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Thai language forum

At the Restaurant - Ordering

Posted by AjarnPasa on 2/6/2010 at 23:15

So you’ve managed to direct your taxi to the funky little eatery you read about in Travelfish and now you’re ready to fill the table with culinary awesomeness. So, let’s look at some of the basics of ordering.

The first thing to be aware of is that all nouns in Thai are treated as ‘uncountable’ and therefore all nouns need classifiers with which to count them.

That sounds really TEFL, so here’s an example to try and clarify. In English a ‘countable’ noun is something like ‘sausage’. You can count sausages just by putting a number in front of it: one sausage, two sausages, three sausages etc.

An uncountable noun is something like ‘bread’. You can’t say “one bread”; you have to include another word after the number in order to count it: one loaf of bread. In this case ‘loaf’ is the classifier for bread. In Thai all nouns behave as ‘bread’ does in English, and so all nouns need classifiers.

Happily, many of the classifiers you will need at the restaurant are also nouns in their own right (though this is not always the case). Here are the ones you’re going to need when at the restaurant.

จาน jaan: means plate, and is used as the classifier for food dishes to be eaten at the table
ใบ bai: classifier for glasses, bowls and plates
ขวด kùat, แก้ว gâew: mean bottle and glass respectively, and are used as classifiers for drinks
ห่อ hòr, กล่อง glòng: mean package and box respectively and are the classifiers for food that will be wrapped and taken home to eat.
ไม้ mái: means stick, and is the classifier for things sold on sticks like satay or grilled chicken hearts.

Now for some things that you might end up asking for at your newly discovered eatery. Menus in Thai restaurants are often ever so slightly longer than War and Peace, so here are just a few obvious ones. You’ll have your favourites.

แกง เขียว หวาน gaeng kĭeow wăan: green curry
เบิยร์ bia: beer
ผัดไทย pàt tai: Pad Thai
หมู สะเต๊ะ mŏo sà-dté: pork satay

To ask for something you use either ขอ kŏr (may I have) or เอา ao (I want).

The formula for ordering is: request word – item – number – classifier – krap/ka

So let’s put all of that together to see it in action. Look back at the vocab and see if you can work out what I’m after.

ขอ เบิยร์ สอง ขวด ครับ
kŏr bia sŏng kùat kráp
เอา หมู สะเต๊ะ ห้า ไม้ คะ
ao mŏo sà-dté hâa mái ká
ขอ เบิยร์ หนึ่ง ขวด และ แก้ว สาม ใบ คะ
kŏr bia nèung kùat láe gâew săam bai ká
เอว แกง เขียว หวาน หนึ่ง จาน ครับ
ao gaeng kĭeow wăan nèung jaan kráp
ขอ ผัด ไทย สาม ห่อ ครับ
kŏr pàt tai săam hòr kráp

While forgetting your classifiers and insisting of the English formula of ‘ao sŏng bia’ will probably still get you roughly what you’re hoping for, you’ll sound like a right tourist! Get classifiers right and you’ll impress your mates and the wait staff, which can’t be bad.

So, have a go at putting some of the vocab in this lesson together with some of your favourite Thai delicacies. If you’ve got a good one, why not share it in the comments section below.
If you liked this, you'll love our blog. Check out short, timely lessons in Thai (including the full colour version of this one) at and follow us on Twitter @AjarnPasa

If you have any questions or suggestions for topics for future lessons on Travelfish, feel free to leave a comment.

See you next time


#1 AjarnPasa has been a member since 26/5/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 27
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Posted by idreamofdurian on 2/6/2010 at 23:51 TF writer

love it! Thanks for sharing!

#2 idreamofdurian has been a member since 5/9/2008. Location: Singapore. Posts: 576
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Posted by exacto on 3/6/2010 at 04:11

you had me at bia and pat tai. fun stuff. and well done. thanks.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,679
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