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When is ไม่ pronounced as "may" and when as "mai"?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Thanked 13 Times in 7 Posts

    When is ไม่ pronounced as "may" and when as "mai"?

    In ไม่เป็นไร it is "mai". In ไม่ได้ it is "may". The script is the same for both: ไม่. There is no clue in the script to tell you how to pronounce it - "mai" or "may".

    Could someone enlighten me? This word is rather common in many words and phrases.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA
    Thanked 341 Times in 116 Posts

    Re: When is ไม่ pronounced as "may" and when as "mai"?

    I don't think the first syllable of ไม่ได้ is ever pronounced "may" (as in the month of May). I do have a guess about how you could have "heard" a sound that isn't actually there.

    Vowels in most languages can get reduced, and some form of that might have sounded to your ear like "may". For example, a very emphatic ไม่ได้ meaning 'Can't be done!' or "No way!' can put strong word stress on the ได้ while reducing the vowel in ไม่ to kind of a short 'uh'. Since more than one vowel sound in a language can often be reduced to the same final sound, our brains are free to 'fill in' whatever sound would have been the non-reduced variant. Obviously native speakers have the advantage when doing this since their brains have been "wired correctly" for the language since birth.

    Here is clip taken from thai-language dot com website of a native speaker saying that phase, presumably in a neutral way without any kind of vowel reduction. I think if you ask any native speaker to say ไม่ได้ you'll get a similar response.

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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Florida, USA
    Thanked 7 Times in 5 Posts

    Re: When is ไม่ pronounced as "may" and when as "mai"?

    It's totally pronounced like that pretty much anytime another word follows it. As in Mai Mee. (sometimes to English speakers, it sounds like "mee-mee" or "may-mee"
    Mai dai bpai can sound like "may day bpai." It has that sound, but the ay is very short. I use it all the time. It's how Thai people speak too.

    You can get away with if it's part of a phrase. But don't pronounce "mai" on its own as "may." That just won't make any sense.
    "Random Witty Comment"

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