TTA Logo


Language Development and Teacher Training School 
1961 Phaholyothin Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900
Telephone: 02 561 3443, Fax 02 561 4381

“The Language Service Institute that Cares”

(Regarding common misunderstandings Thai people have about English)

by Acharn James Parmelee


Lessons on this page are for English students of Basic through Intermediate levels (Thai standard), though everyone can learn a lot! For help, or discussion, on any English language matter that puzzles you or others, just e-mail and tell us about it! We will then respond to your e-mail just as soon as possible! To review all the lessons to date, visit the Index of Free English Lessons.



1. "Big" words are very easy to find the meaning of. For example, if you need to find out the meaning of "hypochondriac" ( hai- poh-KORN-dree-ak), you will find in your dictionary that it means (in Thai words):

A person who almost always thinks he is sick
(or has some new kind of sickness), when, really, he may not be sick at all.

So, in order to speak and use English rather well all over the world, you actually need to know only about 3,000 small or common words (plus, of course, any other words you have to use in doing your job at the office)!

2. You must accept the truth that you actually have not learned well the small words of English (of 2-4, or sometimes 5 letters) that you need to know in order to speak and use English well anywhere! Such words include:

"as", "be", "am", "is", "are", "was", "were", "have", "had", "ever", "never", "it",
"one", "if", "in", "at", "on", "of", "so", "such", "some", "other", "more", "most";

and these free lessons will help you to know, understand and become skillful in using all of these very rapidly (and the ways that "little" words also can become "big" words), so you can spend your English-improvement time learning "big" words to go along with them)!

3. "So".

        A. In the meaning of "like that" or "in that way". Thai people often say:

"I think that."

when they want to show that they agree with the speaker. English native speakers know what they mean, but it is wrong! In order to speak good English, they should say:

"I think so."

Other verbs you can use instead of "think" are (for example): "guess", "suppose", "believe", "hope", "imagine", "be afraid" and "suspect". And if you do not agree with the speaker, you can use the word "don't" and say, for example:

"I don't believe so."

This answer is made:

After the speaker gives an opinion, such as:

"Mary seems unhappy since she left Mark."
"I don't really think so. I suspect she's just worried about having enough money."

After the speaker tells about something he or she believes, such as:

"I'm afraid the President is going to have problems with Congress this month."
"I imagine so, especially since the Vice-President upset the Republicans."

After the speaker asks a yes-or-no kind of question, such as:

"Do you think the rainy season's going to start this month?"
"I don't know, but I hope so. If it doesn't, the rice crops will be ruined."

NOTE: The opposite of "so" in this meaning is "not", as used in this example:

"Do you think the teacher will be upset because you lost your homework?"
"Well, I hope not ... but I'm afraid so!"

        B. In the meaning of "therefore" or "as a result", Thai people, after someone says, for example:

"Somsri is getting fat."

often say:

"You also." or "You, too."

This is not really wrong, and an English native speaker will understand what you mean clearly. However, it is not natural English, and you should practice saying:

"So are you!"
(getting fat)

The reason is that this will help you understand and use many other kinds of conversational sentences in English! (Note that "So are you" has exactly the same meaning as "You are, too", but is used just as often by native speakers.)

The way to make this kind of answer is to:

1. Use "So" as the first word of your sentence.
2. Next use the helping verb of the sentence.
3. And, last, use the personal pronoun that represents your subject, as in:

"So are (the helping verb) you (your subject)."

Finally, if the other speaker has used "not" in his or her sentence, and you wish to use "not" in comparing the thing or person he speaks of to something else, or someone else, you may use "neither", "nor" or "(helping verb) + not either", as in the conversation below:

"You were crying at the cinema last night."
"So were you."
"John wasn't crying."
"Neither was Jane."
"Nor was Wasana."
"Chai and Lek weren't either."

       C. In the meaning of "very... with the result that", Thai people should use "so" instead of "too" in a sentence like this one:

"I like you too much."

This sentence is wrong, because "too" used in this way means "more than appropriate", which is probably not what the speaker really wants to tell someone! Instead, he or she should say:

"I like you so much."
(which is a very nice thing to say, because the person hearing this knows the
words "so much" mean that "like" may lead to a good result!)

Actually, this may be a short way of saying something like:

"I like you so much that
I'm planning to invite you to dinner with my friends!"

Therefore, you probably don't want to say:

"The Englishman speaks too fast!
(because how can you know if he speaks faster than appropriate?)"

Instead, you should say:

"The Englishman speaks so fast (that)
I can't understand a word he says!"

