Simple Greetings, Words and Phrases in Thai Language
Why should you learn some simple Thai words?
I was useless at languages in school. Having to study French until I was 16 was enough to put me off learning another language. Back then I couldn’t imagine why French would be useful in the future as I had no plans to go to France. Turns out I was correct, I’ve never found myself needing to speak French.
But, as I’ve lived in Thailand for then past 20 years, it would have been useful to have learnt some Thai back then. Alas, unfortunately, I didn’t have a crystal ball when I was at school and I doubt I could have found Thailand on a map back then.
I’m not one of those people who speaks Thai fluently. I can get by OK. And that’s usually enough.
Thais know that their language isn’t so easy for Westerners to pick up. So if you are visiting on holiday, no one will expect your pronunciation to be perfect if you try to speak a few words or phrases. But hotel staff, street vendors etc will be pleased that you have made an effort to try to learn some words. Especially greetings. Little things like that can be a great icebreaker.
Or imagine, taking a bus ride in Thailand. Since you set off you’ve been wishing that you’d gone to the bathroom before you go on. It’s now three hours later and your bladder is busting.
You stop at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere for a break. You don’t care about food, you need a toilet.
Quickly. There’s no time for miming and an impromptu game of charades.
If only you’d have learnt that ‘Hong Nam U Tii Nai’ is a simple way to ask where the toilet is:
What about grammar and tones?
Don’t worry, there’s not going to be any grammar. This isn’t a language course.
And we’re not going to worry about all those different tones. Which all sound the same to me anyway as I’m tone deaf. For example, the Thai translation of “New wood doesn’t burn, does it?” is an example of how tones work. Press play below and you’ll hear the words ‘Mai mai mai mai chai mai’ . The ‘mais’ all have different tones.
The person you are And you won’t be expected to do any Thai writing. This is a dumbed down, idiot proof guide to a few useful words and phrases in Thai language. Just those that you will find useful on holiday and which are easy to remember.
I’ve included sound files too. Let’s be honest, there’s not much point of a guide on learning foreign words if you can’t hear how to pronounce them. So you can listen to the words as well as see how they are written in Thai and English.
Some Super Simple Thai Words and Phrases For Your Vacation
Before we start it’s also handy to know that if you want to be extra polite then you should add on ‘Krap’ or ‘Kaa’ ( ครับ or ค่ะ ) onto the end of the word or phrase. It doesn’t have any real meaning, it just makes it sound more polite. Males always use ‘Krap’ when they are speaking. Women use ‘Kaa’.
You’ll hear this is when you get off the plane in Suvarnabhumi Airport, listen out for the announcements for flights etc. It’s an automated female voice, so you’ll hear ‘Kaa’ at the end of every sentence. It may sound as though she is coughing up furballs. But in reality it’s just being super polite.
And, if you’re looking for more in-depth vocabulary or phrases that will come in handy when you’re at your hotel, take a look at this concise ‘How to Speak Thai at the Hotel‘ page.
Listen to: Men say ครับ and women say ค่ะ
How to Say ‘Hello’ in Thai
Let’s start with something that you’ll definitely use. And that you’ll hear being said whenever you come in contact with hotel staff or go into a restaurant or shop. You’ll also notice that this is accompanied by a ‘Wai’. This is where you put your hands together in front of your chest. Similar to the way you would if you were saying a prayer.
Males say ‘Sawatdee krap‘ – สวัสดีครับ
Females say ‘Sawatdee kaa‘ – สวัสดีค่ะ
And if you were wondering how to say ‘Goodbye’ in Thai. Then it’s the same as Hello. Think of Sawatdee as being the Thai equivalent of the Italian ‘Ciao’. You can use it for saying Hello or Goodbye in Thai language.
Listen to them both:
How to Say ‘Good Morning’ in Thai
Saying good morning in Thai isn’t really as common as just saying Hello. Listen when you go for breakfast in the morning, you’ll probably just hear ‘Sawatdee’ (Hello) being used. But if you want to impress folks then ‘Good Morning’ is ‘Sawatdee Dton Chao’ (สวัสดีตอนเช้า).
