VIDEO : Understand Thai verb ‘to be’

I always say that if you want to speak Thai correctly, one of the first things you should learn is “Thai verb to be” because it is different from English.

Thai uses several different verbs to translate English ‘is/am/are’, ‘was/were’. The most important are เป็น [bpen] , อยู่ [yùu] and คือ [kue]

1. เป็น [bpen]

A must know rule for เป็น [bpen] is “it is always followed by a noun or noun phrases; it cannot be followed by an adjective:

The pattern of using เป็น [bpen] is “SUBJECT + เป็น [bpen] + noun”

เขาเป็นเพื่อน [káo bpen pûean]
She is a friend.

พวกเขาเป็นคนอเมริกา [pûak- káo bpen kon à-may-rí-gaa]
They are American.

ฉันเป็นครู [chán bpen kruu]
I am a teacher.

* Adjectives in Thai doesn’t need a verb to be:

อาหารแพง [aa-hăan pang]
The food is expensive.

กรุงเทพฯร้อน [grung-tâpe ráwn]
Bangkok is hot.


Negative of “to be – เป็น bpen” is ไม่ใช่ mâi-châi (not mâi bpen). It is put before nouns for the negative.

เขาไม่ใช่คนอังกฤษ [kăo mâi-châi kon ang-grìt]

He is not English.


เขาไม่ใช่ผู้หญิง [kăo mâi-châi pûu-yǐng]

She is not a woman.


We negate adjective with ไม่ mâi : subject + ไม่ mâi + adjective

วันนี้ไม่ร้อน [wan-níi mâi ráwn]

Today is not hot.

ภาษาไทยไม่ยาก  [paa-săa tai mái yâak]

Thai language is not difficult.



1. I am American.

ผม/ฉันเป็นคนอเมริกา [pŏm/chăn bpen kon à-may-rí-gaa]

2. She is a friend.

เขาเป็นเพื่อน [káo bpen pûean]

3. The movie is fun.

หนังสนุก [năng sà-nùk]

4.  The hotel is beautiful.

โรงแรมสวย [roong-raem sŭai]

5. They are not Thai.

พวกเขาไม่ใช่คนไทย [pûak-kăo mâi-châi kon tai]

6. Green curry is not spicy.

แกงเขียวหวานไม่เผ็ด [gaeng kǐaw-wăan mâi pèt]


2. อยู่ [yùu]



อยู่ [yùu] (‘to be situated at’) is used to describe the location:

The pattern of using อยู่ [yùu] is “SUBJECT + อยู่ [yùu] + PREPOSITION + location”

แมวอยู่ใต้โต๊ะ [meaw yùu dtâi dtó]
A cat is under the table.

นมอยู่ในตู้เย็น [nom yùu nai dtûu-yen]
Milk is in the fridge.

แม่อยู่ที่โรงพยาบาล [ mâe yùu têe roong pá-yaa-baan]
Mom is at the hospital.

*Tips : for the preposition ‘ที่ têe’ can be dropped out, so you might hear Thai people say mom is hospital แม่อยู่โรงพยาบาล [mâe yùu roong pá-yaa-baan]

Useful Prepositions

at = tîi ที่

in = nai ใน

on =bon บน

under = dtâai ใต้

between = rá-wàang ระหว่าง

opposite = dtrong-kâam ตรงข้าม

in front of = kâang-nâa ข้างหน้า

behind = kâang-lǎng ข้างหลัง

next to = dtit-gàp ติดกับ

upstairs = kâang bon ข้างบน

downstairs = kâang lâang ข้างล่าง

inside = kâang nai ข้างใน

outside = kâang nâwk ข้างนอก

near = glâi ใกล้

far = glai ไกล


Are you near the protest area?


kun yùu glâi tîi chum-num rúe-bplàao?

(ที่ชุมนุม /tîi chum-num/ protest area)

NOTE: Question word “รึเปล่า /rúe-bplàao/” is used to form yes/no questions when there is verb to be in the sentence, instead of มั้ย /mái?/.



1. I am at the airport


pŏm/chăn yùu tîi sà-năam-bin

2. The restaurant is in soi 11.
ร้านอาหารอยู่ในซอย 11
ráan-aa-hăan yùu nai soi 11

3. Where do you work?


kun tam-ngaan tîi-nai?

(This sentence is not asking where something is located (no verb to), ‘yùu’ is not needed.)

4. I work at the airport.


pŏm/chăn tam-ngaan tîi sà-năam-bin

5. Where is the airport?


sà-năam-bin yùu tîi-nai?

6. The airport is near the train station.

sà-năam-bin yùu glâi sà-tăa-nii rót-fai.


3. คือ [kue]

คือ [kue] means ‘is equal to’ or ‘namely’ and it is used when giving explanations, clarifications and definitions.

ความรัก คือ ความเข้าใจ [kwaam-rák kue kwaam kâo-jai]
Love is understanding.

In some instances, คือ [kue] is used in introductions and identifying people:

นี่คือน้องชายของฉัน [nêe kue nóng-chaai kŏrng chăn]
This is my little brother.


Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions.


