There are many “utility” words in Thai; words that mean several different things and serve multiple grammatical functions depending on how they are used.

I thought it would be a good idea to slowly go through some of these words to give you a better understanding of how they work, especially since they are very heavily used in both spoken and written Thai.

The first word I want to start with is one I touched upon in my last post – Sentence Structure Matters  (to a point). The word is ได้ (dâi – “can”), and as you will see has a few ways it’s used.

Shall we get started?

Can/Be Able To

I think this is the most common way that ได้ is used. When placed after a verb, ได้ means “can/be able to.”

ผมไปตลาดได้
pǒm bpai dtà-làat dâi
(I go market can)
I can go to the market.

To form the negative of this statement, use ไม่ได้ (mâi dâi – “cannot”) instead of ได้.

ผมไปตลาดไม่ได้
pǒm bpai dtà-làat mâi dâi
(I go market cannot)
I cannot go to the market.

To Get To/As You Told Me To Do

When ได้ is used as the main verb of a sentence, it means “to get.” For example:

ผมได้ไปตลาด
pǒm dâi bpai dtà-làat
(I get to go market)
I get to go to the market.

By adding แล้ว (lɛ́ɛo – “already”) at the end of the sentence you are inferring “as you told me to do.”

ผมได้ไปตลาดแล้ว
pǒm dâi bpai dtà-làat lɛ́ɛo
(I as you told me to go market already)
I went to the market (as you told me to do).

“Whatever” You Like

Actually this can be whatever/whoever/whenever you like when you add ก็ (gɔ̂ɔ) in front of ได้ก็ได้ (gɔ̂ɔ dâai) and place an indefinite pronoun (who, what, when) in front of it.

กินอะไรก็ได้
gin à rai gɔ̂ɔ dâai
(Eat whatever you like)
Eat whatever you like.

เราไปเมื่อไรก็ได้
rao bpai mʉ̂a-rai gɔ̂ɔ dâai
(We go whenever you like)
We can go whenever you like.

Also take note that in this case ได้ is pronounced with a long vowel — dâai.

Did Not

We’ve already looked at ไม่ได้ a little bit. When placed before a verb, it takes on the meaning of “did not,” such as:

ผมไม่ได้ไปตลาด
pǒm mâi dâi bpai dtà-làat
(I did not go market)
I did not go to the market.

I think that’s a good start. There will be at least a Part 2, if not a Part 3 as well; I’ll have to see how much to put in each time, as I don’t want to cause information overload.

Good luck!