Learn to Read Thai Step by Step

Don’t be afraid to start learning to read Thai! Give yourself a few weeks to learn to read Thai following the below steps, and you will be able to read anything in Thai!

Guideline to learn to read Thai

  1. Check the ‘The Concept of Reading Thai’ to get an overall idea.
  2. Start with ‘Introduction to Reading Thai’ to see all the essential parts in reading Thai.
  3. Go to ‘Learn to Read Thai Now!’ to start reading your first word in Thai.

Note: This page is better on tablet, laptop and computer’s screen.

The Concept of Reading Thai

There are 4 groups of letters you need to learn to read Thai

Consonantsก ข ฃ ค ฅ ฆ ง จ
ฉ ช ซ ฌ ญ ฎ ฏ ฐ
ฑ ฒ ณ ด ต ถ ท ธ
น บ ป ผ ฝ พ ฟ ภ
ม ย ร ล ว ศ ษ ส
ห ฬ อ ฮ
There are 44 written forms of consonant but there are only 21 spoken sounds because some consonants share the same sound.

All these consonants are divided into 3 classes which are High, Middle, and Low Classes. Each group has their own 'Tone Rules'
Vowelsิ, ึ, เ - ะ, เ -, เเ - ะ, แ-,
ึ, ือ, เ-อะ, เ-อ, - ะ, ั-, -า,
ุ, ู, โ-ะ, โ-, เ-าะ, -อ,
เ ียะ, เ ีย, เ ือะ, เ ือ,
ัวะ, ัว, ำ, ไ-, ใ-, เ-า,

All these are the base forms of the vowels. Some vowels are 'Changed Vowels' which means their base form will change when the syllable/word has a final consonant.
Tone Marks่, ้, ๊, ๋There are 5 tones in Thai but there are only 4 marks.
Others็, ์, -ๆ, -ฯ, ฯลฯ,
ฤ, ฤา, ฦ, ฦา, รร
These other letters have their own functions such as muting a consonant, repeating the word, shortening the word, etc.

To form a Thai word, you need to combine at least one consonant with a vowel

Initial ConsonantVowelTone MarkFinal ConsonantWord
--ดี means good
-แก่ means old
-นบ้าน means home

Understand what are open and closed syllables

Learn the tone’s rules of each consonant classes

Introduction to Reading Thai

There are 2 types of syllable in the Thai Language. One is called OPEN SYLLABLE and another is called CLOSED SYLLABLE. Thai people know them as คำเป็น (kham pen) which literally means a live word while คำตาย (kham taay) which means a dead word.

It is a characteristic of the way the word is pronounced. When you pronounce an open syllable, you can prolong the sound, while you cannot do the same thing with the closed syllable.

The differences between open and closed syllables in reading Thai

  1. Consider the final consonant of the syllable.
    – When a syllable ends with the consonants that produce n, ŋ, m, w or y sounds, they belong to OPEN SYLLABLE.
    – When a syllable ends with the consonants that produce k, t, p sounds, they belong to CLOSED SYLLABLE.
  2. Consider the vowels when there is no final consonant in the syllable.
    – When a long vowel is used, it belongs to OPEN SYLLABLE.
    – When a short vowel is used, it belongs to CLOSED SYLLABLE.
  3. Any syllables that used the vowels; ำ (am), ไ- (ay), ใ- (ay) and เ-า (aw) belong to OPEN SYLLABLE.
Open SyllableReasonClosed SyllableReason
กา (kaa) Long vowel กะ (ka)Short vowel
กาน (kaan)Final sound is 'n' กาบ (kàap)Final sound is 'p'
กำ (kam)Use ำ vowel กาด (kàat)Final sound is 't'

Test yourself on open and closed syllables

Now, try to indicate the types following syllables whether it is OPEN or CLOSED, and give the reason why it is so. You can check the correct answers under the table.