(There’s also a much more formal way to say Good Morning in Thai -‘ Aroon Sawat’ which I won’t bother with as that’s reserved for formal occasions. )
Males say ‘Sawatdee Dton Chao krap‘ – สวัสดีตอนเช้าครับ
Females say ‘Sawatdee Dton Chao kaa‘ – สวัสดีตอนเช้าค่ะ
Listen to them both:
How to Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ in Thai
The polite modifiers ‘Krap and ‘Kaa’ substitute for saying a word for ‘Please’ at the end of a sentence. So there’s no need to learn anything else. As far as saying ‘Thank You’ in Thai goes . . . .
Males say ‘Kob Kun krap‘ – สวัสดีตอนเช้าครับ
Females say ‘Kob Kun kaa‘ – สวัสดีตอนเช้าค่ะ
Listen to them both:
How to Say ‘How Are You?’ in Thai
Say you’ve been at your hotel a few days and you’ve got ‘Hello’ down to a tee and the staff are mightily impressed by your linguistic skills. (Or at least, they say they are.) It’s time to get a bit more advanced with your greeting. Why not ask them how they are in Thai. It’s also the equivalent of ‘How’s it going?’. just a friendly way to start the day or add something to a simple Hello.
Males say ‘Sabai Dee Mai krap‘ – สบายดีไหมครับ
Females say ‘Sabai Dee Mai kaa‘ – สบายดีไหมค่ะ
Listen to them both:
The problem now is that if you ask someone a question, they will reply to you. And you’ll look like a lemon if you don’t know what they are saying. Fortunately, the usual reply to this question is just a simple ‘Sabai Dee’ or ‘Sabai sabai’.
Much the same as when you reply to this question in English. ‘How’s it going?’ – ‘Good thanks’ .
( Yes, if someone asked you, you could reply by saying how crap your life is and spend 5 minutes giving the questioner all the details. But in this example, you’ll stay cool and won’t ruin their day. )
Males say ‘Sabai Sabai krap‘ – สบายดีไหมครับ
Females say ‘Sabai Sabai kaa‘ – สบายดีไหมค่ะ
Listen to them both:
How to Say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in Thai
Yes in Thai is ‘Chai’, No is ‘Mai’. Plus the Krap & Kaa, of course. You can throw this in instead of using English. For example, the receptionist asks you a simple Yes / No question. And it’s another small icebreaker to show Thais you have learnt a few words of the language.
To say Yes in Thai. . .
Males say ‘Chai krap‘ – ใช่ครับ
Females say ‘Chai kaa‘ – ใช่ค่ะ
Listen to them both:
To say No in Thai.
Males say ‘Mai krap‘ – ไม่ครับ
Females say ‘Mai kaa‘ – ไม่ค่ะ
How to Say ‘Excuse Me’ in Thai
There will be times when you want to get someone’s attention. This could be on a crowded street when you want to get past someone who’s standing in your way. Or it could be at a beach bar when you want the staff to look up from their phone and get a cold beer out of the fridge. The easiest way is to say ‘Excuse Me’ in Thai.
To say Excuse Me in Thai.
Males say ‘Kor Toat krap‘ – ขอโทษครับ
Females say ‘Kor Toat kaa‘ – ขอโทษค่ะ
How to Say ‘Delicious’ in Thai
Thai people love their food. And when you’re at a restaurant you;re sure to be asked if the food is good. The simplest, and most common way people will do this is to say ‘Aroy mai?’ Which is just a simple way of asking if it is delicious. Aroy = Delicious.
And the easiest reply is to just smile and say ‘Aroy’. ( Even if the food isn’t great, there’s no point mentioning it. Still say ‘Aroy’ . As the question is being asked out of politeness, rather than a real request for your critique of the cooking. Save that for a Tripadvisor review.
To say Delicious in Thai.
Males say ‘Aroy krap‘ – ขอโทษครับ
Females say ‘Aroy kaa‘ – ขอโทษค่ะ
How to Say ‘Not Spicy’ in Thai
As we’re talking about food. One thing you may want to say when you order dishes, especially at food stalls or local restaurants, is to ask for your food not spicy. Once person’s definition of spicy is always different from another’s. Spicy in Thai is ‘Pet’. Not spicy is ‘Mai Pet’.
