Asking questions is a great way to learn. As much as people say, there is always something more that you want to know - I certainly find myself thinking that. Then, there are many different situations where you need to ask about something. How much does this cost? What is the time? When does it start? By arming yourself with the Thai question words, you will be able to start forming these important questions yourself in Thai. Keep reading to learn how to build Thai questions and how they are structured, as well as the necessary vocabulary.
While it seems like a weird question to ask about how to ask questions in Thai, it is worth knowing how it differs from in English. In English, there are question words like what, why, when and how that are placed at the beginning of a sentence or phrase to make it into a question. In Thai, they are placed at the end. While this can be jarring, you will soon see that building and ordering parts of a question in Thai is quite easy.
Remembering that Thai uses tones, you should be mindful of your pronunciation when asking. In English, it is common to raise your pitch toward the end of a question. This should be avoided in Thai as it would mess with the tones of the words you are saying.
Another thing to note is that Thai does not use punctuation marks in its writing, which includes question marks. Of course, they can still be seen in Thai writing where they are used exactly like in English but as a general rule, you won’t be seeing them. For me, it was a weird adjustment to see a question written down without any sort of marking to distinguish it. Saying that, there actually is a way to denote and turn a phrase or sentence into a question. This is where the question words or particles come in.
Like in English, there are certain words that are used to make a phrase into a question. Here are the most important ones you should know and some examples of them being used. As mentioned, this goes at the end of the sentence.
The word for ‘who’ in Thai is ‘krai’ (ใคร). If you want to ask someone who they want to speak to, you can use ‘kun dtoong gaan ja puut kui gab krai’ (คุณ ต้องการ พูด กับ ใคร).
In Thai, to say what, you would use ‘arai’ (อะไร). To ask what someone’s name is, you say ‘kun chuu arai’ (คุณชื่ออะไร).
To say ‘where’ in Thai, you use ‘tii nai’ (ที่ไหน). For example, to ask where the toilet is, you would ask ‘hong nam yuu tii nai’ (ห้องน้ำอยู่ที่ไหน).
If you want to say ‘when’ in Thai, you say ‘mua rai’ (เมื่อไหร่). However, it is quite common to ask ‘what time’ or ‘gii moong’ (กี่โมง) instead of when. So if you wanted to know when something opens, you ask ‘bperd gii moong’ (เปิด กี่โมง).
For those who want to ask ‘why’ in Thai, you should say ‘tam mai’ (ทำไม). This is an example of a question word that goes at the beginning of the phrase. To find out why someone likes you, you can ask ‘tam mai kun tung chop chan’ (ทำไมคุณถึงชอบฉันคะ).
The word how or ‘yang rai’ (อย่างไร) is usually paired with another word to find out a quantity of a certain thing. The same is true in Thai, where you can ask things such as ‘how much?’ or ‘tao rai’ (เท่าไหร่) or ‘how far?’ which is ‘glai kae nai’ (ไกลแค่ไหน).
Something that is quite unique to Thai is the use of the question phrase ‘chai mai’ (ใช่ไหม). This is the same as saying ‘right?’ or ‘isn’t it?’ in English. However, it seems to be used a lot more when speaking Thai. Essentially, you can use it when you are looking for confirmation on something. For example, to ask ‘is that a cat?’ you would say ’nii kuu meeo chai-mai’ (นี่คือแมวใช่ใหม).
When it comes to answering questions, it is usually as easy as replying with the verb used in the question either with or without the negative particle. If someone were to ask ‘do you like your job?’ which is ‘kun chop ngaan tii tam-yuu mai’ (คุณชอบงานที่ทำอยู่ไหม), you could answer either ‘chop’ (ชอบ) is you like it or ‘mai chop’ (ไม่ชอบ) if you don’t like it. There are of course some questions where you need to use a specific answer, but for the majority of questions, this should be enough.
With your new knowledge of Thai question words, you should now be able to start asking more questions. It is overall quite simple to piece together questions even with limited vocabulary once you know these words. Just remember that the question word is placed at the end rather than the beginning. Answering is also easy as you just need to repeat the verb the majority of the time. Some deeper questions will require some more vocabulary though, so keep learning Thai.
A fun way to do just that is with the Ling Thai app. Using the app, you can test yourself, learn and build confidence in the Thai language. Try it today.