This is not all there is to learn about "so", but if you learn to use what you have studied here in real conversation, the rest you have to learn will not be difficult!

4. "Some/any", "someone/anyone" (or "somebody/anybody"), "somewhere/anywhere".

        A. When it's not necessary (or desired) to discuss the exact number or amount of a thing. In order to speak English in a natural way (and understand native speakers when they do so), we usually say:

"Could you get me some water, please?"
(not, "Could you get me water, please?")

"Helen has gone to the market to get some potatoes."
(not "Helen has gone to the market to get potatoes."

"I've got some problems I need to speak with you about."
(not "I've got problems I need to speak with you about."

This is because the speaker wants to show that it is not important, or it is not known, how many or how much there is of the thing being talked about, except that, if there are more than one of a thing, he or she wishes to show that. Or, he may, in fact, know the number or amount and want to tell the other person only if he or she is interested, as in:

"Warapun was lucky. She found some durians for sale this morning!"
"Really? How many did she get?"
"She bought Four. One for herself and the children,
and three for us and the rest of the guests. Would you like some?"

NOTE: "Any" is used instead of "some":

       1. When your sentence contains the word "not", or a similar word, as in:

"I seem to have lost my new necktie! I can't find it anywhere."

       2. When you don't know if there is any of the thing, or if there is any person present, that you need to find out about, as in the second example below:

"Do you have some sugar I could borrow until I go shopping?"
(This first example, in speaking perhaps with your friend,
shows that you know, or believe, that there is sugar you can borrow.)

But if you don't know or believe that your friend has any sugar, you ask:

"Do you have any sugar I could borrow until I go shopping?"

Likewise, you could say:

"Does someone here have a map I could look at?"

But, if you feel that perhaps no one has a map you could borrow, you would say:

"Does anyone here have a map I could look at?"

       3. When you wish to discuss a person or thing, but no special one, as in:

"I seem to have lost my new necktie! Has anyone seen it?"

This is not all you need to know about "some/any", "someone/anyone", "somebody/anybody" or "somewhere/anywhere", but if you learn just this much well, the rest will be easier to learn!


1. "-ng" and "-nk". You must not go to the "bang"! "Bang" means a loud noise like that made by a gun or a bomb. Rather, you want to go to the "bank", in order to get some money to use! What is the difference in sound between these two words? The difference is that the sound of "nk" = the sound of "ng" + the sound of "k"!

Thus, "thing" (THIHNG) is a noun showing what we might talk about, and
"Think" (THIHNGK) is a verb showing what we must do before we can talk!

Remember this difference, and when you pronounce "-nk", make a very soft "kuh" sound at the end of the word (which sounds beautiful in English)!

2. "X". This sound really is very easy to make. Just say, "ehks"! (The "s" has the sound of "s" in "snake".) If "x" does not come at the beginning of a word, as in "x-ray (ehks-ray)" it has the same sound as "ks", as in:

"Tax" = "TAEKS".

3. "Q". This letter has the sound of "kw" unless it comes at the end of a word. Two examples are:

"Queen" = "KWEEN",
"Liquid" = "LIH-kwihd".

But if the "Q" appears at the end of a word, it is pronounced "k", as it these examples

"Cheque" = "CHEHK",
"Raquet" = "RAE-keht".

4. "Z". Do you remember from last week that the letter "V" has the same sound as "F", except that when you say "V" you don't let any air come out of your mouth? Well, "Z", also, is the same sound as "S", except that you don't let any air come out of your mouth! To practice, pronounce "hiss" (the sound that a snake makes), with an "S" sound at the end:


Now say "his" (the word we use to show that a thing or person belongs to some man or male animal), with a "Z" sound at the end:


5. When to pronounce an "s" as "S", and when to pronounce it as "Z". If an "s" appears at the beginning or in the middle of a word, there is no rule to help you! You must listen to or ask an English native speaker, or you must check the pronunciation in an English-to-English dictionary. However, if "s" appears at the end of a noun to show more than one of a person or thing, or at the end of a verb to show that the subject of the sentence is "he", "she" or "it", you can always know if you should pronounce the "s" as "S" or as "Z"! But you need to learn the following easy rules.

       A. When you add an "s" to words ending in:

"-ce" (as in "face" = "faces").
"-ch" (as in "catch" = "catches").
"-se" (as in "lose" = "loses").
"-sh" (as in "dish" = "dishes").
"-ss" (as in "class" = "classes").
"x" (as in "fix" = "fixes").
"-xe" (as in "axe" = "axes").
or "-zz" (as in "buzz" = "buzzes").