But even if you ask for a dish to be served not spicy, you may well think that it is spicy when you taste it. That’s because the chef is using their definition of what spicy and not spicy is. Not yours.
In this case, there’s not much you can do about that except get used to a bit more chili in in your food. Or eat sandwiches and burgers for the rest of your vacation.
To say Not Spicy in Thai.
Males say ‘Mai Pet krap‘ – ขอโทษครับ
Females say ‘Mai Pet kaa‘ – ขอโทษค่ะ
How to Ask for the Bill in Thai
There are a couple of ways you will hear people asking for the bill at a bar or restaurant. One is very easy to remember as it;s two English words put together – but pronounced in Thai English :-).
When you’re in a bar, you’ll often hear people ask for the ‘Check Bin’ – the bill (Or if you’re American, the check. ) ‘Check Bin’ is just these two words together.
But, as the ‘l’ sound at the end of words in Thai language is pronounced as an ‘n’. you get ‘bin’ instead of ‘bill’. This is also why you’ll hear ‘hotel’ pronounced as ‘hoten’. The speaker is using Thai pronunciation rules with an English word.
The other way to ask for the bill is to use ‘Gep Tang’. Use this in restaurants.
To ask Can I have the bill, please in Thai.
Males say ‘Check Bin krap‘ – เช็คบิลล์ครับ or ‘Gep Tang krap‘ – เก็บตังค์ครับ
Females say ‘Check Bin kaa‘ – เช็คบิลล์ค่ะ or ‘Gep Tang kaa‘ – เก็บตังค์ค่ะ
How to Say ‘I’m Very Hot’ in Thai
The weather is a popular topic of conversation in Thailand. In some countries people complain about the rain. In Thailand it’s the heat. Mentioning how hot it is is another nice pleasantry to use.
For example, you’re dripping with sweat and go into an aircon bar to cool off. You say hello to the staff and then add ‘Rorn Mak’.
Or the staff at your hotel ask you how you are when you come back from a day trip visiting temples. You can just reply ‘Rorn Mak’ and smile.
To say ‘I’m very hot’ in Thai.
Males say ‘Rorn Mak krap‘ – ร้อนมากครับ ,
Females say ‘Rorn Mak kaa‘ – ร้อนมากค่ะ
Finally, something that you may well have already heard.
What Does ‘Mai Pen Rai’ mean?
This is a phrase you will often hear. And it can be used in different ways. For example:
Just broken a glass in the restaurant? Mai pen rai. Lost your sunglasses in the pool? Mai pen rai. The tour you wanted to book is full. Mai pen rai.
In these examples it’s the equivalent of saying ‘Don’t worry about it’ – Although, depending on the severity of what went wrong, you may feel that a more substantive response is required. Someone basically saying “Never mind. Whatever will be, will be” doesn’t always help.
Alternatively, it can also be sued as a response to a Yes or no question. If the person really wants to say Yes, but also wants to be polite and appear that they don’t want to say Yes.
For example, there’s one piece of delicious chocolate cake on the table. You want it, but you ask your host if they also want it. They do. But they reply ‘Mai pen rai’. In this case meaning “It’s OK, no problem”.
That’s the signal that they’re too polite to say they want it. Now you have to decide if you are going to take the cake for yourself. Because they didn’t say they wanted it. Or if you come up with a cunning way for you to both have some cake but without anyone losing face.
For example, you tell them they can have it. But then they will feel bad because you want the cake but have to give it to them.
Far better to decide to split the cake. Make a big deal about maybe it’s too much for you to eat. Will they help you eat some? Now they’re doing you a favour. So they don’t feel so bad about eating the cake. And everyone is happy.
Although you may well feel that you should have just grabbed the cake and eaten it. If that’s the rigmarole you’re going to have to go through every meal
Males say ‘Mai Pen Rai krap‘ – ไม่เป็นไรครับ ,
Females say ‘Mai Pen Rai kaa‘ – ไม่เป็นไรค่ะ