Lesson 5 = Bòt Thêe Hâh = บทที่ ๕

There are quite a couple of methods to read the time in Thai. What I had explained to you during the lesson is a typical and most common way to do it. Not long ago I have discovered that what is the most common way may not be the most correct way, but who cares? So long as people understand what you are trying to say, then you are good to go.


[By saying the most correct way, I am referring to how to read the time in the olden times. See the table below.]


[However when you are in doubt, please make sure you ask a Thai exactly which time he/she is referring to. A student of mine (Mr. H, may I take the liberty to share your experience – slightly modified – with my other readers, I hope you won’t mind. J) told me that his friend was inviting him to his wedding ceremony, which was supposed to be at 6 o’clock. Now you would imagine 6 o’clock = Hòk mohng. Mr. H understood the time, and thinking that it was supposed to be a wedding ceremony, in certain part of the world it is celebrated in the evening time. He then turned up at the place at 6pm, and by then he realized something had been amiss. The said ceremony was actually involved monks’ prayer, hence it was supposed to be 6 o’clock in the morning, not evening. Nevertheless, Mr. H still got to enjoy the evening ceremony. So all was not missed after all.]


Ok, slight history lesson here. In the past, there was no clock at every house. So the only way to tell the time would be a signal from a temple or a city hall. A monk would then use either a gong or a drum to indicate the time: a gong for the day and a drum for the night. Below I tabulate how to read the time for your easy reference:


  What we learnt Alternative (s) Olden times
6 a.m. Use __ mohng (chaáo)


  Yâm rûng*
7 a.m.   (1) mohng chaáo
8 a.m.   2 mohng chaáo
9 a.m.   3 mohng chaáo
10 a.m.   4 mohng chaáo
11 a.m.   5 mohng chaáo
12 p.m. Thîang (wan)    
1 p.m. Use Baài __ mohng Baài mohng (yen)  
2 p.m. Baài 2 mohng (yen)  
3 p.m. Baài 3 mohng (yen)  
4 p.m. Use __ mohng (yen) Baài 4 mohng (yen)  
5 p.m. Baài 5 mohng (yen)  
6 p.m.   Yâm khâm*
7 p.m. Use __ thûm

(the number would be the

number of hours after evening – 6pm)

8 p.m.    
9 p.m.   Nèung yaam
10 p.m.    
11 p.m.    
12 a.m. Thîang kheun Sŏrng yaam Sŏrng yaam
1 a.m. Use Tee __    
2 a.m.    
3 a.m.   Săam yaam*
4 a.m.    
5 a.m.    


Yâm rûng (ย่ำรุ่ง) and Yâm khâm (ย่ำค่ำ). What are they?


Now I need to explain the word yâm. This word means to tread or to tramp; or to repeatedly beat a drum or a gong to indicate the change of time. A little difficult to understand? Now you imagine a cuckoo clock which will, well, cuckoo every one hour. This is exactly the same thing, just that yâm rûng would happen only at 6 a.m. (or when the sun rises) and yâm khâm would happen at 6 p.m. (or when the sun sets). We refer to 7 a.m. as nèung mohng chaáo because it is an hour after the sun rises, similar logic to 7 p.m. is nèung thûm (an hour after the sun sets).


Yaam (ยาม), what is it?


The general meaning of yaam is sentinel. In the past, a sentinel stands by on guard at night at the area surrounding the city. However one cannot be on guard for too long as he, too a human, would need to rest. The timing between each sentinel change is then referred to the same word – yaam – which now, in modern days, it would mean time, or period of time. In Thai context, each duration is 3 hours. As a result, you can refer to the table above on how to read, in the past, 9 p.m., 12 a.m., and 3 a.m. In fact, even nowadays, it is acceptable to say “sŏrng yaam” when you mean 12 a.m.


Quiz: What does this mean –

Nêe man kèe mohng kèe yaam laéw, thammai mâi róojàk làb norn?


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