มา (maa)openuse long vowel
กิน (kin)
จะ (ca)
สาก (sàak)
ลิง (liŋ)
ดีด (dìit)
งีบ (ŋîip)
จำ (cam)
ไป (pay)
เรา (raw)
ใจ (cay)
มา (maa)openuse long vowel
กิน (kin)openends with 'n'
จะ (ca)closeduse short vowel
สาก (sàak)closedends with 'k'
ลิง (liŋ)openends with 'ŋ' or 'ng'
ดีด (dìit)closedends with 't'
งีบ (ŋîip)closedends with 'p'
จำ (cam)openuse ำ vowel
ไป (pay)openuse ไ- vowel
เรา (raw)openuse เ-า vowel
ใจ (cay)openuse ใ- vowel

There are 44 consonants in reading and writing Thai but there are only 21 sounds. It is because some letters share the same sound. The letter ฃ (kh) and ฅ (kh) are no longer used but they are still members of the list. All the consonants are divided into 3 different classes which are called High Class, Middle Class and Low Class.

It is important to know which consonant belongs to which class because each class has their own tone’s rule. In the table below, you will see all consonants divided into 3 groups. You can memorize them all at once but that’s not what I usually suggest my students to do. Learn each class at a time because it will make it easier for you.

This section is just to give you an overall idea of the consonant classes. Later, you will start memorizing the consonants of each class separately.

Three classes of consonant

Classesnumber of lettersmembersNote
High11ข, ฉ, ถ, ฐ, ผ,
ฝ, ศ, ษ, ส, ห
ฃ is no longer used
Middle9ก, จ, ด, ต, ฎ, ฏ,
บ, ป, อ,
Low24ค, ฆ, ช, ฌ, ฑ, ฒ,
ท, ธ, พ, ภ, ฟ, ซ,
ฮ, ง, น, ณ, ม, ย,
ญ, ร, ล, ฬ, ว
ฅ is no longer used

There are 28 vowels in reading Thai and they are divided into 3 categories including single vowel, mixed vowel, and vowel with an ending sound. The length of the vowel sound is also important because it can change the meaning of the word. The same vowel sounds with different length is considered a different sound.

Moreover, the form of some vowels can be changed when the final consonant comes in. But no worries for now, let’s see the table below to make it clearer.

Learn to read Thai vowel

Single Vowel
Short VowelLong Vowel
Thai ScriptSymbolsSoundsThai ScriptSymbolsSounds

i ii
เ - ะ / เ ็
e เ -
เเ - ะ / แ ็
æ แ -

ɨ ือ / ื
เ - อะə เ - อ / เ ิ əə
- ะ / ัa - าaa
u uu
โ - ะ / disappear
o โ -oo
เ - าะ / ็อɔ - อɔɔ
Note: There are 7 changed vowels in a Single Vowel group.
The vowel form after the / (slash) is the changed form of them.
Short VowelsLong Vowels
Thai ScriptSymbolsSoundsThai ScriptSymbolsSounds
เ ียะ
iaʔ เ ียia
เ ือะ
ɨaʔ เ ือ
ั วะ
uaʔ ั ว / -วua
Note: There is 1 changed vowel in the Mixed Vowel group. The changed form is shown after a / (slash)
Short Vowel
Thai ScriptSymbolsSounds

ไ - / ใ -ay
เ - า

This is the introduction of the final consonant in Reading Thai. You will focus on memorizing the rule in the later step. But it is good for you to first know its concept.

There are 44 consonants in Thai. The letters ฃ (kh) and ฅ (kh) are no longer used as both initial consonant and final consonant. And there are 7 letters which are not used as a final consonant including ฉ (ch), ฌ (ch), ผ (ph), ฝ (f), อ (ʔ), and ฮ (h).

Therefore, 35 letters left which can be used as a final consonant. In speaking Thai, there are only 8 final sounds and that means these 35 letters must be divided into 8 groups. See the table below.

