Visit Phuket

Thai Phrase Guide

Thai Alphabet

Most people in Phuket will understand at least a few words of English and you might get by without speaking any Thai at all. Thai children learn English at school, and the ability to speak English is regarded as an important qualification for a large number of jobs. However, if you venture off the tourist trail, communication can become quite difficult. In any case, making the effort to learn a little Thai will help endear you to the local people you meet and may come in handy in an emergency.

The Thai Language

Although Phuket has its own subdialect of Southern Thai, the Central Thai dialect is widely used and understood, as it is throughout the rest of Thailand. The difficulty in learning Thai is the five tones employed to confer different meanings to the same syllable, so that the syllable mai can have five different meanings in this sentence: mái mài mâi mâi mãi? Which translates as “New wood doesn’t burn, does it?” Although rather contrived, it does clearly demonstrate the point that for westerners, who have never come across tones except to express emotion, learning Thai can be quite challenging.

The Thai script is another daunting barrier to learning Thai. Its origins are in Sanskrit by way of Khmer. There are 44 consonants and 32 vowels. Vowels can be before, after, above, below or surrounding consonants. Thai is also written without any spaces between words. Spaces are only used to separate sentences, which further complicates matters. Transliteration is an often cited problem when writing Thai in Roman script as there is no standard system, so you may see some variations on those given here.

Having said that, Thai grammar is relatively straightforward. There are no irregular verbs and tenses are easily expressed by adding a word to the sentence, rather than modifying the verb.

Polite Particles

At the end of sentences males use the polite particle ‘khrúp’, and females, ‘kâ’. These can also be used to answer in the affirmative, or negative if used with the negation mâi, i.e. mâi khrúp or mâi kâ. Although the sentences below only show them at the end of the first few examples, it is considered good manners to use these at the end of just about any sentence.

General Phrases

Hello / Goodbyesawàt dii (khrúp / kâ)
Thank youkhàwp khun (khrúp / kâ)
Sorry / Excuse mekhãw thôht (khrúp / kâ)
Yeschái (khrúp / kâ)
Nomâi chái (khrúp / kâ)
Pardon?arai ná?
How are you?sabai dee mái?
I’m fine / not well (ill)sabai dee / mâi sabai
I (don’t) understand(mâi) khâo jai
It doesn’t mattermâi pen rai
I don’t wantmâi aow
Very gooddii mak
Badmâi dii

Getting Around

I’d like to go to…(the airport)yàak jà pai…(sanãam bin)
Where is the…(bus station)?(sathãani khõn sòng)…yùu thîi nãi?
What time will the…(bus / train)…depart?rót jà àwk kìi mohng?
Carrót yon
Busrót meh
Taxirót tháek sîi


Bathroom / Toilethâwng náam / hâwng sûam
Hospitalrohng pha yaabaan
Post officepraisanii


How much?thâo raí?
Do you have…?mii … mãi?
Can you give me a cheaper price?lot nàwy dâi mãi?

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