I see you...

In this installment of Grammar Wars, I want to take a look at two Thai words that mean “to see.” These words are:

เจอ /jəə/

and

เห็น /hěn/

Shall we dig in?

These two are actually pretty easy I think. Both words, in at least one of their definitions, means “to see.” I think the distinction between these words and how they are used (or confused) has more to do with our American/English language interpretation of being able “to see.”

In English, “to see” can mean three things:

  1. To physically see something.”I see that tree” as an example.
  2. To comprehend a statement or opinion being made. “I see what you mean.”
  3. To encounter someone or something. “I will see him tomorrow.”

In all three cases the word “see” is used, but they have distinctly different meanings.

In Thai, I think it’s best to think of the word เจอ to mean something similar to #3 above; you are meeting or encountering someone or coming across something. For example:

พรุ่งนี้ผมจะเจอคุฌ
/prûng-níi pǒm ja jəə kun/
(tomorrow I will see you)
Tomorrow, I will see you.

In the case of เห็น, I would tend to think of this more as #1 or #2. For example:

ไม่ได้เห็นหนัง
/mâi dâi hěn nǎng/
(not can see movie)
I didn’t see the movie.

The difference may, perhaps, be subtle, but I think being mindful that in English we have several meanings for words where the Thai language may use several words for each difference.