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Thai Question Words Posted by on Aug 23, 2011 in Beginner

Thai question words are very similar to question words found in English. The only main difference is that while in English question words are found at the beginning of the question, in Thai they are located at the end of the question. You will notice in the following examples that some question words are shared in the examples. Also to note, in the following examples you may see ไหร่ rai2. It can optionally be spelled/pronounced as ไร rai1, with no change in meaning.

 

What

ไหม mai5 – There is no direct English translation for this question word, so here are a few examples to help you understand it.

หิวไหม? hew5 mai5? Are you hungry?

อร่อยไหม? a1roi2 mai5? Is it delicious?

อยากไปไหม? yak2 bpai1 mai5? Do you want to go?

 

Where

The word nai5 can either be used to mean ‘which?’ or ‘where?’

ไหน? nai5? Where?

ที่ไหน? tee3 nai5? Where at?

เขาอยู่ที่ไหน? kow5 yuu2 tee3 nai5? Where is he?

ตอนไหน? dton1 nai5? Which/what time?

คนไหน? kon1 nai5? Which person?

อันไหน? an1 nai5? Which one/item?

 

When

There are several different words you can use to ask ‘when?’.

เมื่อไหร่ meu3 rai2? When?

ตอนไหน? dton1 nai5? What time?

กี่โมง? gee2 mong1? At what hour?

 

Why

The word for why, tum1mai1 ทำไม, is very simple to use.

คุณไปทำไม? kun1 bpai1 tum1mai1? Why did you go?

 

How Much

There are two words that could be used to ask ‘how much’. The first word comes after the noun, while the second comes before the noun.

เท่าไหร่ tow3 rai2? How much?

อายุเท่าไหร่ aa1yu4 tow3rai? How old? (how many years?)

กี่ gee? How much?

กี่บาท? gee2 baht1? How much? (how many baht?)

กี่โมง? gee2 mong1? What time? (how many hours?)

 

Yes or no?, Correct

Many of the beginner level learn Thai books claim that chai3 ใช่ translates to ‘yes’. This is false. There is no word for ‘yes’ in the Thai language, believe it or not. The word ใช่ is best translated to mean ‘correct’.

ใช่ไหม Is this correct? (Correct?)

คุณหิวใช่ไหม? kun1 hew5 chai3 mai5? You are hungry, correct? (You’re hungry, right?)

To answer this question, you can either say:

ไม่หิว mai3 hew5 I’m not hungry.

หิว hew5 I’m hungry.

ใช่ chai3 Correct. (Right.) <- note: you cannot answer ใช่ if the word is not in the question

In this following example, รึ reu5 means ‘or’ and เปล่า blaow2 means ‘nay’/’no’.

ใช่รึเปล่า chai3 reu5 blaow2? Yes or no? Yay or nay? Isn’t this correct?

In the following example, the word ป่ะ ba2 is shortened slang for เปล่า.

ใช่ป่ะ chai3 ba2? Correct, or?

 

Who

ใคร krai1 Who?

ใครอ่ะ? krai1 a2? Who is it? (somewhat informal way to ask)

ใครมา? krai1 maa1? Who came?

คนไหน kon1 nai5? Which person?

 

Yet

You probably learned in elementary that there are only five question words, such as ‘who what where why how’. The phrase ‘Have you eaten, yet?’ wasn’t in their lesson plan . . .

ยัง yang1 still, yet

กินข้าวยัง gin1 kao3 yang1 Have you eaten yet?

ไปหรือยัง bpai1 reu5 yang1? Have you gone yet? (gone, or not yet?)

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Comments:

  1. Snap:

    Many sources advise against placing ทำไม on the end of a question, and instead start the question with ‘why’, otherwise it may sound interrogatory. And, that if we are simply asking ‘why’, to ensure that we are smiling and to appear humble.

    My Thai ears aren’t good enough to determine whether this is true or not, out in the real world and I guess it would depend on the circumstance eg. talking amongst friends or talking to an immigration officer;) What’s your opinion?

  2. palmisano:

    Out of curiosity, which sources? I guess it can sound a little more interrogatory . . . sometimes you want to be. But you can easily cancel it out by speaking slowly and softly, and adding polite words (krap, kaa, etc) before and after it.
    ไปทำไม? <- rude, especially if you say fast
    ไปทำไมเหรอครับ? <- polite, even when said fast

  3. Rich:

    I personally think – if in doubt keep it polite. With say an immigration officer or bank clerk or someone you don’t know (but not say a child), you might say คุณไปทำไมครับ and I think that would be perfectly formal and acceptable.

    But if you use this in every situation it might appear that you are either naive in use of language or come across as too formal or too polite in every situation. The general feeling I get is that with people you know, using words like ‘คุณ’ and ‘ผม’ are really too formal when really you are ‘พี่’ and ‘น้อง’. Interested to hear what others think ^_^