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25 Responses to VIDEO : Understand Thai verb ‘to be’

  1. M'leigha Buchanan 19/02/2017 at 12:16 #

    What if you’re introducing someone to someone, or saying someone’s maiden name is? Like, my grandmother’s maiden name is Hanching. คุณยายของฉัน (เป็น)(คือ)(มี่) ฮานฉีง.

    • Mod 09/04/2017 at 11:07 #

      Maiden name in Thai is นามสกุลก่อนแต่งงาน /naam-sà-gun gàwn dtàeng-ngaan/ literally translated to the surname before getting marriage. So you would say นามสกุลก่อนแต่งงานของยาย คือ ฮานฉึง .

  2. sylvain 11/05/2016 at 13:30 #

    Hi teatchers,

    Still no way to subscribe to your newsletter when in France?

    It’s a pity!

    • Paul Hamon 12/09/2017 at 07:23 #

      On the front page, actually almost all pages of the website:

      Subscribe to newsletter

  3. Henry 03/11/2014 at 06:27 #

    I am confused, I’ve seen so many online lessons saying that “Kao” is equivalent to “He”. She is “Ter,” Isn’t that right?

    • Mod 05/03/2015 at 11:04 #

      In present spoken Thai, เค้า /káo/ is used for ‘he, she, his, her’. เธอ /ter/ is commonly used for ‘you’ when addressing a close female friend. It is quite old-fashinoed to use ‘ter’ for she or her now. 🙂

  4. John 22/07/2014 at 14:34 #

    hi mod ,
    firstly can I say your videos are great, Last year we visited Asia and loved it, in fact one of us is still there, I would like to know how to say I will be , or video about making plans

    take care


  5. อิโก 01/07/2014 at 19:47 #


    I am a little confuse about the tone for เขา

    Sometimes it is marked to be high tone: เขาเป็นเพื่อน [káo bpen pûean]
    Sometimes it is marked to be rising tone: เขาไม่ใช่ผู้หญิง [kăo mâi-châi pûu-yǐng]

    Until now, I thought เ_า is spoken short, but for determining the tone it is considered long.
    So, together with the high-class consonant ข it should have rising tone.

    How can a syllable with high-class initial consonant have a high tone without any tone mark?
    Is there any additional rule that I have not learned yet?

    • Mod 01/07/2014 at 23:12 #


      I am sorry for the confusion. There are actually two spellings and two pronunciations for this word.
      [1] “เขา /kăo/” which is used in a written Thai, but nobody pronounces ‘rising tone’ in real life conversation so there is the second spelling to match the real pronunciation which is [2] เค้า /káo/

      I personally often write ‘káo’ to match the common pronunciation, but sometimes I write in Thai เขา.

  6. Kunga 13/04/2014 at 01:59 #

    It’s wonderful to learn thai with you. I will keep on following your video lessons n thanks a lot.!!! Cheers!!

  7. sawatdeelim 18/02/2014 at 22:22 #

    The most beautiful Mod in Thailand!! good lesson!! kob khun krab

    • Mod 20/02/2014 at 16:19 #

      Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

  8. Blaise 26/01/2014 at 16:55 #

    hello Mod, your lessons have been so good. Thanks.

  9. Jacek 13/01/2014 at 13:47 #

    And what will be the positive and negative answer to the question: คุณอยู่ใกล้ที่ชุมนุมรึเปล่า

    kun yùu glâi tîi chum-num rúe-bplàao?

    “Yuu/mai yuu” or “chai/mai chai” or maybe something else?

    • Mod 13/01/2014 at 14:06 #

      Good question. I am sorry I forgot to explain how to answer.
      We answer a rúe-bplàao question like we answer a mái question: for ‘yes’ answer, we repeat the words before the question word (yùu) , for ‘no’answer, we say mâi yùu.

      • Jacek 14/01/2014 at 11:01 #

        Thank you. Very good lesson!

  10. Klaus Rueth 30/01/2013 at 12:15 #

    Pom rack palayah ?
    I Love my Wife

    • Mod 30/01/2013 at 12:34 #

      wife in Thai is ภรรยา /pan-ra-yaa/
      my wife in Thai structure is ‘wife my’ >> pan-ra-yaa korng pom
      so it is “pom rak pan-ra-yaa korng pom” 🙂

  11. Klaus Rueth 30/01/2013 at 12:07 #

    Kop kun Krap, I like the way you teach 😀

  12. Rhys 21/01/2012 at 12:35 #

    Hi, I was hoping you could help me, I am trying to do a revision sheet for my Thai students. I am looking for the Thai script for “that is…”, I pretty sure it is said “Nang kur” (This is = Nee kur; That is = Nang kur), I just can’t seem to find the Thai script. Any help would be greatly appreciated

  13. John 16/01/2012 at 09:11 #

    Very good summary of “เป็น” and “อยู่”.

    Thank you.

  14. ryan 15/01/2012 at 14:11 #

    ความรัก คือ ความเข้าใจ [kwaam-rák kue kwaam kâ-jai]
    u mean kao jai?

    • Mod 16/01/2012 at 10:31 #

      Yes, that’s right. Thank you for correcting my mistake. kop kun ka:)

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