I have been asked many times regarding pronouns. It seems to be a simple thing, but somehow Thai pronouns are a little bit complicated since they are so many words to use.
Today I would like to talk about the pronouns “I” which vary on age, social status, gender, the relationship between speakers, the formality of the situation and individual personality.
 ดิฉัน, ดิชั้น, ฉัน หรือ ชั้น [dì chăn, dì chán, chăn or chán]
First of all, please forget the words “ดิฉัน, ดิชั้น [dì chăn, dì chán]” because nobody uses these words in normal circumstance in the present day anymore. (Unless you are talking to members of royal family) If you heard anyone uses them please let me know.
“ฉัน หรือ ชั้น [chăn or chán]” : ฉัน[chăn] sounds old fashioned, so out of the above four words you will hear Thai people use only ‘ชั้น [chán]’ which is commonly used by females. Some males use ‘ชั้น [chán]’ when talking to close female friends or relative.
When to use ชั้น [chán]: It is mostly used among close friends, and some female elderly use when talking to younger people or strangers.
NOTE: Some Thai men use ‘chan’ when speaking to “very close female friends” , not to men nor older and younger women.
For example, My little brother refers to himself as ‘chan’ when he is speaking to his close female friends, sometimes he uses ‘chan’ when speaking to me although I am older, but this is an exception since we are very close.
 ผม [pŏm’]
It is used by males only.
When to use ผม [pŏm’]: It is general pronoun that can be used in most situations, ranging from polite to intimate, but it is not used with young children.
 เรา [rao]
I think most people understand that ‘เรา [rao]’ means ‘we’ only, it also means ‘I’ used by both males and females.
When to use เรา [rao]: It is mostly used when talking to friends in the same age.
 เค้า [káo]
If you are asking เค้า [káo] is also used as “I” rather than ‘he and she’, my answer is yes it is 🙂
When to use เค้า [káo]: It is used by both males and females when talking to very intimate person i.e. your boyfriend or girlfriend. My little brother, sister and I sometimes use เค้า [káo] when we talk to each other.
 หนู [nŭu]
หนู [nŭu] literally means mouse. It is also a pronoun used by children or females.
When to use หนู [nŭu] : Children use it when talking to adults, some girls and young women use it when talking to superior, for example, female students to teachers, secretaries to bosses, etc. I don’t use it anymore though.
 กู [guu]
This word is not polite, but both females and males use it when talking to very close friends, and it is fine. Please don’t use it if you are not sure who to use it with, it is very rude. Some people use it when they are very angry.
 Personal names
Personal names or nicknames are also commonly used as personal pronouns. It is very commonly among women, but much less among men.
When to use nicknames: It is commonly used by young females talking to adults. I use it all the time when talking to other adult people.
 Kin terms are commonly used as pronouns. For example, a father will refer to himself as พ่อ [pâw] ‘father’ rather than ผม ‘pŏm’ when talking to his son.
See other kin terms here: http://wp.me/p1dKYh-ba
Click here to learn more about pronouns “You”
I hope this lesson help you to choose which pronouns is appropriate to use in the future 🙂
If I’m 30 years old and female, what should I use with waitresses/waiters/strangers/แม่ค้าพ่อค้า of roughly the same age? I’ve been living in Thailand for 4 years and this is the one thing I have yet to figure out properly ?
You can use either พี่ or น้อง. 🙂
Hello Mod, if I can’t use Pom when talking with a young child what should I use instead? Thanks Hoo
You can address yourself with the kind term such as;
– If you are an uncle then use ลุง /lung/
– If you are a brother , then use the word พี่/pîi/
– If you are a father, then use the word พ่อ /pâw/
Eric Van Calsteren says
I don’t agree about the chan and dichan. In my circles, we use it daily, and we are no royals. Possible you live in the country side?
I have been living in Bangkok for 17 years. It can also depends on the age of the speaker. The old generation might still use “dichan”.
I’m a non-binairy, studying thai…
Are there any more gender neutral pronouns (like rao) and particles (like krab/ka)?
Sawatdee ka, thank you for visiting my website. 🙂
I have a few good friends who are non-binairy. The use of the language depends on the context of the situation. My friends who were born a boy and doesn’t dress up like a woman, they address themselves with their nickname and use ‘krap’ at work but with friends they use “chán” with close friends and “rao” with not so close friends. For those who dress up like a woman, they speak like they are a woman. For girls who dress up like a man,they also speak like a man.
What about “Jaa” instead of “Ka” or “krub”?
“จ้ะ jâ” is usually used by female speaker and use when talking to friends in the same age or younger person or children. Male speakers can use ‘jâ’ when speaking to a younger female.
Wow. Thanks a lot Kru Mod. This is the most enlightening lesson I ever had about Thai pronouns and when to use them.