rot (lit; wife has how many vehicles?)
How (action): Ja pai talad yaang rai (lit; will go market, how?)
Is: ja pai talad mai (lit; go to the market, no?)
Can: rot pai talad dai mai (lit; vehicle go market, can, no?)
Have: mia pai talad rue yaang (lit; wife go market, has she?)
Are: mia pen kon Thai rue plow (lit; wife is person Thai, is she?)

Thais are very civil and polite by habit and will always add krup (male) or ka (female) to the end of the sentence when addressing others, unless they are very familiar with them. Often they will also, as a matter of course, add na in front of this to soften any commands. It’s important to get into this habit from the start.

From here, you can start to form basic sentences using some of the common and essential vocabulary which we have listed in the next section.