Personal pronouns in Thai language.

Sawatdee ka,

In English the pronoun “you” is good to use to call anyone whether he/she is older or younger than you, even at the same age.

Thai culture is based on people’s seniority, so it is not nice and polite to call people who are older than you only by their names.  Then what we should call them?

The word พี่ “pîihas a particularly wide range of use, which includes

– a friend or colleague who is  older

– wives addressing husbands,

– service-industry workers addressing customers,

and complete strangers striking up a conversation with someone older.

** It is often followed by personal names or nicknames.

Kin terms are commonly used as pronouns. For example, a mother will call herself “mêa” (แม่) which means ‘mother’ rather than chán (ชั้น) I when talking to her child and address her child as “lûuk” (ลูก) rather than other pronouns.

แม่ไม่ชอบ [mêa mâi chôrp]

I(Mother speaking) don’t like it.

ลูกจะไปไหน [lûuk jà bpai năi]

Where are you (parents addressing child) going?

Other personal pronouns (Kin term) that are commonly used are:

พ่อ [pâw]    = father

แม่ [mâe]     = mother

ป้า [bpâa]    = aunt (older sister of parents)

ลุง [lung]     = uncle (older brother of parents)

น้า [náa]      = aunt/uncle (younger brother/sister of mother)

อา [aa]         = aunt/uncle (younger brother/sister of father)

ปู่ [bpùu]      = grandfather (father’s father)

ย่า [yâa]       = grandmother (father’s mother)

ตา [dtaa]     = grandfather (mother’s father)

ยาย [yaai]   = grandmother (mother’s mother)

Kin terms can be used as first, second or third person pronouns; therefore, depending on the context. The use of kin terms extends to include those who are not blood relations.

For example: by addressing an elderly man as “lung” ลุง (uncle)

The speaker immediately creates an atmosphere of informality and friendliness:)

*** Personal names or nicknames are also commonly used as personal pronouns. Using one’s name or more commonly, nickname instead of an ‘I’ word is characteristic of female speech but much less common among men.***

Click here to learn more about pronoun “I”.

Click here to learn more about pronoun “you”.


CHOKE-Dee ka:)

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8 Responses to Personal pronouns in Thai language.

  1. June 18/03/2017 at 07:29 #

    How would you say great grandmother or your grandmother/father’s mother? Thank you for posting this by the way, it is very helpful 🙂

    • Mod 21/03/2017 at 16:05 #

      We call them “ทวด /tûad/”.

  2. Amy 22/05/2016 at 15:50 #

    I love this can you please tell me how to adress someone younger then you who is not a relative is it yeung I am not sure

    • June 18/03/2017 at 07:30 #

      You would say the same thing as you would say to a relative, “nong”

  3. BT 31/05/2014 at 10:38 #

    How to address a sister of my father’s father?

    • Mod 02/06/2014 at 22:08 #

      You call her like she was your paternal grandmother which is ย่า /yâa/ 🙂

  4. Jon 27/07/2012 at 14:47 #

    Thanks for posting this Kruu Mod, can you please tell me the best way to address elderly Thai parents of a friend when visiting their home? In the past I have used khun yai and khun daa when addressing my farang friend’s Thai mother and father in- law. Also, if you are addressing elderly Thai males and females that you don’t know very well, is there a common way of addressing them that is both respectful and friendly without being too formal? Kob khun mahk khrap, Jon.

    • Mod 28/07/2012 at 23:01 #

      yin dee ka:)
      We usually put these kin term before their names:
      ป้า [bpâa] = aunt (if she seems older than your mom)
      ลุง [lung] = uncle (if he seems older than your dad)
      น้า [náa] or อา [aa] = aunt/uncle (if she/he seems younger than your parents)

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