Lesson 33

Short Vowels (Closed Syllables)


In this lesson we'll look at closed syllables (i.e. those ending in a consonant) with short vowels. We've already covered /a/, /i/, /u/, /ʉ/ and (unwritten) /o/ which were part of the original Thai script. That leaves /e/, /ɛ/, /ə/ and /ɔ/.

To start with /ə/, there is (I believe) only one word in Thai with this vowel sound, เงิน (meaning money or silver), pronounced /ŋən/. The vowel is written exactly the same as the long form.

For the other vowel sounds the solution was to introduce a new symbol, ◌็ , known as ไม้ไต่คู้ (/máyˑ​tàyˑ​khúu/) which shortens the syllable's vowel. It's written over the first consonant of a syllable (or the second consonant if the syllable starts with a consonant cluster).

Here are some examples:

เป็น/pen/to be
น็อค/nɔ́k/to knock

Contrast the shape of this character, ◌็ , with tone mark 3, ◌๊ .

Here are some common words to practise reading.


There are no short, closed diphthongs.

One oddity is the word ก็ which is pronounced /kɔ̂ɔ/. It's difficult to translate into English, but the meaning is something like "also" or "subsequently".

You may have noticed that none of the short syllables has a tone mark. So, how does Thai handle syllables which would appear to require a ◌็ and a tone mark? In short, it doesn't. There can either be a ◌็ or a tone mark − never both, with the tone mark taking precedence. The following common words are all pronounced with a short vowel sound, though written long.

เช่น/chên/for example
เล่น/lên/to play
เล่ม/lêm/[counter for books, knives, swords, &c.]
แบ่ง/bɛ̀ŋ/to share
แต่ง/tɛ̀ŋ/to decorate
ป้องกัน/pɔ̂ŋˑkan/to protect
เกี่ยวข้อง/kìawˑkhɔ̂ŋ/to relate

You just need to memorise them as exceptions.


Start by drawing the loop clockwise. Complete the character in one, continuous stroke.

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