I bet you’ve quickly googled local phrases prior to a trip before, right? And the type of phrases you find are things like Hello, how are you, I’m fine, Thank you, You’re beautiful/handsome… The list goes on. But apart from Hello and Thank you, how often do these phrases come into play? Do you really get to use them when you’re on the trip at all? My guess is no. So here’s what I propose: I will give you those basic Thai phrases BEFORE I start counting the first one.
Because all of the 25 that count will be authentic phrases, worded local-style by yours truly, that you WILL get to use for sure. Liking how this sounds? Enjoy reading, and I hope they come in useful on your next slow travel trip to Thailand!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through & make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Thai Language Basics
Before we get into the phrases, there are a couple of things you need to understand about the Thai language. Depending on your style of learning, feel free to thoroughly study them, skim through them quickly, or skip right to the phrases. But just a word of caution, these basics will matter.
There are speech levels in Thai. The 2 important different ones you’ll need to know are the casual speech AND how to make it polite since you’ll very likely be talking to strangers.
To make anything polite, we add ONE simple syllable to the end of the sentences. I will call this the “sentence ending.” If you’re a woman, you’ll use one word. And if you’re a man, you’ll use a different word for the same thing.
- For a woman: Add KA to every sentence.
- For a man: Add KRUB to every sentence.
Under NO circumstances will a woman ever use krub and vice versa. Later in this post, I will list out every phrase with both endings INCLUDED. You’re free to focus only on the one you’ll be using.
There are 5 tones in spoken Thai. Unlike English, Spanish, Korean, or most other languages that just flow according to the speaker’s mood, these tones are locked in and word-specific.
Thankfully, I found a video that explains this all out really well! Check it out before starting, I promise it will make everything less confusing!
Below, I’ve listed out the 5 tones, and how I’ll mark them in this post so you know the distinctions.
- Level Tone: Basically the monotonic voice, I’ll write words with this tone with no accents.
- Low Tone: The sound falls toward the end of the word. I’ll mark these with “à.”
- Falling Tone: The sound goes up, then back down. I’ll mark these with “â.”
- High Tone: The sound goes straight up. I’ll mark these with “á.”
- Rising Tone: The sound drops then comes back up, like a dip. I’ll mark these with “ă.”
I will tell you now how much these tones matter… “Suăy” means beautiful, while “Suay” means doomed. “Má” means horse, while “Mă” means dog. You get the idea 😉
Greeting and Bonus Phrases
Here is where I get all the less useful phrases, but mandatory for going with the flow!
Sa-wàt-dee kà / sa-wàt-dee-krúb
This means hello! Say it with the local hand gesture and you’ll win a million hearts. Check out my FREE E-book on visiting Thailand to learn more about this!
Khòb Khun Kà / Khòb Khun Krúb
This is thank you, nice and simple. Again, it still works better with the same hand gesture as hello.
Sa-Bai-Dee Mái Ká? / Sa-bai-dee mái krúb?
How are you? Sa-bai-dee means to be doing well, while “mái” is our version of the question mark.
Note: Unlike in the US, it is NOT common to ask a stranger how they’re doing in Thai culture. You will very likely get away with it as a foreigner, especially if you’re clearly trying to speak Thai. But it’s not normally done.
Sa-bai-dee kà / Sa-bai-dee krúb
I’m doing well!
Fun fact: Sabaidee means “hello” in Lao. If you’re planning to cross the border there too, feel free to use it!
Mâi Sa-bai kà / Mâi Sa-bai krúb
I’m sick. “Mâi” means no/not.
The 25 Real Deal
And here is where we start counting. I hope these phrases will help you during your travel!
1. Kŏh tôd kà / Kŏh tôd krúb
2. Kŏh tôd ná ká / Kŏh tôd ná krúb
Adding “Ná” gives the “sorry” a lighter mood, which turns it into a different kind of message.
3. châi kà / Chai krúb
Yes, or That is correct!
4. Mâi châi kà / Mâi châi krúb
No, That’s not what I meant, That’s the wrong one.
All of the above will make sense with this phrase depending on the context.
5. Chuây duây!
HELP! This one will quite literally save your life, but I hope you’ll never have to use it!
It’s okay to drop the endings for this. No one’s going to care how polite you are when you’re in an emergency need of help…
6. mâi khâo jai kà / mâi khâo jai krúb
I don’t understand.
7. Pôôd chá chá nòi kà / Pôôd chá chá nòi krúb
Please speak more slowly.
Pôôd = speak, Chá = slow, Nòi = a bit. We usually repeat the word “slow” to turn it into an adverb.
7.1 Chá chá Nòi kà / Chá chá Nòi Krúb
Alternatively, if you get rid of the word “speak” and just say “Slowly, please,” this means “Slow down”. You can blurt out this phrase to your taxi or tuk-tuk driver should you need them to slow down!
