Thai Language Grammar: Using “kwaam” (ความ)

In this post, we are going to learn how to use the prefix “kwaam” (ความ) to form a noun. The type of nouns it usually forms are those that we know exist but cannot see or touch them because they do not exist in a form of a material object. These nouns are commonly known as Abstract Nouns and they usually denote an aspect, idea, concept, trait, quality, feeling, or a state of attitude (i.e. truth, danger, happiness, knowledge).

In a sentence, they can function as both the subject and the object. Remember, the subject comes before the main verb, and the object comes after the verb.

Observe the following example below:

kwaam-glua bpen thee-maa lak kawng kwaam-cheua-teu thaang sai-ya-saad
(Fear is the main source of superstition)

kwaam-kid-saang-san jam-bpen-dtawng mee kwaam-glaa-haan thee-ja la-thing kwaam-nae-nawn
(Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties)

kwaam-rak keu kwaam-bprad-tha-naa thee dtaw-dtaan mai dai thee-ja bprad-tha-naa yaang-mai-ad-dtaw-dtaan-dai
(Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired)

In English, abstract nouns are derived particularly from nouns, verbs, and adjectives – such as “friend” (n.) becomes “friendship“; “know” (v.) becomes “knowledge“; “different” (adj.) becomes “difference“; “hate” (v.) becomes “hatred“; “true” (adj.) becomes “truth“, etc.

In Thai, abstract nouns are derived from the use of the prefix “kwaam” (ความ) with adjectives (describing words) and some intransitive verbs (action verbs that do not need to take a direct object).

What is a prefix?

A prefix is a string of letters (such as un-, mis-, non-, over-, out-, pre-, etc.) which we add to the beginning of a root word to make a new word with a different meaning. Although prefixes are not words in their own right and cannot stand on their on in a sentence, each prefix has a specific meaning.

In the English language, prefixes such as “un-” means “not“, “reverse” or “remove” (unable, undo, unpack, unhappy, unkind, unresponsive); “mis-” means “incorrect” or “badly” (misaligned, mislead, misspelt, misappropriate, misunderstand, misuse); “anti-” means “against” or “opposed to” (antidote, antipathy, antibiotic, anti-government, anti-racist, anti-war); “over-” means “too much” (overcook, overcharge, overrate, overdone); “pre-” means “before” (prefix, preliminary, preschool, prehistoric, pre-war); “re-” means “again” (reconsider, redo, rewrite, reconsider, re-evaluate), etc.

The prefix “kwaam” (ความ) has the same meaning as the word “reuang” (เรื่อง) which means “subject“, “matter“, “case“, “information“. Although it cannot stand alone in a sentence, it can be placed before an adjective (describing words) or an intransitive verb (action verbs that do not need to take a direct object) to create an abstract nounkwaam (ความ) + adjective / verb = Abstract Noun

What is an adjective?

An adjective is a word that describes the quality or state of being of a noun or a pronoun, a noun phrase or its referent – such as “happy” (mee-kwaam-suk – มีความสุข); “beautiful” (suay – สวย); “good” (dee – ดี); “fast” (reo – เร็ว); “sad” (sao – เศร้า); “dangerous” (an-dta-raai – อันตราย), etc.

In order to create abstract nouns, the prefix “kwaam” (ความ) is normally used with those adjectives related to feelings (excited, proud, weak), emotions (happy, contented, distressed), traits (brave, kind, honest), and quality (capable, good, beautiful). Like the ones on the list below:

