Handy Things to Know about the Thai Language

naithon-beachWhen travelling, it is always good to learn a few key phrases so you can make a good impression with the locals and Thailand is no exception to this. Here is a basic overview.

Not too Complicated

There are different levels of vocabulary:

  • Common
  • Polite
  • Royal

To be safe, always use the common or polite words when you don’t know who you are talking to.

The language has no tenses or plurals and therefore it doesn’t have all the irregular forms that make English such a difficult language to learn.

In Thai you learn a verb and that is because it only has one form. Instead, the Thai language has add-on words that are used to define tense or plurals. This makes Thai a slightly easier language to learn.

Tonal System

Thai is a tonal language. What I mean by this is the tone that is used to pronounce a word can change its meaning.

The language has five tones — low, middle, high, rising and falling.

For example, the word ‘mai’ in a falling tone means ‘not’ but at the end of a sentence with a high tone it indicates a question.

Foreigners or ‘Farangs’ will get away with using incorrect tones. To be honest the context of the conversation will usually be enough for the Thai people to understand what you are trying to say anyway and in my experience, the Thai people will laugh at your faux pas and won’t take it personally.

Here are some handy Thai phrases to get your started:

  • “Sawatdee krab”(male)/”Sawatdee ka” (female) – “Hello”
  • “Sabai dee mai krab/ka” – “How are you?”
  • “Khob khun krab/ka” – “Thank you”
  • “Tao rai krab/ka” – “How much is it?”
  • “Mai pen lai krab/ka” – “No worries” or “It doesn’t matter”


The Thai people are so friendly; so however wrong you may pronounce or speak their language they will take it in good humour. So give it a go, you may just surprise yourself at how good you are.