In this installment of Grammar Wars, I want to take a look at two Thai words that mean “to see.” These words are:
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:
- To physically see something.”I see that tree” as an example.
- To comprehend a statement or opinion being made. “I see what you mean.”
- 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:
/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:
/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.