Telling Thai Time by the Numbers

18321013 clock tower traditional thai numbers thailand1 Telling Thai Time by the Numbers

I’ve been studying hard and learning a lot in my Thai language classes at PRO Language. The teacher has made the class very interesting and we are learning a lot. Most questions asked of us are in Thai and our responses are in Thai as well. Sometimes we get it right but there are times when we get words in the wrong order or pronunciation is a little off and we are corrected. Often times the teacher deviates some from the lesson giving us new words or reasoning’s as to why certain combination’s of words are used or no longer used.

Yesterday we spent a good amount of time on numbers and telling time. I know the numbers well up to the thousand mark but I didn’t know beyond, which was great because now I do. I figured telling time in Thai would be very straight forward and it was for the most part until I got to the evening hours. Maybe I should back up and give you all a little lesson on Thai time so you can follow where my confusion came in.

First thing you have to realize is that the Thai’s work on a 6 hour clock and each 6 hours has a different classifier and even some hours within those hours have yet another classifier. It might also help if I list some words associated with time. Keep in mind I am using a phonetic spelling of the Thai words as I am not confident enough yet to use proper Thai script.

Ton Nai – Which part of the day

Ton Klan One – Daytime

Ton Klanng Khun – Night time

Mong – O’Clock

Chua Mong – Hour

Natii – Minute

Vi Natii – Second

Ton Chao – 6am – 9am or morning

Ton Saay – 10am – 11:59am or late morning

Ton Thiang – 12pm Noon

Ton Baai – 1pm – 4:59pm

Ton Yen – 5pm – 6:59pm

Ton Duk – 10pm – 11:59pm

Thiang Khuen – Midnight

For each part of the day there is a classifier so there is no doubt as to which time is being spoken:

5am – 11:59am -  The classifier is Mong Chao although many Thai people drop the Chao and just use Mong.

12 Noon – The classifier is Thiang or as some Thai people say Thiang Wan.

1pm – 4:59pm – The classifier is Bai.

5pm – 6:59pm – The classifier is Mong Yen. Some people count 4 pm into this classifier as well.

7pm – 11:59 -  The classifier is Thum.

Midnight – The classifier is Thiang Kheun

1am – 4:59am – The classifier is Ti.

5am – 11:59 am is very straight forward. The morning hours are known as Mong  Chao so you would tell the time as #+ Mong  Chao ergo 5am becomes ha Mong Chao  and 11:21 would be sip et Mong Chao ye sip et.

While this is all pretty straight forward we got to a point where the teacher asked me “Khun Tim please tell me the time 10:21pm in Thai” I confidently said ” Sip Thum Ye Sip Et” [ Buzzer sound ] Wrong! But how can that be? It was then explained to me that 7pm – 11pm are not known by their normal number names they are known as 1 – 5 or neung, song, sam, si and ha. Confused yet? I was very confused by this and about to ask why when an impromptu discussion broke out on daylight savings time and then the answer hit me.

You see, Thailand doesn’t have daylight savings time so sunset falls in the 6pm hour every day of the year. If you think about it with a little Thai logic then you will have the answer also. 7pm is the first hour after sunset, 8pm the second, 9pm the third and so on. So, instead of saying 7pm as djet Thum and 8pm as bat Thum you would say 7pm as neung Thum and 8pm song Thum. And now you know.

The Thai’s also use the 24 hour clock or Military time for those of you less inclined to learn the Thai time.

