Podcast episodes

28: Listener Q&A – Your Thai grammar questions on เป็น, ได้, etc.

** Timestamp & Sentences **
Thai transcription provided by Capital letters at the end of each syllable indicate tones.


  1. What is a difference between เป็น “bpen” and ได้ “dai” which mean “can”?

Nan’s answer:
เป็น “bpen” and ได้ “dai” might be interchangeable, and in many cases the meaning is not much different.
To say “John says he can cook Thai food”, the following two options are good:
khoonM jaawnM baawkL waaF khaoR thamM aaM haanR thaiM bpenM
khoonM jaawnM baawkL waaF khaoR thamM aaM haanR thaiM daiF

However, there are cases where meanings of “bpen” and “dai” are quite different. In such cases, “bpen” emphasizes on ability, while “dai” emphasizes on permission or external factors.

In the following examples, we are talking about “can” as in ability, so we use “bpen”
khaoR chaiH meetF bpenM
“He can use a knife.” “He knows how to use a knife.”
khaoR waaiF naamH bpenM
“He can swim.”

In the following example, we are talking about “can” as in permission, so we use “dai”
khoonM jaawtL rohtH theeF neeF daiF
“You can park the car here.”

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  1. When do we use “bpen” for “is / am / are”?

Nan’s answer:
We use “bpen” when what follows is a noun – words referring to a person, an object or a thing.
In the following examples, what follows “is” are “friend” and “Thai food”. These words are nouns, so we use “bpen”.
khaoR bpenM pheuuanF
“He is a friend.”
sohmF dtamM bpenM aaM haanR thaiM
“Som Tum is a Thai food”.

We don’t use “bpen” when what follows is an adjective – words referring to attributes, like “big, small, good, bad, happy, sad”.
In the following example, what follows “is” is “tasty” which is an adjective.
aaM haanR aL raawyL maakF
“The food is very tasty.”


  1. Thai learning resource recommendations

Nan’s answer:
Textbook: Teach Yourself Thai or Complete Thai by David Smyth
Handwriting practices


  1. Do I offer tutoring lessons?

Nan’s answer:
Not at the moment, but you can always send questions for future Q&A episodes to 🙂

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