The Thai consonants

Created 1st February, 2005 13:09 (UTC), last edited 6th May, 2006 10:42 (UTC)

Every Thai consonant has a name that comprises the letter followed by a noun the features the letter. Although this helps many of the nouns are still very similar (especially until you get your ear practised in the difference between aspirated and unaspirated consonants).

Thai doesn’t feature plural forms so all of the nouns can be used to refer to many of the item. To start with I'll always make this explicit.

  • ก ไก่
  • Chicken/chickens
  • Ko Kai—although I'd prefer Goh Gai

This is the first letter of the Thai alphabet. Although often written as a 'K', it is normally pronounced more softly. Pronounce as a hard 'G'.

  • ข ไข่
  • Egg/eggs
  • Kho Khai

Many of the Thai letters come in pairs like ก ไก่ (Ko Kai) and ข ไข่ (Kho Khai) do. They are known as 'sisters'.

This letter is pronounced as a normal English ‘K’.

  • ฃ ขวด
  • Bottle/bottles
  • Kho Khuat

This is one of two letters that have been removed from the Thai alphabet. The Thai word for bottle now starts with ข (Kho Khai). This is probably just as well because unless the letters are written very large they look extremely similar.

  • ค ควาย
  • Buffalo/buffaloes
  • Kho Khwai

Another aspirated ‘K’ sound.

If you do want to say buffalo, then don’t shorten the vowel sound for fear of saying something quite rude…

  • ฅ คน
  • Person/people
  • Kho Khon

Again, another letter that is pronounced as an English ‘K’, but not to worry as the letter (along with ฃ ขวด, Kho Khuat) isn’t in use any more.

  • ฆ ระฆัง
  • Bell
  • Kho Rakhang

Yes, another ‘K’ sound.

  • ง งู
  • Snake
  • Ngo Ngu

This is probably the single hardest letter to pronounce. It is fine when it comes at the end of a syllable like it does in (Bangkok), but is pretty difficult when it some at the beginning like in งู (snake).

Take the word ‘Birmingham’ (you need to say this in a London accent rather than a Brummy one though). The feature of this is that the ‘ingham’ in the middle features a very soft ‘ng’ sound. This is the sound that you are aiming for. If you say it in a Brummy or Dudley accent the ‘ng’ sound will be too hard for Thai.

Getting this sound right so that you can say งู (snake) and be understood may take months. Start with saying sing, then move on to ing and then end with ng.

  • จ จาน
  • Plate/plates
  • Cho Chan

There are many letters that are transliterated as ‘ch’. This one doesn’t sound a bit like ‘ch’ in English though. It is actually pronounced as a hard ‘J’ like the sound that appears twice in ‘Judge’.

  • ฉ ฉิ่ง
  • Cymbal/cymbals
  • Cho Ching

This letter is pronounced as you would expect it to be. It is spoken like the ‘ch’ at the beginning of ‘Chingford’, although the ‘ching’ in the name features a much longer ‘i’ sound.

  • ช ช้าง
  • Elephant/elephants
  • Cho Chang

‘Chang’ here is pronounced exactly like you would expect it to be. Nice and easy, and a very cool noun as it refers both to elephants and to the beer.

  • ซ โซ่
  • Chain/chains
  • So So

An ‘S’. This one is often used to transliterate s sounds from English.

  • ฌ เฌอ
  • Tree/trees (but not forest)
  • Cho Choe

This is pronounced the same way as ช ช้ง (cho chang), a hard ‘ch’ (think cherry rather than chérie

  • ญ หญิง
  • Woman/women
  • Yo Ying

Pronounced exactly as you would expect it to be pronounced, as in yellow.

  • ฎ ชฏา
  • Crown/crowns
  • Do Chada

This is a hard, aspirated, d sound.

  • ฏ ปฏัก
  • Spear/spears
  • To Patak

A very soft ‘T’ sound.

  • ฐ ฐาน
  • Plinth/plinths
  • Tho Than

A hard ‘T’ sound.