Thai time by the numbers

Midnight - thiang kheun

1am - tii neung

2amtii song

3am - tii sam

4am - tii si

5am - tii ha

6am - hok mong chao

7am - djet mong chao

8am - bat mong chao

9am - gao mong chao

10am – sip mong chao

11am – sip-et mong chao

12.00 (noon) – thiang

1pm - bai mong

2pm - bai song mong

3pm - bai sam mong

4pm - bai si mong

5pm - bai ha mong yen

6pm - hok mong yen

7pm - neung thum

8pm - song thum

9pm - sam thum

10pm - si thum

11 pm - ha thum

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33 Responses to Telling Thai Time by the Numbers
  1. Paul Garrigan
    September 14, 2010 | 5:56 pm

    I was hoping that you would you begin writing about your classroom experiences. Great stuff. I hope you make this a regular thing. You pay for the lessons and provide the knowledge to us free of charge – bargain. I hope your teachers don’t find out about it :-)
    Paul Garrigan´s last blog ..My Impressions of the New Suvarnabhumi Airport Train LinkMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Talen
    September 14, 2010 | 6:10 pm

    Paul, I never thought about it in that way,,,win win for all of us I guess and some exposure for the school.

  3. Joe
    September 14, 2010 | 6:11 pm

    Excellent summary of all things TIME-wise in Thai language. This reinforces your lessons as well. Wonderful stuff.

    • Talen
      September 14, 2010 | 7:00 pm

      Joe, it definitely helps me to retain what I’ve learned by writing about it…I’m thinking a sleeping dictionary might come in handy too :P

  4. Mike
    September 14, 2010 | 6:49 pm

    Talen interesting stuff, for two reasons, one I have noticed several variations(perhaps not central Thai) and two no mention of “narigar”(thats how it sounds) meaning hour.

    e.g sip narigar sip natii(10.10) when using the 24 hour clock like Thai railways or the airlines for example.

    Did they mention this? maybe I have misunderstood my “teacher.” :-)
    Mike´s last blog ..Tokay GeckoMy ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      September 14, 2010 | 6:59 pm

      Mike, No, narigar wasn’t mentioned but it could very well be a classifier used only in certain circumstances such as 24 hour clock. I’ll ask my teacher tomorrow and find out.

      • Joe
        September 14, 2010 | 7:33 pm

        You are correct Talen. Used in so called military-time.

  5. Joe
    September 14, 2010 | 7:27 pm

    Answer: watch or timepiece|th|watch

    • Joe
      September 14, 2010 | 7:41 pm

      Lets see if this works [sorry to clutter ur comments]:|en|%E0%B8%99%E0%B8%B2%E0%B8%AC%E0%B8%B4%E0%B8%81%E0%B8%B2

      to be complete, 4 nouns given for “naliga

      • Talen
        September 14, 2010 | 9:52 pm

        Joe, Good catch….I’m looking into ways I and others can post Thai on the site…stay tuned.

  6. Catherine
    September 14, 2010 | 8:49 pm

    Great stuff Talen. I’ve been looking forward to you sharing your classes as well.

    What I liked about moving to Thailand was that not only was I raised on military time, but I was already living in the tropics. A win win for me.

    So as long as I wasn’t at the receiving end of the other crazy times, I could get by.

    And when first moving here there is soooooo much ‘just getting by’ :-D
    Catherine´s last blog ..HandBreak Thai Language Videos for the iPhoneMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Jack Dawson
    September 14, 2010 | 9:03 pm

    will this be on the test ?
    Jack Dawson´s last blog ..Bacon Burrito Dog for a Hundred- AlexMy ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      September 14, 2010 | 9:56 pm

      Jack, not only will this be on the test you’ll have to figure the test time out in Thai as well. Hell, if I get good at this Thai language thing I might convert the whole site over to Thai….probably bad Thai but Thai none the less. :P

  8. Daran
    September 14, 2010 | 11:44 pm

    Good blog!, after 13 years of marriage, i sort of learnt the the time concept that ’4 means 10′ but never knew the reason why, with the daylight Thai logic. immediatley i tried it out on my wife and explained the reasoning behind it and got the “for sure, thats right” answer , like you sure to know that, well only today do i understand why :)

    • Talen
      September 15, 2010 | 12:10 am

      Daran, Thanks…if the discussion hadn’t turned to daylight savings I’m not so sure I would have figured it out myself. Even though I’m sure the teacher would have explained it.

