Thailand | Learn To Read Thai - Tutorial 12

Page Contents



Lots of Thais live on this Soi

Lots of Thais live on this Soi





Learn To Read Thai - Tutorial 12

Question From A reader

Pronunciation of the character seems to change according to the character at the end of the word. Is that correct?

For example, หนึ่ง appears to begin with an "N" while หมื่น is pronounced starting with an "M". Even more confusing is หก whereby it seems to become an "H" (respectively, numbers "1", "10.000" and "6").

Does it only apply to numbers, or can I expect the same weird rules to apply to words as well?


No, your theory isn't correct. This has nothing to do with numbers, but everything to do with tone rules. The pronunciation of the hor heep character doesn't change; it's actually quite consistent. What may seem weird at first is actually quite logical. The only confusing thing is that it is sometimes used for tone rule purposes only, in which case it becomes silent.

On its own, this character makes an 'H' sound as an initial consonant. It is never used as a final consonant. Unfortunately, the following examples use some characters and rules that I haven't covered yet so I will need to do some more explaining as we go along.

First example:


This word consists only of two consonants but what I need to introduce now is the inherent/implied/unwritten vowel rule. I will explain more later but with a single syllable word such as this, an unwritten 'o' vowel is used between the consonants.

The initial consonant is 'H' and the final consonant is an unreleased 'K' sound. The implied vowel is 'O' so therefore the word is hok, which is Thai for six.

Tone: High-class initial consonant, dead syllable, short vowel = Low tone (Tutorial 14)

Second example:


At the beginning of this word you can see:


When these two consonants are used at the beginning of a word, the first one is silent and only there for tone rule purposes. The second written consonant makes an 'N' sound (see Tutorial 8) but it is the first spoken consonant so that is the sound the word begins with.

The 'N' sound consonant is low class but writing hor heep before it makes it high class. Apart from changing the class of the next consonant, hor heep does nothing else and is silent.

The vowel used in this word (written above the consonant) is impossible to transcribe into English but is usually written 'eu' and is short. You will also notice the first tone mark. The final consonant is the 'ng' character so we get neung, the Thai word for one.

Tone: High-class initial consonant and first tone mark = Low tone (Tutorial 14)

Third example:


At the beginning of this word you can see:


In exactly the same way as the example above, the first character is only used for tone purposes and is silent. What is written as the second consonant is actually the first voiced consonant. It is the mor maa character (see Tutorial 8).

The vowel used in this word is another one that I haven't covered yet. It is similar to the one used in the example above apart from the fact it is slightly longer. It is also normally written 'eu'. The final consonant is the 'n' sound consonant. Again, you will notice the first tone mark.

The word meun means 10,000 in Thai and the tone is the same as the example above.

Tone: High-class initial consonant and first tone mark = Low tone (Tutorial 14)

Return to top of page


Thai is a tonal language so obviously tones are very important. In the examples I have given so far, we have seen there are various things that affect the tone (low, falling, mid, rising, high) of a word or syllable. What is the class of the initial consonant (low, mid, high)? Is a tone mark used? Is the syllable live or dead? Is the vowel short or long?

Do not confuse initial consonant class with tone.

Using the hor heep character before an initial consonant is just another way that the tone can be changed because what this does is change the class of the initial consonant from whatever it was to high.

In the same way, the or aang silent consonant can be used in front of the yor yuk consonant to change it from low to mid class (see Tutorial 11).

For a future tutorial I intend doing a complete summary of tone rules. I hope this helps. Some things can seem confusing at first but they aren't once you get used to it. Persevere and keep asking questions!

Return to top of page

Questions And Feedback

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to contact me. Your feedback will help me to improve these pages.

Recommended Books

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon US

Return to top of page

Downloadable Worksheets

Downloadable worksheets

The best way to remember the various characters used in Thai script is by writing them down on paper. In addition to improving your writing skills, the very act of writing the characters on paper will commit them to memory.

This is how Thai children learn and it is a very effective approach. The best way to practice your writing is by using the same worksheets that Thai children use. They are available everywhere in Thailand, but a lot more difficult to find outside of Thailand.

Downloadable Worksheets

Visit Thailand

Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia. used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand