The many meanings of the Thai word 'na'

Thai speakers say this word at least a hundred times a day, but its meaning is hard to pin down

The particle นะ ná is extremely common in spoken and informal Thai, at least as much so as any of the polite particles. It's used to make a sentence sound gentler, softer or more persuasive, when expressing opinions or making statements looking for approval or agreement, when making compliments or encouraging statements, and to make commands, requests, criticisms and warnings seem less abrupt. ná can be considered almost mandatory in requests and warnings, unless you want to sound particularly forceful.

Given it's wide range of uses, you'll almost never go wrong including ná in a sentence if it seems appropriate to do so. Be a bit wary of over-usage though, as if you say it every other sentence it will make your speech quite repetitive sounding.

Please wait a moment
รอ สักครู นะ ครับ
ror sàk kroo ná kráp
wait - just - moment - ná - kráp
ná here makes the request sound more polite.
We walked quite a long way (didn't we?)
เรา เดิน มา ไกล เหมือนกัน นะ
rao dern maa glai mĕuan gan ná
we - walk - come - far - quite - ná

ná here shows you're seeking the agreement of the listener. In a sense this makes it similar to "didn't we ? isn't right ?", although it's not as direct a question as that and doesn't require a response from the listener.
You have to take your medicine on time (ok?)
คุณ ต้อง กิน ยา ให้ ตรงเวลา นะ
kun dtông gin yaa hâi dtrong way-laa ná
you - must - eat - medicine - at - on time - ná
ná softens the sound of the command, making it more informal and less like an order. In this sense, it's similar to ending a sentence with "...., ok ?" in English
Sorry that I made you worry
ขอโทษ นะ ที่ ทำให้ ต้อง เป็นห่วง
kŏr tôht ná têe tam hâi dtông bpen hùang
sorry - ná - that - cause - have to - worry
ná makes the apology sound more persuasive.
This is your last chance
โอกาสสุดท้าย แล้ว นะ
oh-gàat sùt táai láew ná
chance - final - already - ná
ná makes the warning sound less severe.
I think it's not bad also.
ฉัน คิดว่า มัน ก็ ไม่เลว นะ
chăn kít wâa man gôr mâi leo ná
i - think that - it - also - not bad - ná
ná makes the opinion expressed sound gentler and less abrupt, and shows a sense of seeking approval with others.
Buy this for me please....please....please
ซื้อ ให้ หน่อย นะ ... นะ ... นะ
séu hâi nòi ná ... ná ... ná
buy - for - nòi - ná
ná makes the request more persuasive, and corresponds to "please" here.

"Na" in questions

When used at the end of a question, ná is asking for information previously given to be repeated. This is most commonly encountered in the idiomatic อะไรนะ a-rai ná ("Pardon ? ; Sorry, what was that ?", literally "what - ná"), but has broader uses too.

What did you say his name was again ?
เขา ชื่อ อะไรนะ kăo chêu a-rai ná
he - name - what - ná

Which province did you say you were from again ?
คุณ เป็น คน จังหวัด อะไรนะ kun bpen kon jang-wàt a-rai ná
you- ARE - person - province - what - ná

Where did you say you bought it again ?
คุณ ซื้อ มัน ที่ไหน นะ kun séu man têe năi ná
you - buy - it - where - ná

For Confirmation

ná has another use as a confirmation particle when asking for agreement with a statement just made. Its usage in this case can be thought of being similar to that of ใช่ไหม châi măi ("is that right ? ; is that correct ?"). Note that using ná may be a bit ambiguous, as the listener can't always be sure whether the ná is making the statement into a question or just being used to make it sound gentler.

You're ok, right ?
เธอ ไม่เป็นไร นะ ter mâi bpen rai ná
you - are ok - ná

So there's no problem, right ?
ไม่มี ปัญหา นะ mâi mee bpan-hăa ná
not have - problem - ná

You're really sure of that ?
คุณ แน่ใจ นะ kun nâe jai ná
you - sure - ná

As a filler word

With a slight change of tone, nâ is used as a "filler word" after the topic of the sentence, in a corresponding way to how some English speakers do with "right" or "you know".

You, right, you're lucky to have got that kind of job.
คุณ น่ะ โชคดี นะ ที่ ได้ งานแบบนั้น kun nâ chôhk dee ná têe dâai ngaan bàep nán
you - nâ - lucky - ná - that - get - work - like - that
Back then, right, life was hard for us
ตอนนั้น น่ะ · พวกเรา ลำบาก มากเลย dton-nán nâ · pûak rao lam-bàak mâak loie
that time - nâ - we - in difficulty - a lot

The distinction between ná and nâ is very blurred though, and they're often used interchangeably as are the less common หน่ะ nà and หนะ nà. As with ค่ะ and ครับ , the vowel may be lengthened from a short vowel to a longer น๊า náa sound, which makes it sound more informal/persuasive (not that the normal ná is formal anyway!). This is most common when náa is the last word in a short sentence, such as ขอบคุณ น๊า kòp kun náa ("thank you") or ไปก่อน น๊า bpai gòn náa ("bye").


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