Thai language guide - Thai grammar (simplified)

I can speak Thai!

I can speak Thai!

For the most part, Thai people prefer to speak in the simplest possible way, therefore it’s far easier to speak without your syntax sounding broken, and Thais certainly won’t judge you for imperfect grammar. This gives you the confidence to communicate without sounding ignorant. There are far less words to worry about, such as prepositions, articles, tense conjugations, imperfect modals (e.g. ‘has, had’) and so on. Furthermore, most Thai is spoken in the present simple without the continuous (‘ing’).

Simply put, a Thai sentence isn’t much different from an English one, comprising of:

Subject + verb + object - with an adjective thrown in or a simple tense modifier.

Therefore, in English:

the car is going to the market

Would, in Thai, be:

rot pai talad (lit; vehicle go market)

Adjectives are added after the verb, like in French, and after the object so that in Thai you would say: rot dang pai talad reo (lit; vehicle red go market quick)

Repeating an adjective turns it into an adverb so that reo reo would mean ‘quickly’.


The expression of tenses and relation of time in Thai is far simpler. In fact, their whole concept of time is far less exact or important than it is in the west and they tend to refer vaguely to something that will happen in the future or something that has already happened, without expressing perfect or imperfect tenses very often.

The future: is simply expressed by adding ja in front of the verb

So that in Thai you say:

rot ja pai talad

(lit; vehicle will go market)

And a time stamp may be added to the end or beginning to be more exact (such as ‘tomorrow’).

The past: is expressed either by adding a past time stamp in front of the clause or addinglaeow (meaning ‘already’) to the end.

For example:

mua-wan-nee rot pai talad

(lit; yesterday vehicle go market)


rot pai talad laeow

(lit; vehicle go market already)

Present continuous: is occasionally used to more accurately express a current action. This is simply done by adding gamlang before the verb.This would be used when someone asked ‘what is the vehicle doing right now?’

For example:

rot gamlang pai talad

(lit; vehicle going market)

Future continuous: is seldom heard other than to express something imminent

For example:

rot ja gamlang pai talad

(lit; vehicle will be going market)

Which would be used if someone asked ‘Is this vehicle ever going to leave?’

This is aimed at helping you understand the basic construction of a sentence or clause, which can be patched together with other sentences using conjunctions in a similar way to other languages.

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