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The Special ห Character Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Beginner

When I teach the Thai alphabet to my students, the letter ห is one of the last I teach them. It’s a bit more complicated than the average consonant, like the อ character. In Thai ห can be used in two different ways – as a consonant, or as a silent tone modifier. Below I go over both cases. 

1) As a Consonant

In cases when the ห is combined with a vowel, it makes an ‘h’ sound. None of the below are real words, just simplified examples. 

เห heh

เหอ herr

เหย hoy

หิ he

หือ huee

เหา how

เหีย heyaa

หอง haawng


2) As a Tone Modifier

In cases where there is no vowel with ห, and the ห comes right before a consonant which does have a vowel, then the ห is silent. Its purpose is to modify the tone of the word, as ห is a high class consonant and the following consonant wouldn’t be.

Compare how the ห changes the tone:

มอ maw1

หมอ maw5

มา maa1

หมา maa5


More example words where the ห is silent, only modifying the tone:

หญิง ying5

หน่วย nuay2

หนัง nang5

หน้า naa3

หนาม naam5

หนึ่ง neung2

หมก mok2

หมวย muay5

หม่ำ mum2

หมู่ muu2

หย่า yaa2

หยุ่น yun2

หลง long5

หลอด lawd2

หลัก lak2

หลัง lang5

หลาย laai5

หลุด lud2

หว่ย woy2

หวาย waai5


The following examples show a following consonant that does not have a vowel, so the ห is not silent:

หก hok

หล hon

หป hobp


note: Do not confuse words found in rule #2 with the invisible vowel rule. There is no vowel – ห is a silent consonant in this case.


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