Telling time in Thai is not as simple as you likely thought, unfortunately. There are a few pieces of vocabulary you need to learn, and likely an entirely new system. Remembering the different vocabulary and this system may be a challenge at first.
This is a skill that can make you feel much more fluent in the language, but yet often gets overlooked. Every time you look at a clock you can practice this skill and very soon you will be able to do it with no second thought.
Continuing our look into all number-related things in Thai, we will today cover how to tell the time in Thai.
As you may expect, the foundation you need to learn Thai time vocabulary is the number system. We have covered Thai numbers and counting in a previous post, so I suggest you check that one out before reading this one.
Once you have a basic understanding of Thai numbers, then you can start to look into this new skill. Ready? Let’s get started.
This is the point that I should mention that, in Thailand, they generally split the day up into five four hour periods, and two one hour periods. Each of these time frames is given a specific word that changes at certain times of the day. Think of these as classifiers for the time of day.
Midnight is ‘tiang keun’ (เที่ยงคืน). This is the time between 00:00 and 00:59.
|12 am||tiang keun|
Early morning is ‘dtee’ (ตี). This is the time between 01:00 and 05:00.
|1 am||dtee neung|
|2 am||dtee song|
|3 am||dtee sam|
|4 am||dtee sii|
|5 am||dtee ha|
Daytime is ‘mong chao’ (โมงเช้า). This is the time between 06:00 and 11:00. (The ‘chao’ is optional in this case, and should not be said when not on the hour).
|6 am||hok mong (chao)|
|7 am||jet mong (chao)|
|8 am||bpaed mong (chao)|
|9 am||gao mong (chao)|
|10 am||sip mong (chao)|
|11 am||sip et mong (chao)|
Midday is ‘tiang’ (เที่ยง). This is the time between 12:00 and 12:59.
Early afternoon is ‘bai’ (โมง). This is the time between 13:00 and 16:00. (‘mong’ can be left off where noted).
|1 pm||bai mong|
|2 pm||bai song (mong)|
|3 pm||bai sam (mong)|
|4 pm||bai sii (mong)|
Late afternoon is ‘yen’ (เย็น). This is the time between 16:00 and 18:00. (There is some overlap here - 16:00 can count as either ‘bai’ or ‘yen’. Also, the ‘yen’ is not said when not on the hour).
|4 pm||sii mong yen|
|5 pm||ha mong yen|
|6 pm||hok mong yen|
Nighttime is ‘thoom’ (ทุ่ม). This is the time between 19:00 and 23:00. (Here the numbering differs - the ‘thoom’ starts its own counting from one).
|7 pm||neung thoom|
|8 pm||song thoom|
|9 pm||sam thoom|
|10 pm||sii thoom|
|11 pm||ha thoom|
Confused? It is understandable. The changing of time frame length, the situation of 16:00, the use of ‘mong’ sometimes but not others, and the weird ordering of numbers make it much less simple.
Let’s jump right into how to start reading the clock. There are a couple of words that you should learn.
Minute in Thai is ‘na thee’ (นาที), and is used in the same way as in English.
Half in Thai is ‘kreung’ (ครึ่ง). It can be used to mean half past the hour.
15:30 would be ‘bai sam kreung’ (บ่ายสามครึ่ง).
17:24 would be ‘ha mong yii sip sii na thee’ (ห้าโมงยี่สิบสี่นาที).
07:45 would be ‘jet mong sii sip ha na thee’ (เจ็ดโมงสี่สิบห้านาที).
Unfortunately, telling time in Thailand is not as straightforward as one may think. There are a few weird quirks that make it just a bit harder to get used to and master. Knowing the Thai number system is a great start for learning the time. From there, you will need to apply this structure and these pieces of vocabulary to get going with this. As with anything, time and dedication will help you to perfect this new skill. You won’t regret it.
The best way to learn Thai time? Try the Ling Thai app. It is a great way to really learn the vocabulary and get used to using it in different sentences and scenarios. Give it a try today.
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