speed = kwaam + reo (เร็ว – is fast)
heat = kwaam + rawn (ร้อน – is hot)
goodness = kwaam + dee (ดี – is good)
sadness = kwaam + sao (เศร้า – is sad)
warmth = kwaam + fan (อบอุ่น – is warm)
slowness = kwaam + chaa (ช้า – is slow)
hunger = kwaam + hiew (หิว – is hungry)
boredom = kwaam + beua (เบื่อ – is bored)
lightness = kwaam + bao (เบา – is light)
spiciness = kwaam + phed (เผ็ด – is spicy)
heaviness = kwaam + nack (หนัก – is heavy)
loss = kwaam + soon-sia (สูญหาย – is lost)
pride = kwaam + phuuk-jai (ภูมิใจ – is proud)
loneliness = kwaam + ngao (เหงา – is lonely)
peace = kwaam + sa-ngob-suk (สงบสุข – is peaceful)
shame = kwaam + ab-aai (อับอาย – is ashamed)
bravery = kwaam + glaa-haan (กล้าหาญ – is brave)
death = kwaam + dtaai (ตาย – is dead / is deceased)
danger = kwaam + an-dta-raai (อันตราย – is dangerous)
fear = kwaam + glua (กลัว – is afraid / is frighten)
importance = kwaam + sam-kan (สำคัญ – is important)
friendship = kwaam + bpen-mid (เป็นมิตร – is friendly)
excitement = kwaam + dteun-dten (ตื่นเต้น – is excited)
convenience = kwaam + sa-duak (สะดวก – is convenient)
grievance / misery = kwaam + tuk (ทุกข์ – is grievous)
smartness = kwaam + geng (เก่ง – is good at / is smart)
thirst = kwaam + gra-haai-naam (กระหายน้ำ – is thirsty)
beauty = kwaam + suay (สวย – is beautiful / is pretty)
decisiveness = kwaam + ded-kaad (เด็ดขาด – is decisive)
kindness = kwaam + jai-dee (ใจดี – is kind / is hospitable)
justice = kwaam + yut-dti-tham (ยุติธรรม – is fair / is just)
anger = kwaam + mo-ho (โมโห – is angered / is irate / is mad)
cold / chilliness = kwaam + naow (หนาว – is cold / is chilly)
courage = kwaam + jai-glaa (ใจกล้า – is courageous / is daring)
faintheartedness = kwaam + jai-sot ((ใจเสาะ – is faint-hearted)
sincerity = kwaam + jing-jai (จริงใจ – is is sincere / is genuine)
confidence = kwaam + man-jai (มั่นใจ – is confident / is convinced)
variety = kwaam + laak-laai (หลากหลาย – is various / is diverse)
comfort = kwaam + suk-sa-bai (สุขสบาย – is comfortable / is content)
anger = kwaam + grode (โกรธ – is annoyed / is cross / is displeased)
impatience = kwaam + jai-rawn (ใจร้อน – is impatient / is hot-headed)
neatness = kwaam + riab-roy (เรียบร้อย – is neat / is tidy / is orderly)
fortitude / strength = kwaam + kaeng-graeng (แข็งแกร่ง – is sturdy / is hardy)
generosity = kwaam + made-dtaa (เมตตา – is merciful / is generous / is kind)
difficulty = kwaam + lam-baak (ลำบาก – is difficult / is hard / is burdensome)
uniqueness / distinctiveness = kwaam + pi-sade (พิเศษ – is special / is unique)
certainty / sureness = kwaam + nae-jai (แน่ใจ – is sure / is certain / is convinced)
severity / harshness = kwaam + run-raeng (รุนแรง – is severe / is harsh / is drastic)
freedom / independence = kwaam + it-sa-rat (อิสระ – is independent / is free)
magnificence / gorgeousness = kwaam + ngud-ngaam (งดงาม – is gorgeous / is magnificent)
contentment = kwaam + pheung-phaw-jai (พึงพอใจ – is content / is satisfied / is pleased)
loyalty = kwaam + seu-sat (ซื่อสัตย์ – is loyal / is honest / is faithful / is trustworthy)
stupidity = kwaam + ngo (โง่ – is stupid / is foolish / is dumb / is silly)
intelligence = kwaam + cha-laad (ฉลาด – is intelligent / is clever / is smart / is bright)
curiosity / inquisitiveness = kwaam + yak-roo-yak-hen (อยากรู้อยากเห็น – is curious / is inquisitive)
contentment / satisfaction = kwaam + pheung-phaw-jai (พึงพอใจ – is content / is satisfied / is pleased)

Let’s look at some of these abstract nouns in a sentence….

– phom dtem bpai duay kwaam-glua
(I am full of fear)

– kaw hai mee kwaam-sa-ngob-suk bon loke
(May there be peace on Earth)

kwaam-grode kawng-kao tham hai kao dta-goon
(His anger caused him to yell)

What is an intransitive verb?

An intransitive verb is an action verb that does not require a direct object or indirect object to act upon for it to make sense. Of course, many verbs can be classified as both intransitive and transitive (need an object) depending on how they are used in a sentence.

Therefore, I find it much easier to remember that the prefix “kwaam” (ความ) is normally used with verbs that related to mental process (know, recognise, think, believe, hope), NOT physical verbs such as those that related to movements (run, hear, speak, hunt, chase). For physical verbs are used with the prefix “garn” (การ). I will write about this in my next post.

Another thing to remember is that when the prefix kwaam (ความ) is used with a verb, together they can create an abstract noun or a noun that looks like a verb – such as “liking“, “craving“, “feeling” which are normally known as Gerunds in the English language.

