Tone Up! II – tone rules

Thai Tone Rules. Which tone to use when

Being able to pronounce the tones, it is an important part of reading to learn how to tell which tone to use. The tone rules were neatly summarised by Kris Willems :-

1. In Thai there are 3 kinds of consonants:
– low class: ค,ฅ,ฆ,ง,ช,ซ,ฌ,ญ,ฑ,ฒ,ณ,ท,ธ,น,พ,ฟ,ภ,ม,ย,ร,ล,ว,ฬ,ฮ
– mid class: ก,จ,ฎ,ฏ,ด,ต,บ,ป,อ
– high class: ข,ฃ,ฉ,ฐ,ถ,ผ,ฝ,ศ,ษ,ส,ห
You best remember the mid and the high class consonants – the low class are all the rest.

2. In Thai there are 2 kinds of vowels:
short vowels: -ั, -ิ, -ุ, -ึ and ฤ. And all vowels with ะ or -็ in them.
long vowels: all the rest 

3. In Thai there are 2 kinds of syllables:

– dead syllable : ends a short vowel or on a p t or k sound.
– Live syllable : all the rest

4. In Thai there are 4 tones marks:
-่ : normally indicates all low tone
-้ : normally indicated a falling tone
-๊ : normally indicates a high tone
-๋ : normally indicates a rising tone

5. Here are the tone rules:

If the syllable has a tone mark: follow the tone mark
—- exception : the first consonant is low class: take the next tone
If the syllable doesn’t have a tone mark:
—- and the syllable is a live syllable: mid tone
———-exception: the first consonant is high class: rising tone
—- and the syllable is dead: low tone
———-exception: the first consonant is low class
————— and the syllable has a short vowel: high tone
————— and the syllable has a long vowel: falling tone

These tone rules have been very neatly summarised in this chart from  Tone rules chart from

Kris Willems designed a different chart which treats the determination of tone as a flowchart algorithm

Tone rules flow chart from Kris Willems

Yet another way of learning these rules is by the use of the very novel mnemonics to be found at

So you pays your money and takes your choice!


  1. Adirek

    Number 4 is misleading…

    Should be:
    -่ : normally indicates a falling tone when used with low class consonants or low with mid and high class consonants
    -้ : normally indicates a high tone with low class consonants and falling tone with mid and high class consonants
    -๊ : indicates a high tone
    -๋ : indicates a rising tone

  2. Wipa

    He actually indicated that in “5. Exceptions”. Anyway both explanations are correct.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *