Second and Third Person Pronouns in Thai
Different ways to say you, he, and she in Thai
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Lingo Ninja Research Team
6 min read · first published June 14, 2021 · last update July 6, 2021

14 words to say you/he/she in Thai

Linguists call words that you use for "you" second-person pronouns, and words that you use for "he/she/it/they" third-person pronouns. As there is a significant overlap between second- and third-person pronouns in Thai, we will deal with them together:
  1. คุณ - you
  2. เธอ - she/you
  3. เขา - he/she/they
  4. เค้า - he/she/they (neutral)
  5. นาย - you
  6. ท่าน - you/he/she (very formal)
  7. เรา - you (used by older people for children)
  8. แก - you/he/she/they
       you (for very close friends, rude otherwise), 
       he/she/they (respectful for older people)
  9. มึง - you (rude, vulgar)
  10. เอ็ง - you (vulgar)
  11. ลื้อ - you (used by Thai-Chinese)
  12. ตัว เอง - you (young people talking to close friends)
  13. มัน - it/he/she (very vulgar when used as he/she)
  14. หล่อน - she (not often used)
These words are often matched with first-person pronouns (=words for "I") which you can read about in the article Words for I in Thai.

Let's look at each of the above words in detail.

คุณ - you

คุณ is the default word for "you" in Thai. It is quite formal and polite - the matching words for "I" are ผม and ดิฉัน (see this article).

Note: Although คุณ is polite, it is not respectful to people of high positions. To respectfully address people of high prestige or authority, use their title instead. Read more in this article.

When to use it?
You would use คุณ with strangers and people you have a professional relationship with.  You do not use it with friends or people of higher social status.

คุณ is used mostly in singular. Its plural form is พวก คุณ .

เธอ - she/you

เธอ normally means "she". But in songs and literature, เธอ means "you" - the matching word for I is ฉัน , both for men and women (see this article).

Students and young people also like to use เธอ for "you" for close friends of the same age. It is used by and for both sexes, boys and girls.

Note: It is not respectful to people of higher status or people you do not know well.

When to use it?
You would use เธอ mainly for "she". You do not use it with people of higher social status. You can also use it for close friends of the same age.

เขา - he/she/they

เขา is a very neutral word for he/she/they.

When to use it?
You can use it for any situation, except when talking to people of high status or prestige.

เค้า - he/she/they

เค้า is a very neutral word for he/she/they. It is similar to เขา .

When to use it?
You can use it for any situation, except when talking to people of high status or prestige.

Please note that เค้า can also be used for "I". In this meaning, it is paired with the pronoun ตัว เอง for you (see below in this article) and mainly used by young people talking to their close friends. Read more about เค้า as a first-person pronoun in the article How to say I in Thai.

นาย - you

นาย can be used for men around your age and social status. Its meaning is similar to "Mr." or "boss" in modern Thai.

ท่าน - you/he/she (very formal)

ท่าน is very formal, polite, and respectful. It is used when you speak to someone of much higher status, like very high government officials (e.g. the prime minister), ambassadors, monks, or V.I.P customers. It is also used by subordinates when talking to someone of significantly higher authority.

This pronoun is also used in speeches addressing the audience, or in written language.

When to use it?
When you talk to your boss, the chairman of a company, a governor or e.g. the prime minister.

Don't use it on people of not so high status, as it can be interpreted as a sarcastic remark on someone.

เรา - you (used by older people for children)

เรา is normally translated as "we", or "I" (see this article). But it is also used as "you" by older people when talking to children.

When to use it?
You can use this word when talking to much younger children.

When you use this word, it shows that you treat the other party as a little child. This would be disrespectful to anyone not being a child and especially to people of higher status or age.

แก - you/he/she/they

แก is quite different when being used for "you" and "he/she/they":
  • If used as a second-person pronoun ("you"), แก is similar to, but much less vulgar than, มึง and เอ็ง . You can use it for good friends your age or younger, but only after they initiate it. It is rude when you use it for older people.
  • If แก is used as a third-person pronoun (he/she/they) it is a respectful way to refer to older people that you are familiar with. So it is respectful when talking about older people, but not when talking to older people. It is seen as inappropriate when talking about someone you are not familiar with.

When to use it?
As a second-person pronoun: You can use this word if you want to insult someone or start a fight. 
As a third-person pronoun: Even though the use as a third-person pronoun is fine, it's easy to confuse this and use it as an insulting second-person pronoun. So better don't use this word.

มึง - you (rude, vulgar)

มึง is paired with the pronoun กู for "I". It is considered rude, very vulgar, not formal, and not respectful. It is mainly used by teenagers and mobsters who try to look tough.

If you use มึง with strangers, chances are, you will be picking a fight.

When to use it?
Similar rules as for แก as an insulting second-person pronoun. Only use มึง with very close friends, and only after they initiated it, and only when there are no people of higher status or age around. And if you use it in the wrong situation, you will insult someone and might start a fight.

เอ็ง - you (vulgar)

เอ็ง is paired with the pronoun ข้า for "I". It is considered vulgar, not formal, and not respectful, but not quite as vulgar as มึง . It is old-fashioned and mainly found in literature.

When to use it?
Similar rules as for แก as an insulting second-person pronoun. Don't use เอ็ง unless you want to sound like an old-fashioned mobster or like you are from a very remote part of Thailand.

ลื้อ - you (used by Thai-Chinese)

ลื้อ is used within some Thai families of Chinese descent. The matching pronoun for "I" is อั๊ว .

When to use it?
If you are not Thai of Chinese descent, people would be very confused why you use that word.

ตัวเอง - you (young people talking to close friends)

ตัว เอง is mainly used by young people, talking to close friends their boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, or child. It is paired with the pronoun เค้า for "I".

When to use it?
ตัว เอง should only be used for close friends, in a romantic relationship, or for your own child.

มัน - it/he/she (very vulgar when used as he/she)

มัน is very different when being used for things ("it") or people (he/she).
  • มัน is completely fine when used for things.
  • When มัน is used for people, it is seen as impolite, disrespectful, vulgar, and offensive. 
When to use it?
Do not use this with strangers, or in the presence of people of high status, unless you want to provoke them. 

หล่อน - she (not often used)

Although หล่อน means "she" or "her" in Thai, it is not often used, except in TV dramas or when gossipping.  Thais also use it jokingly.

When to use it?
Thai learners should not use it.
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