  • ฑ มณโฑ
  • Young girl/girls
  • Tho montho

A very short hard ‘T’ sound.

Actually the word is for a girl in a fairy story.

  • ฒ ผู้เฒ่า
  • Old man/men
  • Tho Puthao

A long hard ‘T’ sound.

  • ณ เณร
  • Young monk/monks
  • No Nen

A normal ‘N’.

  • ด เด็ก
  • Baby/babies
  • Do Dek

A normal, hard ‘D’ sound.

  • ต เต่า
  • Turtle/turtles
  • To Tao

A very soft, clipped ‘T’ sound.

  • ถ ถุง
  • Bag/bags
  • Tho Thung

A normal, hard ‘T’ sound.

  • ท ทหาร
  • Soldier/soldiers
  • Tho Thahan

A normal, hard ‘T’ sound.

In western looking fonts this will normally be drawn to look like a Latin ‘n’.

  • ธ ธง
  • Flag/flags
  • Tho Thong

A normal, hard ‘T’ sound.

  • น หนู
  • Mouse/mice (or rat/rats)
  • No Nu

A normal ‘N’ sound.

  • บ ใบไม้
  • Leaf/leaves (from a tree though, not a book)
  • Bo Baimai

A ‘B’ sound.

  • ป ปลา
  • Fish
  • Po Pla

A soft, clipped ‘P’ sound.

  • ผ ผึ้ง
  • Bee/bees
  • Pho Phung

A normal ‘P’.

  • ฝ ฝา
  • Lid/lids
  • Fo Fa

A normal ‘F’ sound.

  • พ พาน
  • Vessel/vessels—actually a special form of religious vessel
  • Pho Phan

A normal ‘P’.

  • ฟ ฟัน
  • Tooth/teeth
  • Fo Fun

A normal ‘F’ sound.

  • ภ สำเภา
  • Sailing ship/ships
  • Pho Samphao

A normal ‘P’ sound, but with extra aeration.

  • ม ม้า
  • Horse/horses
  • Mo Ma

A perfectly normal ‘M’ sound.

  • ย ยักษ์
  • Giant/giants
  • Yo Yak

Like the start of ‘Yellow.

  • ร เรือ
  • Boat/boats
  • Ro Rua

This is a rolled ‘R’ sound. Sometimes it’s pronounced as an ‘L’ though. At the end of a word/syllable it will normally be pronounced as an ‘N’.

Two of them together in a word or syllable will be pronounced as an ‘O’ vowel.

  • Rue

This letter is used for some Sanskrit words and isn’t in common use.

  • ล ลิง
  • Monkey/monkeys
  • Lo Ling

An ‘L’ sound.

This will sometimes be pronounced as an ‘R’. At the end of words/syllables it may be changed to an ‘N’.

  • Rue

Another Sanskrit letter not in common use.

  • ว แหวน
  • Ring/rings
  • Wo Waen

A normal ‘W’ sound.

  • ศ ศาลา
  • Open hall/halls
  • So Sala

A simple ‘S’ sound.

  • ษ ฤษี
  • Yogi
  • So Rusi

An ‘S’ sound.

  • ส เสือ
  • Tiger/tigers
  • So Sua

Another ‘S’.

  • ห หีบ
  • Box/boxes
  • Ho Heep

A ‘H’ sound as in the beginning of ‘Hat’.

  • ฬ จุฬา
  • Kite/kites
  • Lo Chula

An ‘L’ sound, but sometimes pronounced nearer to a rolled ‘R’.

‘R’ and ‘L’ sounds are often interchangeable in Thai.

  • อ อ่าง
  • Water tub/tubs
  • O Ang

An ‘O’ sound.

This letter is often not pronounced and acts as a placeholder for vowels that are written before it, below it, or above it. Sometimes all three and after as well.

  • ฮ นกฮูก
  • Bird/birds
  • Ho Nokhook

A soft ‘H’ sound as in ‘Hook’.