A. The word “dâay (ได้)”
means can; able to; possible to (used at the end of a statement when you want to indicate the ability or possibility of whatever you just said). So, “dâay-mǎi (ได้ไหม) is a question like ‘Can……?’; ‘Could……?’ in English used at the end of a statement when you want to ask the ability or possibility of whatever you just said.
It is a compound question word combined from “dâay (ได้) = can; able to; possible to’ and “mǎi (ไหม) = Yes/No question word.

Here are some examples:

  • …………………………. + dâay-mǎi (ได้ไหม).
    Is the subject able to do something? (In ability and possibility)
Question: khun phûut phaa-săa Thai dâay-mǎi?
Can you speak Thai?
Answer:  dâay ×  mâi-dâay
(ได้) (ไม่ได้)
I can. I can not.


Question: chaaw-dtàaŋ-châat sɯ́ɯ bâan thîî bprà-thêet Thai dâay mǎi?
Can foreigner buy a house in Thailand?
Answer:  dâay khà
Yes, (they) can.
×  mâi-dâay khà, dtɛ̀ɛ chaaw-dtàaŋ-châat sɯ́ɯ Condominium dâay
(ไม่ได้ค่ะ แต่ชาวต่างชาติซื้อคอนโดมิเนียมได้)
No, (they) can not. But (they) can buy condominium.


B. The word “phen (เป็น)”
means means “can” when used with a skill or something which is learnt, or about something according to the “rule/law”. For example, swimming, playing instruments. Something like, “Is the subject able to do something?” (focus on skills.) So, “mâi-bpen (ไม่เป็น)” means incapable due to not knowing how to do (verb) something.

Here are some examples:

  • …………………………. + bpen-mǎi (เป็นไหม).
    Is the subject able to do something? (Focus on skills)
Question: khun wâay-náam bpen mǎi?
Can you swim(Do you know how to swim?)
Answer:  bpen ×  mâi bpen
(เป็น) (ไม่เป็น)
I can.  I can not.


Question: khun bpai Central world bpen mǎi?
Can you go to the Central world?
(Do you know the way to go to Central world? = to know the direction or how to get there.)
Answer:  bpen khráp
can. (I know the way to go there/ to get there.)
×  mâi bpen khráp
can not. (I don’t know the way to go there/ how to get there.)


Question: khun sà-màk E-mail bpen mǎi?
Can you register E-mail? (Do you know how to register E-mail?)
Answer:  bpen khráp… phǒm khəəy sà-màk hâi phɯ̂an
(เป็นครับ ผมเคยสมัครให้เพื่อน)
Yes, I can. I used to register for my friend. (I know how to register.)
×  mâi bpen khráp
No, I can not. (I don’t know how to register.)


C. The word “wăi (ไหว)”
is used when you’re expected to not be able to do it, it’s about physical limitation of the body or mind, for example a child lifting heavy things or a patient walking on his own. So, “mâi-wăi (ไม่ไหว)” means incapable due to a physical limitation such as not being strong enough.

Here are some examples:

  • …………………………. + wăi-mǎi (ไหวไหม).
    Subject be able to do difficult things. (can afford)
Question: khun tham-ŋaan 10 chûa-mooŋ wăi măi?
คุณทำงาน 10 ชั่วโมงไหวไหม
Can you work for 10 hours continually?
Answer:  wăi khráp ×  mâi-wăi khráp
(ไหวครับ) (ไม่ไหวครับ)
Yes, I can. No, I can not.


Question: khun bpuàt hŭa mâak, thâa mâi-wǎi gɔ̂ɔ glàp bâan dâay ná khráp
คุณปวดหัวมาก ถ้าไม่ไหวก็กลับบ้านได้นะครับ
You have a strong headache, if you can not continue working then you can go home. (And take some rest)
Answer: √  wăi khráp
Yes, I can.
×  mâi-wăi khráp
No, I can not.