The "S" always takes the sound of "Z"! And, if there is no "e" after "ch", "sh", "ss", "x" or "z", you must put one in before adding the "s" when writing the word.

This is because when you pronounce the word you must add one new syllable! EXPLANATION: A "syllable" (SIH-luh-buhl) is one complete sound. For example, "elephant" has three syllables (three complete sounds): EH-luh-funt, but "face" has only one syllable (one complete sound): FAYS. When you add "S" to any word ending in the letters shown above, you must always add a new syllable. For example:

"FAYS" ("face") becomes "FAY-sihz" ("faces").
"CAETCH" ("catch") becomes "KAET-chehz" ("catches").
"LOOZ" ("lose") becomes "LOO-zihz" ("loses").
"DIHSH" ("dish") becomes "DIH-shihz" ("dishes").
"KLAES" ("class") becomes "KLAE-sihz" ("classes").
"FIHKS" ("fix") becomes "FIHK-sihz" ("fixes").
"AEKS" ("axe") becomes "AEK-sihz" ("axes").
"BUHZ" ("buzz") becomes "BUH-zihz" ("buzzes").

       B. "S" added to words ending in the following sounds always has the sound of "S" and not "Z" (and there is no need to make a new syllable):

"-c" (as in "tic" = "tics" = TIHKS).
"-ck" (as in "stick" = "sticks" = STIHKS).
"-f" (as in "staff" = "staffs" = STAEFS)
"-nk" (as in "drink" = "drinks" = DRIHNKS).
"-ph" (as in "nymph" = "nymphs" = NIHMFS).
"-k" (as in "week" = "weeks" = WEKS).
"-p" (as in "shop" = "shops" = SHORPS).
"-que" ["k"] (as in "cheque" = "cheques" = CHEHKS).

       C. If you can remember all of the rules and word-endings given in "A" and"B" above, you probably will not need to remember that the following word endings, when you add "S", always give the "S" the sound of "Z":

"-a" (as in "toga" = "togas" = TOH-guhz).
"-ee" (as in "free" = "frees" = FREEZ).
"-b" (as in "rub" = "rubs" = RUHBZ).
"-d" (as in "bird" = "birds" = BUHRDZ).
"-g" (as in "dog" = "dogs" = DORGZ).
"-h" (as in "dough" = "doughs" = DOHZ).
"-th" (as in "path" = "paths" = PAETHZ, or PAHTHZ).
"-i" (as in "sari" = "saris" = SAH-reez).
"-l" (as in "fill" = "fills" = FIH-UHLZ!).
"-m" (as in "home" = "homes" = HOHMZ).
"-n" (as in "horn" = "horns" = HORNZ).
"-ng" (as in "ring" = "rings" = RIHNGZ).
"-o" (as in "go" = "goes" = GOHZ).
"-w" (as in "saw" = "saws" = SORZ).
"-y" (as in "tray" = "trays" = TRAYZ).

If so,

There are 10 questions. Print out this lesson, and write your answers in pen. Then click to check your work after you finish!

SCORING: If you get 7-10 right answers:
You're a giraffe: good-looking, tall and able to see far ahead!

If you get 5-6 right answers:
You are a deer: very fast, but not able to sit still for very long!

If you get fewer than 5 right answers: You are a(n) ...
Never mind. You just need to study the lesson again!


1. If you agree with what I say, you might say: "I think _______."

2. If you don't agree that it's going to rain, you might say: "I ________ believe ________."

3. If you don't want the bad thing to happen that I am asking you about, you could say: "______ hope ________."

4. If you agree that you like this lesson as much as we do, you might say: "__________do I."

5. Should you say to your sweetheart: "I love you too much!"? ________. (Think why, or why not.)

6. If you need help, but you don't care who helps you, you could say: "Can _________ please tell me what to do?"

7. Does "pink" sound like "PIHNGK" or "PIHNG"? __________.

8. If you wanted to talk about several things, each called a "dish", would you call them "DIH-shihs " or "DIH-shihz "? ___________. How many syllables have you used? __________.

9. If you add "s" to "check", how many syllables will you have? __________. Will the "s" sound like "s", or like "z"? __________.

10. When you add "s" to "path", how many syllables do you have? __________. Does the "s" sound like "s", or like "z"? __________.


To see any of our previous English lessons, visit the Index of Free English Lessons page!




Dave's ESL Café

send mail
 Send E-mail
Copyright © 1997-2012 TEXT-AND-TALK Consultancy (Thailand) Ltd.
All rights reserved.
Report technical problems to