Thai Grammar

Introduction to Thai Grammar

Thai grammar is unlike grammar in some other languages very simple and logical once you have understood a couple of principles. Thai verbs do not change tenses, as in English. In Thai you have other ways to express when something happened or was done. In most Thai grammar rules modifying words (particles) are added to sentences or single words to alter their meaning. There are also no noun declensions, no object pronouns or definite or indefinite articles. If you read word by word translations of Thai sentences you will see how straight forward they are constructed. While the Thai language might have simple grammar rules, areas such as tones and pronunciation of words are more difficult to master.

Basic Thai Grammar Rules

Thai language speaking habits

If words aren’t needed in a sentence they are usually omitted, this makes speaking Thai easier but harder to understand others. In Thai a lot of the meaning of a sentence comes from the context of the conversation. This means you have to pay attention to follow what a Thai speaker says or you might not have some crucial information they mentioned in a sentence or two before to understand them right.
Basic Thai Sentence Structure: Subject + Verb + Object Luckily it is not different from English
He/She likes the pineapple – เขา ชอบ สับปะรด – kháo châwp sàp-pà-rót

Adjectives always follow the noun that they describe. This is exactly the opposite of English
You have a beautiful house – คุณ มี บ้าน สวย – khun mii bâan sŭay

Verbs remain the same no matter in what person you speak. It doesn’t matter if you say he/she/we or I. The verb remains the same and if you want to indicate a tense you add additional words.
He/She liked the pineapples – เขา ชอบ สับปะรด – kháo châwp sàp-pà-rót He/She will like the pineapples – เขา จะ ชอบ สับปะรด – kháo jà châwp sàp-pà-rót

Singular and plural nouns don’t change their form either. Usually people get this information from the context of your sentences or you can indicate it is only one.
He/She needs only one – เขา ต้องการ อัน เดียว – kháo tâwng-kaan an diaw

Tenses in Thai

Past Tense in Thai If you want to indicate you did something in the past name a certain point in the past in your sentences.
He/She ate pineapples this morning – เขา กิน สับปะรด เมื่อเช้านี้ – kháo kin sàp-pà-rót mêua-cháo níi

Present Progressive If you want to indicate something is going on right now you use the word “kam-lang (กำลัง)” in front of the verb in your sentence
He/She is eating pineapples – เขา กำลัง กิน สับปะรด – kháo kam-lang kin sàp-pà-rót

Present Perfect Progressive A common way of expressing that an action is completed is by adding “láew (แล้ว)” at the end of a sentence
He/She has been eating pineapples – เขา กิน สับปะรด แล้ว – kháo kin sàp-pà-rót láew

Future If you refer to an action that will happen in the future use the word “jà (จะ)” right before the verb in your sentence.
He/She will eat pineapples – เขา จะ กิน สับปะรด – kháo jà kin sàp-pà-rót

Asking Questions in Thai

Question words are at the end of the sentence Pay attention to your pronunciation if you ask a question. English speakers tend to raise the tone of their voice towards the end of a sentence and this can interfere with the Thai tones and make it hard to understand.
What? – อะไร – à-rai What do you need? – คุณ ต้องการ อะไร – khun tâwng-kaan à-rai How? – อย่างไร – yàang-rai How do you do it? – คุณ ทำ อย่างไร – khun tham yàang-rai Who? – ใคร – khrai Who are you? – คุณ เป็น ใคร – khun pen khrai When? – เมื่อไหร่ – mêua-rài When will you arrive? – คุณ จะ มาถึง เมื่อไหร่ – khun jà maa-thŭeng mêua-rài Why? – ทำไม – tham-mai Why are you angry? – ทำไม คุณ โกรธ – tham-mai khun kròt Where? – ที่ไหน – thîi-năi Where are you? – คุณ อยู่ ที่ไหน – khun yù thîi-năi Which? – ไหน – năi Which one do you like? – คุณ ชอบ อัน ไหน – khun châwp an năi

Conditional Questions As an alternative if you just expect a yes or no as answer you can just form a sentence and add “mái (ไหม)” to the end. This is similar to making a statement and then asking “isn’t it?”
Is the water cool? – น้ำ เย็น ไหม – náam yen mái
If you want to say “aren’t you” just use “châi-mái ” (ใช่ไหม)
You are from Canada, aren’t you? – คุณ มา จาก แคนาดา ใช่ไหม – khun maa jàak khâe-naa-daa châi-mái

Use “khăw (ขอ)” and “nàwy (หน่อย)” to ask for something.

If you ask for something use the word “khăw (ขอ)” you can make it more polite by adding “nàwy (หน่อย)” at the end of the sentence
Can I have some water? – ขอ น้ำ หน่อย – khăw náam nàwy
Use “chûay (ช่วย)” and “chern (เชิญ)” to ask people to do something Use “chûay (ช่วย)” if you ask someone to do something and “chern (เชิญ)” to invite someone to do something. “chern” is similar to “please” in this context and more polite.
Please close the window (chûay) – ช่วย ปิด หน้าต่าง – chûay pìt nâa tàang Please sit down (chern) – เชิญ นั่ง – chern nâng

Comparative and Superlative

Add “kwàa (กว่า)” to indicate something is better
delicious – อร่อย – à-ràwy more delicious – อร่อย กว่า – à-ràwy kwàa good – ดี – dii better – ดีกว่า – dii kwàa
Add “thîi-sùt (ที่สุด)” to express something is the best
most delicious – อร่อย ที่สุด – à-ràwy thîi-sùt best – ดี ที่สุด – dii thîi-sùt
These are some of the most important Thai grammar concepts and to get familiar with them is a good point for you to start learning Thai.
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