No In Thai: 4 Ways To Say No Like A Native

April 29, 2021

It sounds funny but it's quite difficult to learn how to properly say No in Thai because Thais find it terribly hard to say “no”. This may be a side effect from the culture of avoiding confrontation, so most Thais try to find ways to say “no” without actually saying it. Therefore it is important to learn it the proper way.

 

 

Say “No” Like A Real Thai

When someone asks you a question in Thai that ends with the yes or no question word ไหม (mái), the answer is not as straightforward as it would be in English. You must repeat the verb or adjective that was used in the question in order to respond "yes" along with the verb or adjective that was used in the question to answer “no” or “not” – ไหม (mái).

It may sound strange at first, but this is a perfectly normal exchange in Thai:

While  ไม่ (mâi) can be used to respond “no” to a question without the verb or adjective, it is generally preferable to include the verb or adjective from the question. If ไม่ (mâi) is used without a verb or an adjective, it can be preceded by ไม่นะ (mâi na). นะ (na) is a Thai particle that changes the sound of the word or sentence to become softer.

  • ไม่นะ (mâi na).  No  (softer; less abrupt than if it didn’t have the word นะ ‘na’)

Example:

How To Say “No Thank You” In Thai

Literally translated it means something like “not take” or “not want”. ไม่เอา (mâi ao) is a useful term to know while visiting Thailand. There will always be hawkers trying to sell you anything from souvenirs to massages if you are walking through a touristy area, so it's practical to know how to decline.

To say “no thank you” in these kinds of situations you can just say:

เอา (ao) is also used when asking if somebody wants something. The structure is:

For example:

if you want to say “yes” to the question you use the verb that was asked in the question.  So in this case, the way you say yes is:

Don't Forget To Say 'Thank You'

No matter the situation, Thais are always polite, so remember to say thank you

 

How To Say “Not” In Thai

We can use the same structure from ไม่เอา (mâi ao) to form other sentences too.  The structure is just:

Most common phrases with ไม่ (mâi):

ไม่มี (mâi mee) – I don’t have it

Customer (female speaker):

Shopkeeper (male speaker):

You can use this when you are shopping or in a restaurant in Thailand.  Just add the item that you want after the word มี (mee):

ไม่ชอบ (mâi chorp) – I don’t like it

ไม่เผ็ด (mâi ped) – not spicy

ไม่สวย (mâi sǔuai) – Not beautiful

ไม่อร่อย (mâi aroi) – Not delicious

Other common  ไม่ (mâi) + verb or adjectives

 

ไม่ใช่ (mâi châi) – No

Some Thai questions end with ใช่ไหม (châi mái). This is similar to how we transform a sentence into a query in English by adding “right?” or “isn't it?” at the end. This question is usually asked when someone wants to clarify something. You have the option of responding to these questions.

For example:

 

เปล่า (bplào) – No

While  เปล่า(bplào) means "no," it is not widely used in Thai as a response to a question. It is more widely used in conjunction with หรือ (rʉ̌ʉ) “or” to make หรือเปล่า  (rʉ̌ʉ-bplào), which is then used at the end of a sentence to form a “or not” query.

For example:

If we want to say “no” to this question, we can just use the same structure that we learned above: 

ไม่ + verb or adjective. 

So the best way say “no” to this question is:

    • ไม่มา (mâi maa) – I’m not coming (Literally: “not come”)

 

Don't Just Say No

It feels so amazing to be able to understand a different language, especially when you are traveling Thailand and you can understand the locals; this will give you a big advantage. When you visit a shop, your favorite restaurant, or even your Thai neighbor co, you get treated differently when you know some words.

The best way to improve your Thai language skills is certainly with the Ling Thai app. Give it a try, maybe even today!  The many tests, games, and challenges may just be your ticket to improving your Thai ability.

 

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2 comments on “No In Thai: 4 Ways To Say No Like A Native”

  1. "most Thais try to find ways to say “no” without actually saying it."

    I find this kind of misleading about how ไม่ is presented. As soon you hear a ไม่, you know it's a 'no' regardless of what comes after. I think it's less about not trying to say no, and more about clarifying what you mean. Example:

    เอาไหม? ไม่เอา

    Alternatively, it could go:

    เอาไหม? ไม่รู้ (คิดก่อน)

    As in, 'I don't know, (I have to think about it)'.

    So it's more about what kind of ไม่ you mean, and repeating for clarity.

    So maybe it's true that culturally, Thai people prefer not to say no, but I think the way ไม่ is used is not a good example of that.

    On an end note, there's actually a similiar phenomenon in Portuguese where people repeat the 'no' to emphasize 'no' and make that clear. Example:

    Você quer isso? (Do you want this)

    Não quero, não. (I don't want it, no)

    *repeating the negative*

    If it's a yes:

    Sim, quero. (Yes, I want it)

    *a single yes suffices*

    That's my 2 cents anyway.

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