Past Tense

Daniel Cordova ask for some help with the past tense.

I am having some trouble constructing sentences in the past tense. Namely, I’m confused between the proper situations to use the ได้ + verb construction and the past tense constructed by adding แล้ว to the end of sentences. It seems that there might be some intricate rules or differences that I’ve yet to understand. Can somebody shed some light on this? Please include อักษรไทย in your responses. I can’t read transliteration

Kruu Yuki Tachaya gave this very detailed explanation

Generally, we would just use adverbs of time like “yesterday”, “last week” etc. to indicate that the action took place in the past. You don’t really need to add anything else like a pre-verb or a modal verb. For example,

1. เมื่อวานคุณทำอะไรบ้าง
[mʉ̂a waan kun tam à rai bâang]
What did you do yesterday?

2. คืนก่อนคุณไปไหนมา
[kʉʉn gɔ̀ɔn kun bpai nǎi maa]
Where did you go last night?

To say you did not do something in the past, we tend to add the word “ได้” [dâi] after the negative particle “ไม่” [mâi] so to respond to the questions above, you would want to say

“ไม่ได้ทำอะไรเลย เล่นเน็ตอย่างเดียว”
[mâi dâi tam à rai ləəi lên kɔɔm à yâang diao]
I didn’t do anything. I was just surfing the internet.

“ผมอยู่บ้าน ไม่ได้ไปไหน”.
[pǒm à yûu bâan mâi dâi bpai nǎi]
I only stayed home, didn’t go anywhere.

But in fact, the concept of the word “ได้” [dâi] here is used to deny or to say that something is not true, not what it is or that it didn’t happen etc. so it is not really used to express past tense. You can see it in the present tense as well, for example:

A: เธอป่วยเหรอ
[təə bpùai rə̌ə]
You’re sick?

B: เปล่า ไม่ได้ป่วย ง่วงเฉยๆ
[bplào mâi dâi bpùai ngûang chə̌əi chə̌əi]
No, I’m not. I’m just tired.

We also use “ได้” [dâi] when we want to emphasize that some action “did” take place or if in a question form, to find out whether some action “did” take place or not. It means something along the lines of “to get to do something” in English.

[aa tít gɔ̀ɔn dâi bpai hǎa mɔ̌ɔ fan mǎi]
Did you get to see the dentist last week?

[mʉ̂a cháao níi dâi bpai bprà chum mǎi]
Did you get to attend the meeting this morning?

The word “แล้ว” [lɛ́ɛo] (meaning “already”) is used to indicate the completion of an action. It does not indicate past tense as a lot of people might understand. You can see it used even in a future tense. Below are examples of how to use the word “แล้ว” [lɛ́ɛo];

[àap náam lɛ́ɛo rʉ́ yang]
Have you taken a shower yet?

[bpai lɛ́ɛo ná]
I’m out of here. (I’m leaving already)

[tam gaan bâan sà rèt lɛ́ɛo kɔ̂ɔi lên geem ná]
Play games after you’ve done your homework.

พรุ่งนี้ สอบเสร็จแล้วไปเที่ยวกัน
[prûng níi sɔ̀ɔp sà rèt lɛ́ɛo bpai tîao gan]
Tomorrow, after (we’re done with) the exams, let’s go hang out.

Stuart Jay Raj added another way of expressing the past

Another very common structure is worth mentioning here that would do the trick. The use of มา ‘ma’ – ไปตลาดมา pai talà:t ma:. The มา here acts as a directional word on a timeline where you’re standing in the present. I put a clip together in relation to this a while back. Hope it helps.



  1. Daniel E. Cordova

    This is the second post from Kru Yuki Tachaya. I feared that her hard work might be lost so I decided to post it here. 😀

    1. ผมได้ดูหนัง – “ได้” here only emphasizes that the action took place, that’s all.

    [mʉ̂a waan pǒm bpai duu nǎng rʉ̂ang gàp dtan à mee rí gaa maa]
    Yesterday, I went to see Captain America. (you’re saying what happened)

    [mʉ̂a waan pǒm dâi bpai duu nǎng rʉ̂ang gàp dtan à mee rí gaa maa]
    Yesterday, I got to watch Captain America.
    (you’re saying what happened and emphasized the fact that it happened)

    The structure of ได้ [dâi]+ VERB can be used in the future tense as well:

    พรุ่งนี้ ผมจะไปดูหนังเรื่องกัปตันอเมริกา
    [prûng níi pǒm jà bpai duu nǎng rʉ̂ang gàp dtan à mee rí gaa]
    Tomorrow, I’m going to watch Captain America.
    (you’re saying what you’re going to do)

    พรุ่งนี้ ผมจะได้ไปดูหนังเรื่องกัปตันอเมริกา
    [prûng níi pǒm jà dâi bpai duu nǎng rʉ̂ang gàp dtan à mee rí gaa]
    Tomorrow, I’m going to get to watch Captain America!!
    (you’re saying what you’re going to do, emphasizing the fact that this action will happen)

    2. ผมดูหนังแล้ว [pǒm duu nǎng lɛ́ɛo] – “แล้ว” [lɛ́ɛo] here implies that the action is completed. You use this not to tell someone what you did but rather that you “have done” it.

    If you want to say “Last night, I watched a movie”,
    You’d better say “เมื่อวาน ผมดูหนัง” [mʉ̂a waan pǒm duu nǎng]
    (You simply say what you did)

    If you want to say “Last night, I got to watch a movie”,
    You’d better say “เมื่อวาน ผมได้ดูหนัง” [mʉ̂a waan pǒm dâi duu nǎng]
    (You’re emphasizing the fact that the action took place)

    If you want to say “I’ve watched a movie already”,
    You’d better say “ผมดูหนังแล้ว” [pǒm duu nǎng lɛ́ɛo]
    (You’re saying you’ve done it. You’d rather do something else.)


    Examples of real-life usage:::

    A: “เมื่อวาน ทำอะไรบ้าง”
    [mʉ̂a waan tam à rai bâang]
    “What did you do yesterday?”
    (really wanting to find out what actions took place)

    B: “ดูหนัง ฟังเพลง ทำความสะอาดบ้าน”
    [duu nǎng, fang pleeng, tam kwaam sà àat bâan]
    “Watching a movie, listening to music and cleaning the house.”
    (giving information, saying he did this and this and this)


    A: “เมื่อวาน อยู่บ้านได้ทำอะไรบ้าง”
    [mʉ̂a waan à yûu bâan dâi tam à rai bâang]
    “Yesterday you stayed home, what did you do?”
    (wondering if B got to do something at all)

    B: “ได้ดูหนัง” [dâi duu nǎng] “I watched a movie!”
    (Implying he did do something – watching a movie!)


    A: “ไปดูกัปตันอเมริกากัน”
    [bpai duu gàp dtan à mee rí gaa gan]
    “Let’s go watch Captain America!”

    B: “ไม่เอา ดูแล้ว” [mâi ao duu lɛ́ɛo]
    “No, thanks. I’ve watched it.”
    (implying that he has already watched it so he’d rather watch something else)


  2. Maarten

    Hey Daniel! More Yuki coming up soonish 🙂


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