Is There A Thai Past Tense Form: Top 5 Things You Must Know

Time adverbs and context are used to say words in Thai past tense form.

So you’re learning Thai, huh? Well, let me tell you, it’s a beautiful language with a rich culture behind it. But it’s not always easy, especially when it comes to verb tenses. If you’ve been struggling with the Thai past tense form, you’re not alone. 

Today, I’m here to help you learn everything you should know about the past tense in Thai. We’ll start with the basics and work our way up to the more complex stuff. 

We’ll talk about irregular verbs, context, and time expressions, all in an easy-to-understand way. Also, we’ve got some practice exercises to help you solidify your skills. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Basic Forms Of The Thai Past Tense

The Thai past tense form is used to describe actions that happened in the past, and it’s an essential part of mastering Thai grammar. 

In Thai, they don’t have a specific inflection to indicate past tense like in English. Instead, Thai speakers use time adverbs and context to tell the time frame of action.

There are different ways to express the Thai past tense form, but we’ll focus on the two basic forms: the simple past tense and the negative form. We’ll also discuss using time words in making words in their past tense form.

Thai Simple Past Tense

The past simple tense is the most common way to express the past tense in Thai. To form the simple past tense, you add the suffix “-แล้ว” (láew) to the end of a verb and sometimes at the end of the sentence.

For example, “to eat” in Thai is “กิน” (gin). To say “I ate” in Thai, you would say “ผมกินแล้ว” (phŏm gin láew).

Thai Past Tense Negative Form

The negative form of the past tense indicates that something did not happen in the past. In Thai, you add the word “ไม่” (mâi) before the verb to form the negative form. 

For example, “to go” in Thai is “ไป” (bpai). To say “I didn’t go” in Thai, you would say “ผมไม่ไป” (phŏm mâi bpai).

Using Time Words To Form A Past Tense

When using the past tense in Thai sentences, it’s important to include time words to provide context. 

Some common time words include “เมื่อวาน” (mʉ̂a-waan) for “yesterday” and “วันที่แล้ว” (wan-thîi-láew) for “the day before yesterday.” 

For example, “I ate yesterday” would be “ผมกินเมื่อวาน” (phǒm kin mʉ̂a-waan).

Verb tenses written on a blackboard.

Irregular Verbs In The Thai Past Tense

In the Thai language, some verbs don’t follow the typical pattern for forming the past tense. These verbs are called irregular verbs. 

Common irregular verbs in the past tense include “เป็น” (bpen), which means “to be, “มี” (mee), which means “to have, “and “อยาก” (yaak) which means “to want.”

Difference Of Irregular Verbs From Regular Verbs

So, how do these irregular verbs differ from regular verbs in the past tense? Regular verbs are formed by adding the suffix “ไป” (bpai) to the end of the verb. 

On the other hand, irregular verbs’ past tense forms are not formed by simply adding “ไป” (bpai). 

For instance, “เป็น” becomes “เป็น了” (bpen leaw) or “was, were, have been” in the past tense.

While “มี” (mee) or “to have” becomes “มี了” (mee leaw) or “had/have had” and “อยาก” (yaak) or “to want” becomes “อยากแล้ว” (yaak laew) which means “wanted” or “have wanted.”

Words With Unique Past Tense Form

So you know about the irregular and regular verbs in Thai. But did you know that some verbs in Thai do not follow the typical pattern of adding “ไป” (bpai) to the end of the verb to form the past tense?

Yes, there is! These Thai verbs have their own unique past tense forms that are irregular. Here are some examples of such verbs and their past tense forms:

กิน (gin) – to eat. The past tense is กิน (gin) without the “ไป” suffix.

  • Example: ผมกินข้าวเมื่อวาน (phom gin khao mua wan) – I ate rice yesterday.

ใช้ (chai) – to use. The past tense is ใช้ (chai) without the “ไป” suffix.

  • Example: ฉันใช้มือถือนี้มานานแล้ว (chan chai meua tue ni ma naan laew) – I have been using this mobile phone for a long time.

วิ่ง (wing) – to run. The past tense is วิ่ง (wing) without the “ไป” suffix.

  • Example: เขาวิ่งไปหาแม่ (khao wing bpai haa mae) – He ran to find his mother.

ซื้อ (seu) – to buy. The past tense is ซื้อ (seu) without the “ไป” suffix.

  • Example: เมื่อวานฉันซื้อเสื้อใหม่ (mua wan chan seu seua mai) – Yesterday, I bought a new shirt.
Just like in any language, in Thai, context is king.

Using Context To Convey Thai Past Tense Form

You see, in Thai, context is everything. The same sentence can mean different things depending on the situation, the verbs, and sometimes the tone of voice used. 

So, if you’re not careful, you could say something completely different from what you intended.

