This is a guideline for Thai learners, so it is heavily simplified. Which particle a Thai speaker uses depends on many factors and can be changed according to the situation or the personal style of the speaker. If you are interested in learning Thai online, please consider our highly interactive, fun and free courses. We make learning fun and even have a course on Thai songs.
The most important particles - ค่ะ ka and ครับ krap
or are the particles you will need every day. Which one you use depends on your sex:
is used by women,
These particles are used the following way:
for politeness: put or at the end of almost every sentence, so you don't sound rude.
to say "yes": if you use these particles by themselves, they mean "yes". You can also use them if someone calls your name, meaning "yes", or "I'm here".
But there are more than two particles
At the end of questions women use , not . (Men continue to use )
is sometimes used by women instead of for saying "yes"
or can be used as polite particles as well and can be used for "yes". They are used by:
by girls/young women
by older women talking to friends or kids
by lovers talking to each other
LGBT use and in questions .
is often used in combination with other particles. You often hear , or at the end of statements. This mainly sounds more "cute". But careful:
+ --> (not )
+ --> (not )
Why are there polite particles?
Western languages use tones for sentences, e.g. you can say "I have a house" in different ways: rising: I have a house? → question medium: I have a house. → normal statement falling: I have a house. → aggressive
In tonal languages like Chinese and Thai, tones are used for words. So it is not clear from the sentence alone if it's a question, a polite statement, a challenge or an impolite statement. So most tonal languages are quite pragmatic: they use an additional word to indicate if it is a question and another for politeness.
These particles are very important in Thai. If you leave them out, your sentence can sound odd or even slightly rude. But if you want to sound agressive or rude, there are specific particles for that.
Also, as mentioned in the introduction, many particles depend on the speaker's style. E.g. some speakers like more playful particles, others don't. As a Thai learner, pick only a few particles that match your character.