Thai Language Blog

Matching Thai Spelling with Thai Tones Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 in Beginner

For the next several posts, I will be going over how to identify the tone of a word based on the spelling of the word. Keep in mind the rules to this is a bit complicated so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it the first time.

There are 5 different features of a word that you must look at to determine the tone of the word.

1. Tone marks
2. Dead/live ending consonants
3. Consonant class
4. Previous syllable
5. Vowel length

Before we get started on going over the consonant classes, let’s start off with the easy stuff.


1. For the tone marks, I have gone over them already two years ago:
Tone Marks p1
Tone Marks p2


2. Dead and Live ending consonants
In each syllable consisting of more than one consonant, look at the last consonant. Is it a live consonant or a dead consonant?

The list of dead consonants is very long: ค, ฅ, ฆ, ก, ข, ฃ, พ, ฟ, ภ, บ, ป, ช, ฌ, ฑ, ฒ, ท, ธ, จ, ฎ, ฏ, ด, ต, ฐ, ถ, ศ, ษ, ส

But don’t panic! To be a dead consonant, it must make one of these six ending sounds: k, p, f, b, t, d

Just memorize those six letters and you’ll be fine. Remember, some letters when located at the end of a syllable will make a different sound then when at the beginning. All other letters are live consonants.

Whether the syllable has a live or dead consonant ending will influence the tone of the word.

kum1 dtaii1
dead consonant

kum1 bpen1
live consonant


3. Consonant Class
Thai letters are divided into three classes, of which I will go over in the next few posts.

A note on consonant clusters . . . the class of a consonant cluster is that of the first consonant. For example:
สร้าง – สร, pronounced as ‘s’, is high class
ทรง – ทร, pronounced as ‘s’, is mid class

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  1. Michel:

    The are only 3 dead consonants ending sounds in Thai: k,p,t
    The dead consonnants are the one you can’t hum and do end the word abruptly.