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Hi everybody! Jay here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Thai questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: How do I tell time in Thai?
Telling time in Thai is slightly different compared to the global way of telling time. This may be a confusing topic for beginners, but it gets easier once you understand the basic concepts and with practice. Unless it's official announcements, such as at the train station or on the news, Thai people have their own system of telling time. This system of telling time is used among locals and is used informally. Today I’m going to teach you how to tell time like the locals.
The formal way of telling time in Thai is to add the word นาฬิกา Naa-Lí-Gaa, meaning “o’clock,” at the end of the hours. For example, เวลา 18 นาฬิกา (Wee-laa sìp bpàaet Naa-Lí-Gaa) means “the time is 18 o’clock.” This formal way can be found in TV or radio announcements and in formal letters.
Now let’s talk about the informal time-telling system. In Thai, instead of dividing the day into two, 12-hour chunks (for example, 12pm and 12am), we divide it in 4 parts, of 6 hours each. These are morning (6 am - 11 am), afternoon (1pm - 6pm), evening (7pm - 11pm), and night (12 am - 5 am.).
First, in the morning (between 6 am and 11 am), we put the word โมง Moong, followed by เช้า châo (“morning”) (hour + moong + châo[optional]). So, for example, 7 โมง(เช้า) jèt moong châo means “7 am.” The word, เช้า châo (“morning”) is optional. You can just say 7 โมง jèt moong (“7 am”) as well.
Now in the afternoon (between 1pm and 6pm), we put the word บ่าย bàai (“afternoon”) before the hour, followed by โมง moong (bàai + hour + moong + yen [optional]). For example, บ่าย 3 โมง (bàai săam moong) means “3 pm.”
Now, in late afternoon (between 4pm and 6pm), similar to the afternoon, you can choose to put เย็น yen at the end. This will be บ่าย 4 โมงเย็น bàai sìi-moong yen (“4 pm”). Again, yen is optional. If you say บ่าย 4 โมง bàai sìi-moong (“4 pm”) by itself, people will still understand you mean “4 pm.”
In the evening (between 7pm and 11pm), we use the word ทุ่ม thùm, and we restart the clock to 1 again (hour + thùm) . So for “7 pm,” it’s 1 ทุ่ม nùeng thùm. “9pm” is 3 ทุ่ม săam thùm, and so on.
Lastly, for nighttime (between 1am and 5am), we use the word ตี dtii before the hour (dtii + hour). For example, ตี 1 dtii nùeng is “1 am,” and ตี 5 dtii hâa means “ 5 am.”
Time / Standard way (24H) / Local way
1 am / 1 นาฬิกา nùeng Naa-Lí-Gaa / ตี 1 dtii nùeng
7 am / 7 นาฬิกา jèt Naa-Lí-Gaa /7 โมง (เช้า) jèt moong (chao)
1 pm, 4 pm / 13 นาฬิกา sìp-sǎam Naa-Lí-Gaa, 16 นาฬิกา sìp-hòk Naa-Lí-Gaa / บ่ายโมง bàai moong, สี่โมง (เย็น) sìi-moong (yen)
9 pm / 21 นาฬิกา yíi-sìp-èt Naa-Lí-Gaa / 3 ทุ่ม săam Thùm
As you may have noticed, we use โมง moong for all the hours between 6 am and 6 pm, except for 12 pm. Using เช้า châo or เย็น Yeon gives additional information, telling us whether it’s morning or afternoon. For example, e.g. 10 โมงเช้า sìp moong châo(“10 am”), 6 โมงเย็น Hòk Moong Yen (“6 pm”).


If the time is either 12 pm or 12 am, we say เที่ยงวัน thîiang wan (“12 pm”) and เที่ยงคืน thîiang khuuen. วัน wan means “day,” and คืน khuuen means “night.”
Pretty interesting, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! สวัสดี ค่ะ (sà-wàt-dii khâ)