We all know the general flow of a conversation. It usually begins with the ‘small talk’ phase before moving forward with what we want to actually talk about. We start by saying hello and then asking ‘how are you?’. In Thai, this is no different. Whether you are actually interested in the answer or just asking out of habit, asking how a person is doing is important. It can lead to much deeper interactions where you can learn more about the other person. If that sounds interesting to you, then let’s take a look at it today.
How about we dive straight into our main focus today - how do you say ‘how are you’ in Thai? Thankfully, it is not a particularly difficult phrase to remember:
‘Sabai dee mai?’ (สบายดี ไหม)
If you visit Thailand, you will likely be hearing this a lot. Let's break it down as there are a few good things we can learn from this phrase alone.
We covered the meaning behind the word sabai before. To summarize, it can be translated as meaning ‘comfortable’. Though it does have a slightly stronger meaning than that, I think that works well in understanding this phrase. Then the word ‘dee’ (ดี) here means good.
Now for a little extra lesson about questions. You are of course asking a question when you say ‘how are you’ in Thai. If you know your question words, you would have noticed the ‘mai’ (ไหม) at the end of the phrase. This is used to signify that the phrase is a question. In Thai, these question words are always located at the end of the sentence instead of the beginning which we are used to in English.
Saying that, this phrase is often said with either ‘krap’ (ครับ) or ‘ka’ (คะ) at the end.
Males: ‘Sabai dee mai krap?’ (สบายดี ไหม ครับ)
Females: ‘Sabai dee mai ka?’ (สบายดี ไหม คะ)
These are the polite words which can make something you say sound more polite and respectful. They are not completely necessary to add when asking someone how they are, but it is a good thing to add in. You should definitely remember these if you learn Thai as they are pretty important. It can be weird to adjust if you speak a language that does not use them but it should feel more natural over time.
Ok, so now we know how to say ‘How are you?’ in Thai, but how do we reply? It is actually very simple - you just say the same phrase back to them but remove the ‘mai’ (ไหม) so that it is no longer a question.
‘Sabai dee’ สบายดี
Again, you do not need to use the polite word when you say this but if the person is kind enough to ask how you are or used the word when asking, then you should probably be polite to them back.
Males: ‘Sabai dee krap’ (สบายดี ครับ)
Females: ‘Sabai dee ka’ (สบายดี คะ)
In Thai, it is not uncommon to remove the pronoun from the sentence if it is obvious from the context. However, some people may use the pronoun, which will go at the beginning of the sentence.
What about if you are not feeling good? Once again, we will be taking a part of the question and removing both the question word and the word for good. Then it is just a case of adding the negative word to the beginning:
‘Mai sabai’ (ไม่สบาย)
The word ‘mai’ (ไม่) here is not to be confused with the question word ‘mai’ (ไหม) from earlier. This one means no or not and is placed before a verb to make it a negative. In this case it would mean ‘not good’.
Of course, once you have answered, you can ask the same question back. Another way you can answer is by saying ‘and you?’. There are actually several different ways to go about this but probably the most common way is to say ‘laew khun la’ (แล้วคุณล่ะ). This is much more informal and sounds more natural too.
Now that we have the basics down, let’s take a look at a (very) basic conversation in Thai so you can see how to use this phrase.
A: Sawat dii ka (สวัสดี ค่ะ) - Hello
B: Sawat dii khrap (สวัสดี ครับ) - Hello
A: Sabai dii mai ka? (สบายดี ไหม คะ) - How are you?
B: Pom sabai dii krap. Laew khun la krap? (ผม สบายดี ครับ. แล้วคุณล่ะ ครับ) - I am good. And you?
A: Di-chan sabai dii ka. Kop khun ka (ดิฉัน สบายดี ค่ะ. ขอบคุณ ค่ะ) - I am good. Thank you.
Not too difficult, right? Once you have the phrase for how are you in Thai down, you then should be able to remember the different answers as they all take elements from the initial question.
Now that you are armed with another of the common phrases you will likely be using on a near daily basis, you should be better set to have deeper conversations with other people. More than just a greeting, the ability to ask ‘how are you’ in Thai helps to show that you care about others. Whether or not you are prepared for the answer is another question. Try it out the next time you are meeting with a friend and see how things are going with them
So, how are you? If you want to practice this phrase and many more, the Ling Thai app is the perfect option. Try out the chatbot feature to increase your understanding of the Thai language.