Just when you think you might be done with a word, it pops up on you again. In Part 2 (and don’t forget about Part 1) I thought I had covered all of the ground that ได้ /dâi/ has to offer; we learned about “can/be able to,” “might be able to,” and a bunch of expressions.

But alas there is at least one more, and coverage of this very important utility word would be incomplete if not mentioned.

Present Perfect Tense

ได้ is also used as an auxiliary verb to indicate present perfect tense. Believe me when I tell you that I’m not very good at English grammar terms, so I’ll just rehash what the books say and mention that Present Perfect tense means that the action occurred in the past and continues to the present.

Blah… blah… blah…

It’s probably best to just give you an example:

ผมได้วิ่งมาราธอน
/pǒm dâi wîng maa-raa-tɔɔn/
(I have run marathon)
“I have run a marathon.”

What is implied here is that the speaker has, at some point in the past, run a marathon. Not necessarily an hour ago, but at some point. 

Where the use of ได้ in this situation gets a bit tricky is that it usually requires you provide more information about the subject. In other words, you would be more inclined to say ผมได้วิ่งมาราธอน rather than ผมได้วิ่ง. Although you will probably be understood by native Thai speakers, it does not sound as natural as it would to just say ผมวิ่งแล้ว /pǒm wîng lɛ́ɛo/. Here’s another example:

ผมได้ดื่มกาแฟก่อนขับรถ
/pǒm dâi dʉ̀ʉm gaa-fɛɛ gɔ̀ɔn kàp rót/
(I have drink coffee before drive car)
“I drank coffee before driving.”

One method I was recently taught to understand when to use ได้ is to think of “have done something.” It sounds strange in English to say “I have drank coffee…” but until you are able (until all of us are able, to be honest) to think completely in Thai, you have to inject a bit of Thaiglish into your thought process.

As I have said many times in the past, this is my understanding at this time. It’s quite possible that I’ve left something else out or haven’t quite caught the nuances correctly yet. But rest assured when I do I’ll be happy to pass along the information.