Final consonants in reading Thai

- ก (k)ก (k),

ข (kh), ค (kh), ฆ (kh)
มาก (mâak)

สุข (sùk), โชค (chôok), เมฆ (mêek)
- ด (t)ด (d), ฎ (d), ต (t), ฏ (t)

จ (c), ช (ch)

ฐ (th), ฑ (th), ฒ (th), ถ (th), ท (th), ธ (th)

ศ (s), ษ (s), ส (s), ซ (s)
บาด ​(bàat), กฎ (kòt), จิต (cìt), นาฏ (nâat)

กาจ (kàat), เวช (wêet)

รัฐ (rát), ษัฑ (sàt), วัฒ (wát), รถ (rót), บาท (bàat), โกรธ (kròot)

กาศ (kàat), โทษ (thôot), รส (rót), ก๊าซ (káat)
- บ (p)บ (b),

ป (p),

พ (ph), ภ (ph),

ฟ (f)
จับ (càp)

บาป (bàap)

ภาพ (phâap), โลภ (lôop)

กราฟ (kráap)
- น (n)น (n), ณ (n)

ญ (y)

ร (r)

ล (l), ฬ (l)
กิน (kin), ญาณ (yaan)

ปัญ (pan)

หาร (hǎan)

ผล (phǒn), วาฬ (waan)
- ง (ŋ)-ลุง (luŋ)
- ม (m)-ยาม (yaam)
- ย (y)-โดย (dooy)
- ว (w)-แก้ว (kæ̂æw)

1. Although these letters produce different sounds when they are used as the initial sound, they give exactly the same sound when they are used as a final consonant.

2. The letter ญ (y) has a unique rule. When it's used as the initial consonant, it produces 'y' sound, but when it's used as a final consonant, it gives 'n' sound NOT 'y' sound.

You don’t need to memorize all letters of each group at once. I suggest you learn the 8 main final consonants (ก, ด, บ, น, ง, ม, ย, ว) first.

How Thais learn the final consonant group

Just for your information, Thai kids call each group of final consonant as แม่ (mæ̂æ) which means a mother. They would call

  • ก (k) final consonant group as แม่ กก (mæ̂æ kòk)
  • ด (t) final consonant group as แม่ กด (mæ̂æ kòt)
  • บ (p) final consonant group as แม่ กบ (mæ̂æ kòp)
  • น (n) final consonant group as แม่ กน (mæ̂æ kon)
  • ง (ŋ) final consonant group as แม่ กง (mæ̂æ koŋ)
  • ม (m) final consonant group as แม่ กม (mæ̂æ kom)
  • ย (y) final consonant group as แม่ เกย (mæ̂æ kəəy)
  • ว (w) final consonant group as แม่ เกอว (mæ̂æ kəəw)

But it is not important for you to learn the groups’ names.

Tones in reading Thai

There are 5 tones in speaking and reading Thai but there are only 4 tone marks. The tone is another essential part in learning Thai because when the tone of a word changes, the meaning of the word changes as well.

Each tone mark has its own name. It is not a must to remember the name of each tone mark, but It is very important that you know the sound of each mark.

First, let’s get familiar with each of the tones and then listen to the example words. And then practice pronouncing them. The important point here is that you ‘recognize’ the differences among these 5 tones. Do not worry about the tone marks yet at this stage.

Names of Tones in EnglishSymbols used in TranscriptionExample wordsHow it sounds
Middle Tone

Low Tonelow tonemàa
Falling Tonefalling tonemâa
High Tonehigh tonemáa
Rising Tonerising tonemǎa

Secondly, after you get the idea of these 5 different tonal sounds, start learning the tone marks written in Thai letter. There are 4 tone marks used in writing Thai and they have their own names.

NameTone MarksHow to Use It
ไม้เอก (máay ʔèek)ก่า
ไม้โท (máay thoo)ก้า
ไม้ตรี (máay trii)ก๊า
ไม้จัตวา (máay càttawaa)ก๋า
Note: The tone mark is always put above the main (initial) letter of the word. Just like the examples on the right column from row 1-4.

And it is put above the vowel if that word has a top vowel. See the example on the right column of this row.

Therefore, the tone marks are always on top of any letters.

กี่, กี้, กี๊, กี๋

A tone mark can produce more than ONE tone in reading Thai

The reason that I do not attach a specific tonal sound to to each mark is because one tone mark can produce more than one tonal sound. When a tone mark is put on a ‘Middle Class’ consonant, it gives one tone. But if you put the same tone mark on a ‘Low Class’ consonant, it gives a different tone.

Let’s see how the tone marks work with different classes of consonant.