  9. Martyn
    September 15, 2010 | 4:12 am

    Talen I’ve tried learning to tell the time in Thai but never had too serious a go at it. I think it all makes quite logical sense with their splitting up of the day into morning, after sunset etc. With a little effort I reckon it would be quite easy to learn.

    On Mike’s question about nalikar, which does mean watch or clock but is also a way of learning to tell the time. I believe it is the way kids are first taught to tell the time at school. Check it out.
    Martyn´s last blog ..A Dilemma of Dog Sized ProportionsMy ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      September 15, 2010 | 10:49 am

      Martyn, I’ll definitely be asking the teacher today…I’m sure he’ll be able to explain it well.

  10. Tony
    September 15, 2010 | 10:23 am


    Interesting revelation on how daylight savings is factored in to telling time in Thailand.

    Are you ever going to golf there?
    Tony´s last blog ..Extensions and Forbearances…What are theyMy ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      September 15, 2010 | 10:47 am

      I doubt I’ll be playing golf anytime soon but when you come to Thailand I’m sure we could fit in a game or two…

  11. Tony
    September 15, 2010 | 11:30 am

    At least you won’t have to ask to if you can play through a living room!
    Tony´s last blog ..Extensions and Forbearances…What are theyMy ComLuv Profile

  12. Lani
    September 16, 2010 | 9:47 am

    Brave man, Talen to get into the telling time explanation business! I remember how confused I was when I was learning. And I remembered 11pm was ha because I thought HA! It’s frickin’ late! :P

    • Talen
      September 16, 2010 | 4:51 pm

      Lani, might not be brave…might be stupid :P

      But at least I know I will remember the time now…

  13. Jon
    September 16, 2010 | 12:13 pm

    Good post Talen, nice to see your settling in well with the lessons. Have you addressed learning Thai script yet?
    Jon´s last blog ..A long overdue updateMy ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      September 16, 2010 | 4:52 pm

      Jon, Thai script won’t come into play in class for a few months…they seem to be keen on getting the vocabulary, grammar and structure up to snuff before delving into reading and writing.

  14. ChuckWow
    September 18, 2010 | 9:43 am

    I am not sure if this is official but it seems that the Thai day starts at 6:00AM. (vs 12:00AM)

    I have seen many surprised looks on bar girls faces when I show up at 2:00AM on the day I said I would and she was expecting me the next evening.

  15. alok
    September 19, 2010 | 7:13 pm


    I loved reading almost all the post here and explored new things that i never tried, while on a frequent trip to Thailand.Your Thai time by numbers, helped me a lot to resolve most of my unexplained answers , specially the time , after 6pm that is from 7 pm onwards, time were beautifully explained….
    Please keep up the good work, we love you FOLKS and “Thailand Land Of Smiles”

  16. Talen
    September 24, 2010 | 7:16 pm

    Alok, thanks and I hope you stick around.

  17. Megan
    September 30, 2010 | 9:05 pm

    We were just studying time in Thai class yesterday, and this was very helpful. Thanks! :)
    Megan´s last blog ..Challenge- Megan vs AppendixMy ComLuv Profile

  18. Alok Singh
    October 1, 2010 | 3:27 am

    Hi Talen,

    It’s so nice to read and learn so many things, you write on your Post.
    They are really very informative and useful,be it all about Travelling in Thailand,Thai language or whatever, good job done.I salute you for all your Contribution…
    I look forward to read more of such incredible post, in your up coming editions…
    With due Respect i would like to comment, that you have proved,yourself worthy to be a ‘TALENT’, Talen…

    Sincere Regards,
    Alok Singh

  19. [...] threatening to explode from of all things Thai language, Talen started writing about his studies. Telling Thai Time by the Numbers was followed by Hello, My Name is Tim. There are sure to be maaaaannnny more, so perhaps attach [...]

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