Don’t worry too much about this, all will become much clearer when you read the next post about the prefix “garn” (การ). For now, study the list of the mental verbs that can be used with the prefix “kwaam” (ความ) below:

idea = kwaam + kid (คิด – to think)
knowledge = kwaam + roo (รู้ – to know)
hatred = kwaam + gliad (เกลียด – to hate)
hope / expectation = kwaam + wang (หวัง – to hope)
determination = kwaam + mung-man (มุ่งมั่น – to strive)
amusement = kwaam + kub-kan (ขบขัน – to be amused at)
opinion = kwaam + kid-hen (คิดเห็น – to think / to reckon)
endurance = kwaam + od-ton (อดทน – to endure)
perseverance = kwaam + pien (เพียร – to persist)
defeat = kwaam + phaai-phae (พ่ายแพ้ – to lose / to fail)
dream / hope / aspiration = kwaam + fan (ฝัน – to dream)
intention = kwaam + dtang-jai (ตั้งใจ – to intent / to focus)
ability / capability = kwaam + sa-maad (สามารถ – to be able)
effort = kwaam + pha-yaa-yaam (พยายาม – to attempt / to try)
want / need / desire = kwaam + dtawng-garn (ต้องการ – to want)
feeling / sensation = kwaam + roo-seuk (รู้สึก – to feel / to sense)
livelihood / existence / well-being = kwaam + bpen-yoo (เป็นอยู่ – to be/ to exist)
understanding / comprehension = kwaam + kao-jai (เข้าใจ – to understand)
trust / faith = kwaam + cheua-teu (เชื่อถือ – to have faith in / to trust)
aspiration = kwaam + fai-fan (ฝันใฝ่ – to dream / to hope for / to desire)
craving / want = kwaam + yak (อยาก – to want to / to desire / to crave for)
belief = kwaam + cheua (เชื่อ – to believe / to believe in / to have faith in)
compassion / sympathy = kwaam + hen-ok-hen-jai (เห็นอกเห็นใจ – to be sympathetic)
liking / preference = kwaam + chawb (ชอบ – to like / to prefer / to be fond of)
concentration = kwaam + dtang-ok-dtang-jai (ตั้งอกตั้งใจ – to concentrate / to focus)
pit / sympathy = kwaam + sung-sarn (สงสาร – to feel sorry for / to sympathise with)
attention / attentiveness = kwaam + ao-ok-ao-jai (เอาใจใส่ – to be attentive / to care)
responsibility = kwaam + rap-phid-chawb (รับผิดชอบ – to be liable for / to be responsible for)
surrender / submissiveness = kwaam + yawm-phae (ยอมแพ้ – to give up / to give in / to surrender)
infatuation / fascination / obsession = kwaam + lung-lai (หลงใหล – to dote / to be obsessed with)
faith / admiration = kwaam + sad-thaa (ศรัทธา – to believe in / to have confidence in / to have trust in)
success / accomplishment / achievement = kwaam + sam-red (สำเร็จ – to finish / to attain / to succeed)

Let’s look at some of these abstract nouns in a sentence….

– chan mee kwaam-yak gin chocolate
(I have a craving for chocolate)

– ter mee kwaam-chawb wine chan-dee
(She has a liking for fine wines)

– kao mee kwaam-roo-seuk saeb-rawn nai naa-ok kawng-kao
(He has a burning sensation in his chest)

– chan mee kwaam-chawb aa-haan rod-chaad waan maak gwa phed
(I have a preference for sweet food over spicy)

– chan mee kwaam-roo-seuk bplaek-bplaek nai thawng kawng-chan
(I’ve got this strange feeling in my stomach)

– garn-dai ngeuhn thang-mud nan bpen kwaam-fan thee bpen jing
(Getting all that money is a dream come true)

And that is the end of our lesson. I hope it has helped you feel more confident the next time you are trying to decide whether you should use the prefix “kwaam” (ความ). After completing the Practice Exercise below, it might be helpful to form some abstract nouns of your own using the prefix “kwaam” (ความ) and see how many you can come up with.

Practice Exercise: Translate the following sentences into Thai and bring in to your next lesson, so we can go through them together.

1. We must never lose hope.
2. They laughed at my idea.
3. She has a talent for music.
4. She tried to restrain her anger.
5. Can you believe that man’s honesty?
6. He has an amazing knowledge of Thai.
7. Without respect, love cannot go far.
8. People lost faith in the government.
9. Don’t underestimate your own strength.
10. In my opinion, he will win the election.
11. Her dedication to her work was admirable.
12. We have to get at the truth of the matter.
13. The fireman showed bravery during the fire.
14. I wanted to thank them for all their generosity.
15. Justice does not mean the same thing to everyone.
16. His curiosity is what makes him such a good detective.
17. He has found contentment in his life and is very happy.
18. We can’t imagine the courage it took to do such a thing.
19. The intelligence that he displayed in class was amazing today.
20. Contrary to what we had expected, the movie was a big disappointment.

Miss Urai Khomkham
Course Co-ordinator & Personal Tutor
Thai Language Tuition UK