Tonal Sounds
ClassSyllableMiddle ToneLow ToneFalling ToneHigh ToneRising Tone
Closed (Long Vowel)--คาบค้าบ-
Closed (Short Vowel)--ค่ะคะ-

From the table above, you can see that when ไม้เอก (máay ʔèek) ่  is put above ข (kh) letter which belongs to High Class consonant, it produces a Low Tone. On the other hand, when this same tone mark is put above ค (kh) letter which belongs to Low Class Consonant, it gives a Falling Tone.

Looking at this table you will notice that there are 3 factors that have an effect on the tone.

  1. The Classes of Consonant
  2. The Types of Syllable (Open or Closed)
  3. The Tone Marks.

The Low Class Consonant has an additional rule for its Closed Syllable. You can see from the table that the length of the vowel also affect the tone as well.

Now, you may feel like there are so many rules to learn. It is true if you try to learn everything at once. Give yourself a little more time and be a little more patient to learn to read Thai.

Go to the next section ‘Start Reading Thai Now!’ to start reading your first word in Thai.

Learn to Read Thai Now!


  • ก, จ, ด, ต, บ and ป consonants
  • -า,  ี  and  ู  vowels
  • Tone’s rules of Middle class in open syllable
  • 4 tone marks


  • อ, ฎ and ฏ consonants
  • -อ and โ-  vowels


  • น, ม and ง as a final consonant

4. Middle class / closed syllable (i)

  • -ะ / ั, ิ and ุ
  • -ะ / ั changed vowel
  • Tone’s rule of Middle class in closed syllable
  • ก, ด and บ as a final consonant

5. Middle class / closed syllable (iI)

  • โ-ะ and เ-าะ vowels
  • โ-ะ and เ-าะ changed form

6. HIGH  class / OPEN AND closed syllable (i)

  • ข, ฉ and ถ
  • Tone rules of High class
  • เ-ะ, เ-, แ-ะ and แ-
  • เ-ะ and แ-ะ changed form
  • ย as a final consonant

7. HIGH  class / OPEN AND closed syllable (iI)

  • ห, ผ and ฝ
  • ึ and ือ
  • ือ changed form
  • ว as a final consonant

8. HIGH  class / OPEN AND closed syllable (iII)

  • ส, ศ, ษ and ฐ
  • ำ, ไ-, ใ- and เ-า

9. Last 2 single vowels

  • เ-อะ and เ-อ


  • ร, ล and ว

11. the only อย- words in thai

  • อย่า, อยู่, อย่าง and อยาก

12. THE SILENT ห- 

  • ห + low class consonants

Part 2 Learn to read Thai


  • น, ม, ง, ย, ร, ล and ว consonants
  • Tone’s rules of Low class in open syllable


  • Tone’s rules of Low class in closed syllable

15. LOW CLASS / open & closed syllable

  • ค, ช, ท, พ, ภ, ฟ and ซ


  • ณ, ญ, ฆ, ฌ, ฑ, ฒ, ธ, ฬ and ฮ

17. mixed vowel (i)

  • เียะ (ʔiaʔ) and เีย (ʔia)

18. mixed vowel (iI)

  • เือะ (ʔɨaʔ) and เือ (ʔɨa)

19. mixed vowel (iII)

  • ัวะ (ʔuaʔ) and ัว (ʔua)


  • 8 regular final consonants
  • All irregular final consonants
  • Unique rule for ร final consonants
  • Final consonant with silent ิ and ุ vowels
  • The clustered final consonants


  • What is leading consonant?
  • The leading consonant’s rules
  • The exception for the leading consonant


  • A hidden -ะ in the middle of a word


  • Fake clusters
  • ทร clusters


  • ็ – ไม้ไต่คู้ (máay tày khúu)
  • ์ – ไม้ทัณฑฆาต (máay thantha-khâat)
  • -ๆ – ไม้ยมก (máay yamók)
  • -ฯ – ไปยาลน้อย (pay-yaan-nɔ́ɔy)
  • ฯลฯ – ไปยาลใหญ่ (pay yaan yày)
  • รร – รอ หัน (rɔɔ hǎn)
  • ฤ, ฤา, ฦ, ฦา (rɨ́, rɨɨ, lɨ́, lɨɨ)