The Two Ways To Ask What? in Thai
What are you thinking? What is your name? Learn how to ask and answer these common questions.
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Lingo Ninja Research Team
2 min read · published May 18, 2021 · last update June 16, 2021
Note: In Thai, you usually put polite particles at the end of each question. In this article, we skip that, to keep our examples to the point and gender-neutral. But when you speak Thai, please follow the instructions in our article on Thai polite particles and apply them to each sentence.

What...? in Thai

What? questions in the Thai language are formed using one of these patterns: 

What? questions with อะไร

As mentioned above, you simply put อะไร what; whatever
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at the end of the question. To answer, you put the answer in the place of อะไร what; whatever
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Examples

Q: What is your name?
     คุณ Ms, Mrs, Mr; you
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ชื่อ name
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อะไร what; whatever
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?
     Literally: You - name - what?
A:  My name is Somchai
     ผม I (for men); hair
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ชื่อ name
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สมชัย Somchai
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     Literally: I - name - Somchai

Q: What country are you from?
     คุณ Ms, Mrs, Mr; you
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เป็น be, is, am, are
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คน person, human; person
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ประเทศ country, nation
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อะไร what; whatever
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?
     Literally: You - be - person - country - what?
A:  I am Thai
     ผม I (for men); hair
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เป็น be, is, am, are
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คน person, human; person
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ไทย Thai; Thailand
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     Literally: I - be - person - Thai

Exceptions

There are two exceptions, when อะไร what; whatever
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is not at the end of the question: 
  1. when อยู่ is (located at); live (at); happening now
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    is used to express that some action is happening now, then is at the end, and อะไร what; whatever
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    is right before อยู่ is (located at); live (at); happening now
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  2. อะไร what; whatever
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    is placed before directional words. Directional words are, for example, มา come, arrive
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    "to come".

Examples for Exceptions

Q: What are you doing (right now)?
     คุณ Ms, Mrs, Mr; you
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ทำ do, make, cook
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อะไร what; whatever
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อยู่ is (located at); live (at); happening now
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?
     Literally: You - do - what? - now
A:  (I am) watching TV
     ดู watch, look
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ทีวี TV
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อยู่ is (located at); live (at); happening now
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     Literally: Watch - TV - now

Q: What are you thinking (right now)?
     คุณ Ms, Mrs, Mr; you
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คิด think
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อะไร what; whatever
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อยู่ is (located at); live (at); happening now
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?
     Literally: You - think - what? - now

Q: What did you buy?
     คุณ Ms, Mrs, Mr; you
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ซื้อ buy
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อะไร what; whatever
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มา come, arrive
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?
     Literally: You - buy - what? - come

What? ยังไง vs. อะไร

If you ask for someone else's opinion on something, Thai speakers prefer the use of ยังไง how
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, which is literally translated to "How?". So, for example, "What do you think (about something)?" is expressed as คิด think
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ว่า that
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ยังไง how
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, which means "How do you think (about this)?". But the general question "What are you thinking (right now)?" does not ask the opinion, and therefore it is คิด think
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อะไร what; whatever
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อยู่ is (located at); live (at); happening now
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?

To learn more about How? questions in Thai, please read this article: How do you say? (Questions of manner in Thai).

Examples

Q: What do you think (about this)?
     คุณ Ms, Mrs, Mr; you
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คิด think
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ว่า that
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ยังไง how
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     Literally: You - think - that - how?

Q: What will you do (about this)?
     คุณ Ms, Mrs, Mr; you
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จะ will (in the future)
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ทำ do, make, cook
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ยังไง how
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     Literally: You - will - do- how?

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