8. Pôôd èèk tee dâi mái ká? / Pôôd èèk tee dâi mái krúb?
Could you repeat that please?
Èèk tee = one more time, Dâi mái = could you / can you?
9. Pôôd pa-să aang-grìd dâi mái ká? / Pôôd pa-să aang-grìd dâi mái krúb?
Can you speak English?
Pa-să = language, Aang-grìd = English / England
10. Pôôd Thai mâi dâi kà / Pôôd Thai mâi dâi krúb
I can’t speak Thai.
When Thai people talk about the Thai language, we drop the word “language.”
11. Pai …… kà / Pai …… krúb
I’m going to [insert place].
You just got into the taxi and you’re going to Wat Phra Kaew, say “Pai Wát Phrá Kâew kà!” Adding the endings (kà & krúb) automatically makes it sound like “please” so you’re good to go!
12. Trong néé kà / Trong néé krúb
Here, please! When you want the taxi to drop you off, just point and say this.
Néé means this, while Trong is a particle that marks a location.
13. Trong nún kà / Trong nún krúb
Nún = that
14. Nêê ta-nŏn a-rai ká? / Nêê ta-nŏn a-rai krúb?
What is this street called?
Nêê = this, Ta-nŏn = street, A-rai = what
There’s a subtle difference in how néé is used versus nêê when you want to say “this.” But I won’t go that deep into detail here. As long as you stick to these phrases and the tones I give, you’re good 🙂
15. Hông náám yòò năi ká? / Hông náám yòò năi krúb?
Where is the bathroom?
Hông = room, Náám = water, Yòò = to be at, Năi = where
And yes, we call the bathrooms “water rooms.”
16. Pèd nói ná ká / Pèd nói ná krúb
Not too spicy, please. Just a little bit spicy, please.
Pèd = spicy, Nói = little
17. Mâi pèd ná ká / Mâi pèd ná krúb
Not spicy, please
18. Pèd goeun PAI kà / Pèd goeun PAI krúb
This is too spicy!
If you really can’t handle what you’re tasting, hand the plate over while saying this, you’ll get the point across and they’ll very likely cook a new one for you.
Notice that I underlined the vowel Oeu? The pronunciation is literally the same as the French vowel “oeu.” I’ve linked it to a Youtube video, so hopefully, it helps!
Goeun = Too, Pai = go… But in this context, to put go with “too” will mean something like “wayyyy too much” in Thai.
19. Mâi sài tùa ná ká / Mâi sài tùa ná krúb
No nuts, please.
I figured since I’ve seen a lot of tree nuts allergies, this Thai phrase will come into play at some point.
Sài = to put in, Tùa = nuts
20. Kŏh náám èèk kà / Kŏh náám èèk krúb
More water, please.
Èèk = more
21. Aròi mâk kà / Aròi mâk krúb
22. Check Bill kà / Check Bill krúb
Yes, this is literally English with the Thai sentence ending. Easy, peasy!
23. Ahn néé tâo rài ká? / Ahn néé tâo rài krúb?
How much is this?
Ahn = a unit counter for things, Tâo rài = how much
24. Paeng Mâk kà / Paeng Mâk krúb
Paeng = expensive, Mâk = very
25. Lód hâi dâi mái ká? / Lód hâi dâi mái krúb?
Can you give me a discount?
Lód = to decrease, Hâi = give (under this context it means to do someone a favor)
More on Thailand before you go…
The most important cultural difference I can think of is that Thai people laugh A LOT. They will laugh when they think someone’s adorable, a child, for example. They will sometimes laugh even when they feel embarrassed about something.
Because people in most cultures laugh a lot less, it’s very easy for a foreigner to quickly feel like they’re being laughed at because of some unknown reason when in Thailand. Please do not take any local laughing personally. It’s very likely for some obscure reason you don’t even understand. Thais avoid conflict at all costs, so the last thing they’d want to do is offend you.
Below are some blog posts I’ve written about Bangkok, Sukhothai, and Ayutthaya. If these provinces are on your list, I highly recommend checking them out. Hopefully, they can give you ideas!
- Sukhothai Historical Park: A Comprehensive Guide
- 15 Remarkable things to do in Bangkok
- 1-day Bangkok Itinerary
- 2-day Ayutthaya Itinerary
- 2-Day Vintage Kanchanaburi Itinerary
If this blog post is helping you in Thailand, I’d love to know! Come back and leave a comment or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear about your adventures and which of these Thai phrases you got to use!
I enjoy reading this post so much and am sure it will be very useful for those who visit Thailand 😍😎
Thank you so much for your constant support!