Examples Of How Context Can Affect The Meaning Of A Sentence

Now, for the next lesson, let’s look at some examples and apply what we learned above. Say you want to talk about eating dinner yesterday. Depending on the context, you could say:

  • กินข้าวเมื่อวาน (gin khao mừa-wăan) – I ate dinner yesterday.
  • กินข้าวเมื่อวานเลย (gin khao mừa-wăan leuy) – I just ate dinner yesterday.
  • กินข้าวเมื่อวานไปแล้ว (gin khao mừa-wăan bpai láew) – I already ate dinner yesterday.

Do you see how the added words change the meaning of the sentence? It’s important to pay attention to these nuances when speaking Thai so you can convey your message clearly.

Not only that, but just like in English, the context can also affect the meaning of sentences when using time expressions. Let’s look at some examples:

Example 1: วันนี้เขาไปเที่ยว (wan níi khao bpai thii-yôoe) – Today, he went sightseeing.

  • The time expression “วันนี้” (wan níi) is used to indicate that the action of going sightseeing happened today. 
  • The verb “ไป” (bpai) shows past time, meaning the action has already been completed. 

Example 2: มาแล้วสามวัน (maa láew săam wan) – It’s been three days since he came.

  • The time expression “สามวัน” (săam wan) is used to indicate that it has been three days since he came. 
  • The verb “มา” (maa) indicates past time, meaning that the action of him coming has already been completed. 
  • The word “แล้ว” (láew) is used to indicate that the action is complete and has already happened.

As you can see, the meaning of these sentences changes depending on the time expression used. So, make sure to use the correct time expression to convey when an action took place accurately.

When learning a new language, learn from your mistakes.

Language Learners’ Common Mistakes

Many language learners often make common mistakes when speaking Thai in past tense form. Let’s look into some of these errors and learn how to avoid them.

Forgetting The Tone Marks

One common mistake is forgetting to add the appropriate tone marks to the past tense verb. Thai is a tonal language, meaning a word’s tone can change its meaning. 

In the past tense form, the tone marks come after the verb to indicate the tense. 

For example, “กิน” (gin) means “to eat,” but in the past tense form, it becomes “กินแล้ว” (gin láew), which means “already ate.” 

So, pay attention to the tone marks when using past tense verbs.

Using The Wrong Particle

Another mistake is using the wrong particle to indicate the past tense. In Thai, there are three particles that indicate past tense: “แล้ว” (láew), “เเล้วแต่” (láew tàae), and “เเล้วก็” (láew kôr). 

Each particle has a slightly different meaning and usage, so using the correct one in the appropriate context is important. 

For example, “แล้ว” is used to indicate a completed action in the past, while “เเล้วแต่” is used to indicate a contrast between two past actions.

Forgetting To Change The Verb

Finally, another common mistake is forgetting to change the verb to the appropriate form for different subjects. 

Thai verbs do not have different forms for various subjects, so the subject pronoun must be added before the verb to indicate who did the action. 

For instance, “ฉันกินผัดไทย” (chăn gin pad Thai) means “I eat pad Thai,” but in the past tense form, it becomes “ฉันกินผัดไทยแล้ว” (chăn gin pad Thai láew), which means “I already ate pad Thai.” 

So, be sure to use the correct subject Thai pronoun before the verb to avoid confusion.

More Examples Of Thai Words In Their Past Tense Form

Now that we’ve gone over some common mistakes to avoid when using Thai past tense words, let’s put our knowledge to the test with more examples.

This will allow you to practice and see how the rules we discussed earlier apply in real-life scenarios.

EnglishThai VerbPast Tense Form
Cookทำอาหาร (tham aa-hăan)ทำอาหารเเล้ว (tham aa-hăan láew)
Driveขับรถ (kàp rót)ขับรถแล้ว (kàp rót láew)
Playเล่น (lên)เล่นแล้ว (lên láew)
Readอ่าน (aan)อ่านแล้ว (aan láew)
Singร้องเพลง (rórng plêng)ร้องเพลงแล้ว (rórng plêng láew)
Sleepนอน (nawn)นอนแล้ว (nawn láew)
Studyเรียน (rian)เรียนแล้ว (rian láew)
Talkพูด (pûut)พูดแล้ว (pûut láew)
Travelเที่ยว (tîao)เที่ยวแล้ว (tîao láew)
Walkเดิน (dern)เดินแล้ว (dern láew)
Watchดู (doo)ดูแล้ว (doo láew)
Workทำงาน (tham ngaan)ทำงานแล้ว (tham ngaan láew)
Writeเขียน (khĭan)เขียนแล้ว (khĭan láew)

Good job! I hope this exercise has given you a better understanding of how to use the past tense in the Thai language. 

Remember that learning a language takes time and consistent practice. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away. 

Keep practicing and experimenting with different Thai tenses until you become comfortable using them in real-life situations. 

With dedication and effort, you’ll be able to communicate in Thai more fluently and confidently.

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Learn The Thai Past Tense Form With Ling!

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With our comprehensive language course, you’ll be able to learn everything from basic vocabulary to advanced grammar, including the present tense, future tense, and present simple tense, in a fun way. 

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