Thai Language Grammar: Using “yoo” (อยู่)

I have already covered how to use “yoo” as a verb “to be” in order to show location of someone or something in the previous post I created, Thai Vocabulary Resource: Preposition for Place. So, make sure to check that out. In this post, we are going to learn other functions of the word “yoo” (อยู่) in Thai. I hope you will enjoy it and find it helpful in your learning.

1. Verb: to be / is / am / are

When the word “yoo” (อยู่) is used as a verb, it has the same meaning as “to be located” or “to be situated“. It is used with Preposition of Place (at, on, near, opposite, next to, etc) in order to show location of someone or something; and it is equivalent to the verb “to be” in the English language – is, are and am.

The basic structure: yoo + preposition

Observe the following examples below:

raan yoo sud soi
(The shop is at the end of the street)

kao yoo nai hawng nang-len
(He is in the living room)

kao gam-lang raw khun yoo nai rot
(He is waiting for you in the car)

phom ja phob ter thee bpra-dtoo thaang-kao
(I will meet her at the entrance)

2. Present Continuous Tense: is / am / are + verb + ing

The PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE is used for showing that an action is happening now, either at the moment of speaking or ongoing. It describes something that is unfinished or incomplete. The present continuous of any verb in English, composed of two parts – verb “to be” (is / am / are) + the present participle of the main verb (verb + ing).

To form the PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE is Thai, we use the word “gam-lang” (กำลัง) as a helping verb to show that the action is currently in the process of happening. It is placed before the main verb. We can also use the word “yoo” (อยู่) to show that the action remains and unfinished, and it is placed after the main verb. However, we can choose to both “gam-lang” (กำลัง) and “yoo” (อยู่) can be used together in a sentence.

The basic structure: gam-lang + main verb + yoo

Observe the following examples below:

kao (gam-lang) nawn-lap yoo
(He is sleeping)

phaw (gam-lang) laang rot yoo
(Dad is washing the car)

ter (gam-lang) dtriem-dtua bpai yiam phaw-mae keun-nee yoo
(She is getting herself ready to go visit her parents tonight)

chuay duay! phoo-chai kon nan (gam-lang) ka-moy rot kawng-chan yoo!
ช่วยด้วย! ผู้ชายคนนั้นกำลังขโมยรถของฉันอยู่!
(Help! That man is stealing my car!)

kao mai waang kui dtawn-nee phraw waa kao (gam-lang) rian pha-sa Thai gap kroo yoo
(He is not free to talk now because he is learning Thai language with a teacher)

PLEASE NOTE: We can also use both “gam-lang” (กำลัง) and “yoo” (อยู่) to talk about a longer action that we are currently in the process of doing; however, we might not be doing it at this exact time of speaking.

Observe the following examples below:

chan (gam-lang) seuk-saa yoo thee ma-haa-wi-ta-yaa-lai pheua thee-ja bpen maw
(I am studying at the University in order to become a doctor)

khun (gam-lang) rian wai-yaa-gorn pha-sa Thai yoo phraw waa khun yak phood pha-sa Thai dai
คุณกำลังเรียนไวยากรณ์ภาษาไทยอยู่ เพราะว่าคุณอยากพูดภาษาไทยได้
(You are studying Thai grammar because you want to be able to speak Thai language)

phom (gam-lang) aan nang-seu gio-gap sa-taan-thee thawng-thio nai bpra-thed Thai, dtae yang aan mai job
ผมกำลังอ่านหนังสือเกี่ยวกับสถานที่ท่องเที่ยวในประเทศไทยอยู่ แต่ยังอ่านไม่จบ
(I am reading a book about tourist attractions in Thailand, but I haven’t finished reading it yet)

PLEASE NOTE: To talk about a plan or arrangement that have already been made and we are about to do, we can use “gam-lang ja” (กำลังจะ) before the main verb. It has the same meaning as “going to” or “about to“; and it can be used together with “yoo” (อยู่) in the same sentence. In this case, however, “yoo” (อยู่) cannot be used on its own.

The basic structure: gam-lang ja + main verb + yoo

Observe the following examples below:

phuak-rao gam-lang ja dtaeng-ngaan deuan naa (yoo)
(We are getting married next month)

phuak-rao gam-lang ja awk deuhn-thaang bpai chai-had (yoo)
(We are leaving for the beach)

phom gam-lang ja bpai rap phan-ra-yaa thee sa-nam-bin (yoo)
(I am about to go pick up my wife from the airport)

3. Past Continuous Tense: was / were + verb + ing

The PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE is used for talking about an action that was ongoing at the same time another action occurred. However, both of those actions that was in progress at some point in the post have since been completed. In English, we normally use the past form of verb “to be” (was / were) + the present participle of the main verb (verb + ing).

To form “PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE” in Thai, we also use “gam-lang” (กำลัง) and “yoo” (อยู่) in the same way as mentioned above. However, we often use the conjunction “dtawn” (ตอน) which means “when” to set the scene for another action.

Observe the following examples below:

chan (gam-lang) nawn-len yoo dtawn mae thoo ma haa chan
(I was just having a lie down when mum phoned me)

ter baad meu dtua-ayne dtawn ter (gam-lang) sap phak yoo
(She cut her own hand when she was chopping up vegetables)

phaw (gam-lang) laang na-dtaang dtawn reuhm mee phaa-yut kao
(Dad was washing the windows when the storm started)

ter yoo nai raan sa-duak-seu dtawn chan (gam-lang) kui yoo gap Tom
(She was in a convenience store when I was talking to Tom)

chan (gam-lang) nawn-lap yoo dtawn khun glab ma theung baan meua-keun-nee
(I was sleeping when you came home last night)

kao (gam-lang) rian pha-sa Thai gap kroo kawng-kao yoo dtawn chan hen kao meua baai nee
(He​ was learning Thai language with a teacher when I saw him this afternoon)

Practice Exercise:

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

1. He is waiting for a taxi.
2. We are looking for a new home.
3. Jane is cleaning the bathroom.
4. I am just about to go to the gym.
5. We are helping Dad in the garden.
6. I am about to take the dog for a walk.
7. When I was having breakfast, the phone rang.
8. She is preparing the food for the party tonight.
9. He is playing football with the children in the back garden.
10. They were fishing at the pier when I saw them yesterday afternoon.