Thai Language Grammar: Verbs “to be” in Thai

In this post, we are going to explore different ways of using the verbs “to be” – “bpen” (เป็น), “yoo” (อยู่) and “keu” (คือ). These verbs are linking verbs and their main function is to link the subject with the rest of the sentence, usually to provide further information about that subject. However, they have their own specific usage. Let’s look at them below….

1. Verb: bpen (เป็น)

When we want to give information about someone or something, such as their job, position, relationship terms etc, we use “bpen” (เป็น). It has the same meanings as “to be“, “is“, “am” or “are“, and it is usually placed before a noun – subject + bpen + noun.

Observe the following examples below:

– ter bpen pha-yaa-baan
(She is a nurse)

– phan-ra-yaa kawng-kao bpen maw
(His wife is a doctor)

– phoo-chai kon non bpen nawng-chai kawng-ter
(That man is her younger brother)

– kao bpen phoo-am-nuay-garn faai garn-dta-laad kawng-phuak-rao
(He is our Marketing Director)

We can also placed another verb before “bpen” (เป็น) – verb + bpen + noun.

Observe the following examples below:

– ngaan-liang dtawng bpen surprise
(The party must be a surprise)

– kao tham-ngaan bpen wi-sa-wat-gorn
(He works as an engineer)

– phuak-kao keuy bpen nak-rian kawng-chan
(They used to be my students)

– kao yak bpen nak-sa-daeng meua kao awk-jaak rong-rian
(He wants to be an actor when he leaves school)

Please Note: For a list of useful jobs and occupations, as well as more about how to use the verb “bpen” (เป็น), you can read my previous post – Thai Vocabulary Resource: Jobs and Occupations.

2. Verb: keu (คือ)

When we want to identify people or things, give explanations, clarifications or definitions, we use “yoo” (อยู่). It has the same meanings as “to be“, “is“, “am” or “are“, and it is usually placed before a noun or a pronoun (such as “one of”, “who”, etc.) – subject + keu + noun / pronoun.

Observe the following examples below:

– nan keu bpaak-gaa kawng-kao
(That is his pen)

– kao keu jao-naai kawng-chan
(He is my boss)

– loke keu neung nai bpaed daow-krot
(Earth is one of eight planets)

– kwaam-rak keu pha-lang haeng tham-ma-chaad
(Love is a force of nature)

– phai-pi-bat thaang tham-ma-chaad keu hade-garn thee geud-keun dtaam-tham-ma-chaad
(A natural disaster is an event that occurs naturally)

– phoo-jad-garn faai dta-laad keu phoo thee dai-rap kad-leuak hai-bpen pha-nak-ngaan dee-den
(Marketing manager is the one who has been selected as outstanding employees)

Please Note: The negative form of “bpen” (เป็น) and “keu” (คือ) is “mai chai” (ไม่ใช่).

Observe the following examples below:

– nan mai chai kwaam-jing
(That is not the truth)

– ter mai chai pha-yaa-baan
(She is not a nurse)

– phuak-kao mai chai nak-dap-phleuhng tuk-kon
(They are not all firefighters)

– kwaam-rak mai chai kwaam-jam-bpen thee-ja dtawng yoo duay-gan tuk chuang-way-laa
(Love is not a need to be with each other every single moment)

3. Verb: yoo (อยู่)

When we want to indicate where places and things are situated, we use “yoo” (อยู่). It has the same meanings as “to be“, “is“, “am” or “are“, and it is usually placed before a preposition followed by the location – subject + yoo + preposition + location.

Observe the following examples below:

– kao yoo nai tha-naa-karn
(He is in the bank)

– aa-haan yoo bon dto laeo
(The food is already on the table)

– baan kawng-ter yoo rim tha-lay-saab
(Her house is on the edge of the lake)

– mee rot mai gee kan yoo bon tha-non saai nee
(There are very few cars on this street)

Please Note: For more information about how to use the verb “yoo” (อยู่), you can visit my previous post Thai Language Grammar: Using “yoo” (อยู่).

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

1. It was a cold morning.
2. You are being so annoying!
3. I’m in college at the moment.
4. They are the ones who suffered.
5. Both of my brothers are policemen.
6. The problem is deciding what to do.
7. It is a problem, but not a major one.
8. Who’s in charge of the Finance Department?
9. My daughter lives just across the street from me.
10. Sydney is one of the world’s most exciting cities.
11. Ours was one of the top four boats in the competition.

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