Speaking Thai Time
How do I tell the time in Thai? The Thai structure for telling (saying) the time is very different to the western way. If you find yourself having to make an appointment at a certain time in Thailand then knowing how the Thais tell the time might save you some time and misunderstanding. This page will help you tell the time in Thai.
Imagine you are in a restaurant or on the street, you are not wearing your watch and you want to know what time it is. You know it is early evening because the sun has just gone down. You don’t speak the Thai language and you ask the waitress or some neatly dressed Thai girl on the street. "What Time Is It?"
“Could you tell me the time please?” hoping she speaks English. You might have to simplify that and say “What time is it?” pointing to your wrist where you usually wear your watch.
The Thai girl thinks for a few seconds then replies.
You are confused because the sun has just set and you know it should be between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. What the Thai girl really means is that it is “Seven O’clock”
Why does a Thai person tell you it is 1.00 p.m. when it is 7:00 p.m.?
Because the Thais have a unique way of telling the time.
The Thai girl was not accustomed to telling the time to a foreigner. This traditional Thai way of telling the time can create big problems between you and your Thai colleague or sweetheart.
Imagine how you would feel if you have made an appointment with your girl to meet at 1:00 p.m.. You almost kill yourself fighting through the traffic to get there on time then she doesn't arrive. No show!
Let’s take a look at this Colloquial System used in everyday Thai conversation.
The 4 Periods
To speak about the time in Thai language the day is divided into 4 six-hour periods starting at midnight, 6 a.m., midday, and 6 p.m.
Thai language uses a word THOOM to signify a time period which is any time between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. Beginning at 7:00 p.m. there are five counts of the clock. (7,8,9,10,11)
The counting starts at one again at the beginning of each of the four periods.
Do you see why the Thai girl telling the time got confused?
For Thais 7:00 p.m. is “1 THOOM” So when asked what time it is she looks at her watch which displays 7:00 p.m. (one “THOOM” for Thais) so she tells you it is 1 o’clock. It doesn't end there.
We also have two THOOM, three THOOM, four THOOM and so on. Hey. Welcome to Thailand
the land of smiles.
Isn’t this fun?
|7:00 p.m.||หนึ่งทุ่ม||NEUNG (1) THOOM|
|8:00 p.m.||สองทุ่ม||SONG (2) THOOM|
|9:00 p.m.||สองทุ่ม||SAM (3) THOOM|
|10:00 p.m.||สี่ทุ่ม||SEE (4) THOOM|
|11:00 p.m.||ห้าทุ่ม||HA (5) THOOM|
NUENG THOOM means the first strike of the bell in the evening. THOOM signifies it is evening time.
SONG THOOM means 8:00 p.m. the second hour after 6:00 p.m. and the second strike of the bell.
SONG = 2.
To listen to the spoken Thai, press the play button in the play column of each time line.
Just in case you are wondering. Yes there are more time signifiers. Here they are.
DTEE = the period from midnight (GLUNG KEUN) until 6:00 a.m.
CHOW = the period from 6:00 a.m. until midday.
BIA = the period from midday until 6:00 p.m.
To make things a little more interesting these signifiers are placed at different locations around the Thai numbers as follows:
DTEE (after midnight till just before 6 a.m.)
|01:00 a.m.||ตีหนึ่ง||DTEE NEUNG|
|02:00 a.m.||ตีสอง||DTEE SONG|
|03:00 a.m.||ตีสาม||DTEE SAM|
|04:00 a.m.||ตีสี่||DTEE SEE|
|5:00 a.m.||ตีห้า||DTEE HA|
MONG CHOW (6 a.m. till midday)
In some regions of Thailand the morning hours after 6:00 a.m. will be spoken as follows:
SONG MONG CHOW 8 a.m. (The second hour after 6:00 a.m.)
SAM MONG CHOW 8:00 a.m. (The third hour after 6:00 a.m.)
and so on until midday. However the most common way of telling the time in Thai during the morning hours is shown in the following table.
|6:00 a.m.||หกโมงเช้า||HOCK MOHNG CHOW|
|7:00 a.m.||เจ็ดโมงเช้า||JET MOHNG|
|7:00 a.m.||หนึ่งโมงเช้า||NEUNG MOHNG CHOW|
|8:00 a.m.||แปดโมงเช้า||BAD MOHNG CHOW|
|9:00 a.m.||เก้าโมงเช้า||GAOW MOHNG CHOW|
|10:00 a.m.||สิบโมงเช้า||SIP MOHNG CHOW|
|11:00 a.m.||สิบเอ็ดโมงเช้า||SIP ET MOHNG CHOW|
BAI MOHNG (midday till 5 p.m.)
Now from noon (midday) through afternoon till evening time. The Thai people tell the time as shown in the table below. "BAI" tells you that the time is after midday but before five o'clock in the evening. YEN indicates evening time.
|1:00 p.m.||บ่ายโมง||BAI MOHNG|
|2:00 p.m.||บ่ายสองโมง||BAI SONG MONG|
|3:00 p.m.||บ่ายสามโมง||BAI SAM MOHNG|
|4:00 p.m.||บ่ายสี่โมง||BAI SEE MONG|
|5:00 p.m.||ห้าโมงเย็น||HA MONG YEN|
|6:00 p.m.||หกโมงเย็น||HOCK MONG YEN|
So there is a little peek at Thai language and a unique way of telling the time. If you are meeting a Thai girl or man for a date then knowing how to tell the time in the Thai language will give you a better chance at meeting on time. There is a good chance you won’t be waiting for your Thai girl / man at 1:00 p.m. while she / he intends to arrive at 7:00 p.m.
The Thai language also uses the official 24-hour clock system starting at midnight. The Thai word NAHLIGAH meaning o’clock is placed after the number.
SONG NAHLIGAH = 2:00 a.m. or 02.00............... SIP SONG NAHLIGAH = midday or 12.00
SIP SEE NAHLIGAH = 2:00 p.m. or 14.00
GOW NAHLIGAH = 9:00 a.m. or 09.00
If your Thai girl has difficulty telling the time, then with this information you might have fun trying to teach your Thai girl how to tell the time in your language. If you plan to visit Thailand I highly advise you to learn some Thai language.
You can learn easy on line. There are a few online resources but this in my humble opinion is by far the best. It has a huge database of words and useful phrases to get you going quickly. Here is the link. The technology at the web site is state of the art making it a fun learning experience.