Let’s get you prepared for your Thailand vacation! Below, you’ll find a list of 31 essential Thai phrases to know for your upcoming trip.
31 Basic Thai Phrases – What You Need To Know
Before I moved to Bangkok, I was under the impression that most people in Thailand could speak and understand the English language, since Bangkok is such a major metropolis. Little did I know, fewer people speak English in Thailand than I thought.
So, if you don’t have time for extensive Thai lessons, here’s what you’ll need to know to keep your wits while traveling in Thailand:
The Thai Alphabet
When I first saw the Thai language written out, I was extremely intimidated.
How was I supposed to learn basic Thai phrases, let alone communicate with the local Thais? I didn’t even know the Thai alphabet.
Luckily, as tourists, we can get by without proper knowledge of the Thai script. Although you won’t be able to read Thai words using this guide, you will learn how to bargain shop for taxis, get the best price on clothes at the market, order delicious Thai food and ask for directions. – You’ll get a long way compared to the average tourist.
Thai Essential Phrases
I highly recommend copying some of these useful Thai phrases into your phone and practicing them before you leave for Southeast Asia is a good idea.
Note: The Thai language is a tonal language, meaning that the same word can have different meanings depending on the different tones used to pronounce it. This is probably the hardest part when trying to learn Thai, it really just takes practice.
Kah VS Krop
Before we dive in, these are the first words you must learn are the gender words: “kah” and “krop”.
It’s important to address the difference between these fundamental words.
In the Thai language, you’ll quickly notice that the words “kah” and “krop” are used frequently. Thai native speakers use these two words to end most phrases. You’ll notice just how frequently these two words appear when we get into the list of common Thai phrases below.
For now, you should know that “kah” is used by women and “krop” is used by male speakers. This phrase never changes no matter who you are talking to. So, if you’re female, use “kah” to end phrases and if you’re male, use “krop” to end phrases.
Thai people use kah and krop because it’s polite. Therefore, it is certainly a big deal to add these to the end of common phrases when applicable.
The most basic and important Thai phrase to learn is how to say hello and goodbye.
Pronunciation: Suh-watt-dee kaa/crop
Note: When pronouncing “krop”, the “R” is a rolled. So, if possible, try to roll the R when pronouncing krop in your Thai greeting.
The easiest way to remember this simple phrase is to think of chai tea – it’s pronounced exactly the same way. Just make sure to follow with kah or krop.
Pronunciation: My kaa/crop
4. Thank you
Kob kuhn kah/krop
Pronunciation: cob coon kaa/crop
Saying thank you is appreciated in Thailand, as it is in most countries.
However, you’ll quickly notice that local people usually don’t respond by saying “you’re welcome”. Instead, they respond by saying “kah” or “krop”.
The Thai language doesn’t really have a word for “you’re welcome”, so they respond with kah/krop because it’s polite.
5. How are you?
Sabaai dee mai?
Pronunciation: Suh-bye dee my?
Note: When pronouncing Sabaai dee mai, you’ll want the end of the phrase to go up in tone because it’s a question.
6. I’m good
Pronunciation: Suh-bye dee!
7. I’m not good
Pronunciation: My suh-bye
8. What’s your name?
Cheu arai kah/krop
Pronuciation: Chew uh-lie kaa/crop
Again, for the accurate pronunciation, you’ll want the end of this sentence to go up in tone because it’s a question.
Note: You’ll notice that many key phrases aren’t pronounced the way they are spelled. For example, “arai” is pronounced with an “L” sound instead of an “R” sound (uh-lie vs. arai).
At first this will be a little bit tricky to get used to, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
This is because the “R’s” are rolled in the Thai language. Instead of accentuating the rolled “R” sound, they simply use an “L” sound.
9. My name is..
Chan cheu (your name)
Pronunciation: Shawn chew (your name)
10. How much?
Tao rai kah/krop?
Pronunciation: Tao lie kaa/crop
“How much” is an important phrase to know before your Thai trip. Being able to ask the price of different things like taxi rides and goods at the supermarket will be incredibly beneficial for you.
11. It’s okay/no big deal/ don’t worry about it
Mai pen rai
Pronuciation: My ben lie
Here is another confusing one. Notice how the “P” in “pen” is pronounced like a “B”. All words that start with P will have the B sound, unless the P is followed by an H.
Pronunciation: Tee ny
13. Where is it?
Yu tee nai?
Pronunciation: You tee ny
Pronunciation: Uh-lie nah?
15. What are you doing?
Pronunciation: Tom uh-lie?
Need help planning your Thailand trip? Check out our Thailand itinerary guide: The Perfect 10 Days in Thailand.
17. Very expensive!
Pronunciation: Paang mahk
This is another helpful phrase I always loved saying, especially when I was quoted ridiculous prices for taxis, boat rides, or clothing at the market.
As a westerner, it’s easy to be taken advantage of in Thailand. Using “pang maak!” shows them that you can speak the language (or at least a little.. hehe) and therefore you have a basic knowledge of how much things should cost.
Now you can haggle the Thai vendors down to their original price.
18. I would like to go to..
Chan chob pai..
Pronunciation: Chun juh by..
Use this Thai phrase when getting into a taxi cab. You’ll be able to direct them where to go while using the Thai language.
19. Main Bangkok airport (Suvarnabhumi airport- BKK)
Pronunciation: Suh-nahm-bin sue-wanna-poom
Combine this useful phrase with “chan chob pai” (I would like to go to) and you’ll be able to tell your taxi driver that you want to go to Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
20. Turn left
Pronunciation: Leo sigh
21. Turn right
Pronunciation: Leo kwah
This is a nice and simple word.
23. Go straight
Pronunciation: Trung by
Remember, the “R” in the word “trong” should be rolled.
Pointing your finger and saying “nee” turns out to be really effective when talking about something specific.
25. A little
Pronunciation: Nid noy
Pronunciation: Sue why
27. To want
28. Don’t want
Pronunciation: My ow
29. To have
30. Don’t have
Pronunciation: My mee
One of the most common words that you’ll hear during your trip is Aroi! Thai people LOVE food and they love talking about their tasty Thai dishes – it’s a huge part of the local culture. These are my kind of people!
Not to mention, they’re right… their food is delicious!
The Wrap-Up: Basic Thai Phrases
Being able to speak the native language in any country you decide to visit is one of the best things you can do. And it’s very appreciated by the locals, they respect that you are doing your best to learn a new language.
I hope this basic Thai phrases guide can help you with your future travels to Thailand. – Good luck!
Speaking Thai really helped me assimilate to the Thai culture and I was even able to make new friends by using my limited Thai language skills.
Oh, and one last thing, remember to smile! Thai people tend to smile a lot when communicating, hence why Thailand is known as the “land of smiles”.
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