THAI LANGUAGE LESSONS
L30 - Phrases and Idioms
Phrases and idioms are a good way to express yourself and will also help you pick up a few new words. Most languages have a rich variety of idioms and sayings and Thai is certainly no exception. The Thais can be very creative in the way they use their langauge to express ideas. Some of their sayings can be very colourful and others very obscue.
We will just look at a few simpler ones that you may get a chance to use or hear in everyday conversation.
- som nam nah ( Serves you right )
- This is a very popular Thai idiom. It literally means
sour water face. The implication being the subject got what they deserved.
The subject did something bad and got the sourness right back in their
own face. It very neatly matches the English phrase 'it serves you right'.
- tam dee dai dee ( do good, get good )
- A nice simple phrase to understand and use. If you do
good, you will get good in return, similar to the English phrase 'what
goes around, comes around'. Note how the Thai word dai that
more usually means 'can do', is in this situation
better translated as 'get'. When dai is used with a verb
it means 'can', e.g. tam dai means
'can do'. When dai is used before a noun or adjective it better translates
as 'get' or 'receive', e.g. dai dtung is to 'get money'.
- mai lorng mai roo ( If you don't try, you don't know)
- Anoher nice simple one that is pretty much self explanatory
- lorng is 'try' as in to test something out, roo is
'know'. Remember roo is
to know something, if you want to say you know someone you use roo-jahk.
Also remember the Thai habit of changing 'r' to 'l' so it is often pronounced loo.
- arai ja gert gor hai mun gert ( Whatever happens, let it happen)
- This is close to the English idiom 'what will be, will
be' although it also has a hint of 'leave things alone'. Gert is
arai ja gert = 'what will happen'. Gor can
roughly be translated as 'then' and hai mun gert is 'let
- mee dtung por chai ( have enough money to live)
- The implication of this is you have enough money to live
but nothing spare. The literal word-for-word translation is 'have money
- khun chai dtung geng ( You're good at spending money)
- Another using money phrase. This one is usually used jokingly
to mock the subject that they spend extravagently. Note the use of chai again
as 'use' and geng as an adjective for being
good at something. The literal word for word translation is 'you use money
- son meu-an ling ( mischievous like a monkey)
- This one is usually used to describe mischievous
children. Son (rhymes with con) is 'naughty' or 'mischievous',
meu-an is 'same' or 'like' and ling is
- mah jahk dao ang kahn ( comes from Mars)
- This one is used to describe something (or someone) as
being strange or unusual. The planet Mars is dao ang
- ok hak dee kwah rak mai pen ( broken hearted is better than cannot love)
- This one is similar to the English idiom 'it is better
to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all'. The ok hak is
literally 'break chest' and basically means 'broken
hearted', dee kwah is 'better than' and rak mai
pen is 'love cannot' or
'unable to love'.
- naam mah, plah gin mot, naam lot, mot gin plah ( When the water is in, the fish eat the ants, when the water is out, the ants eat the fish)
- Ok, let's finish with a longer and more idiosyncraticcally
Thai idiom. This one means everybody gets a turn so could be compared to
the English idiom 'every dog has his day'. The word-for-word translation
is 'water comes, fish eat ants, water falls, ants eat fish'. That is, when
the tide is in, the fish can eat the ants but when the tide is out the
ants eat the fish that are left behind.
Have fun trying out a few of the above.