Lao grammar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lao is generally a subject–verb–object language, but emphasis can move the object to the beginning of a sentence. The language lacks both agreement and case marking, but word order is very free, with predicate-argument relations determined largely through context. Lao is a right-branching language, much like other Southeast Asian languages and, to a lesser extent, Romance languages.


Since Lao culture is stratified based on the age, occupation, wealth or clout of the speaker, one must afford differing amounts of respect based on the discrepancy between one person and another. That affects language as well; to make language more polite, more formal language, including of pronouns (which can otherwise be dropped) and more formal versions of them, and sentence-ending particles can be used. Also, ending particles also serve to soften and make one's speech more polite.

  • ແດ່ (dé /dɛ̄ː/)

In addition to ending most general statements and the softening of imperatives and requests, it is also used to intensify the meaning (especially of adjectives and adverbs) more politely, to make the use of demonstrative pronouns more polite, or to indicate a certain amount or some extent of something.

  • ເດິ (deu /dəː/) or ເດີ໊ (deu /də̄ː/) or ເດ (dè /dèː/)

They are used as a more intensive version of ແດ່, thus giving requests and demands more urgency and are used for statements that tend to be more emphatic. They are, therefore, not as polite. ເດ also has the sense of and what about or to indicate an equivalent to this as a demonstrative pronoun.


Nouns are not marked for plurality, gender, or declension but may be single or plural. Unlike in English, nouns are not marked with articles. Measure words or classifiers (ລັກສະນະນາມ, laksana naam /lāksáʔnāʔ náːm/) are often used to express plurals, as classifiers must be used to count objects, but the noun itself remains unchanged.

Verbs of physical action are easily converted into nouns by adding ການ (kan /kaːn/) before the verb. Abstract actions and adjectives use ຄວາມ (khwam /kʰuáːm/) instead.

  • ເດີນທາງ (deunthang /də̀ːntʰáːŋ/) to travel (v.) nominalised into ການເດີນທາງ (kan deunthang /kaːn də̀ːntʰáːŋ/) travel (n.)
  • ຄິດ (khit /kʰīt/) to think (v.) nominalised into ຄວາມຄິດ (khoam khit /kʰuám kʰīt/) thought (n.)
  • ດີ (di /diː/) good (adj.) nominalised into ຄວາມດີ (khoam di /kʰuám diː/) goodness (n.)


Pronoun BGN/PCGN IPA Meaning
ຂ້ອຍ khoy kʰɔ̏ːj I/me (informal, general)
ຂ້ານ້ອຍ khanoy kʰȁː nɔ̂ːj I/me (formal)
ເຮົາ hao háw we/us
ເຈົ້າ chao tɕâw you (general)
ທ່ານ than tʰāːn you (very formal)
ເຂົາ khao kʰǎw he/him/she/her (formal, general)
ລາວ lao láw he/him/she/her (very informal)
ເພິ່ນ pheun pʰɤn he/him/she/her (very formal)
ມັນ man mán it (very rude if used on a person)

Pronouns (ສັບພະນາມ, sap pha nam /sáp pʰāʔ náːm/) are often dropped in informal contexts and replaced with nicknames or kinship terms, depending on the relation of the speaker spoken to (sometimes even spoken about). Pronouns can change based on register of speech, including the obsolete royal and the formal, informal and vulgar. In more formal language, pronouns are more often retained and more formal ones used. Pronouns can be pluralized by adding ພວກ (phuak /pʰuak/) in front: ພວກເຈົ້າ (/pʰuak.tɕao/) for "you plural". Age and status determine usage. Younger children's names are often prefixed with ບັກ (bak /bak/) and ອີ (i /ʔiː/), respectively. Slightly older children are addressed to or have their names prefixed wirh ອ້າຍ (ai /ʔaj/) and ເອື້ອຍ (èw-ai /ʔɯːâj/), respectively, but ພີ່ (phi /pʰīː/) is also common. Much older people may be politely dressed as aunt, uncle, mother, father, or even grandmother or grandfather, depending on their age. In a company setting, one's title is often used.

Demonstrative pronouns[edit]

Demonstrative Pronoun BGN/PCGN IPA Meaning
ນີ້ ni nîː this
ນັ້ນ nan nân that
ເຫລົ່ານີ້ lao ni lāw nīː these
ເຫລົ່ານັ້ນ lao nan lāw nân those


Lao verbs (ກະຣິຍາ, kaligna /káʔrīɲáː/) are not conjugated for tense, mood, or pronoun. Tense is indicated by using time reference words, such as yesterday, next year, just now or by certain particles. Nouns that begin with ການ (kan /kaːn/) or ຄວາມ (khwam /kʰuáːm/), often nominalised verbs, become verbs again when those particles are dropped.


Lao has two forms of the verb to be, ເປັນ (pèn /pen/) and ແມ່ນ (maen /mɛ̄ːn/) which are somewhat interchangeable. As a general rule, the latter is not used to describe people.

  • ນົກເປັນໝໍ (Nok pen mo /nōk pen mɔ̌ː/)
    Nok is a doctor.
    Literally: Nok + be (v) + doctor.
  • ນັ້ນບໍ່ແມ່ນເຮືອ (Nan bo mèn heua /nân bɔ̄ː mɛ̄ːn hɯáː)
    That is not a boat.
    Literally: That + not + be (v) + boat.


In a general, short Lao sentence, the verb is often not marked for tense and can be taken from context, with words such as yesterday, tomorrow, later, etc. If the subject of when the events occurred is already known, they can also be left out and inferred from dialogue. However, there are several ways to mark tense in Lao:


The most common way to indicate a completed action is to end a statement with ແລ້ວ (lèw /lɛ̂ːu/). That can also be used to indicate events that occurred in the recent past. One can also use the particle ໄດ້ (dai /dâj/) proceeding the verb, alone or in conjunction with ແລ້ວ, although this is less common and often used in negative statements and never for a continuous action.

  • ແບ້ລົງມາຈາກພູແລ້ວ (bae long ma chak phou laew /bɛ̂ː lóŋ máː tʃàːk pʰúː lɛ̂ːu/)
    The goat (just) came down from the mountain.
  • ແບ້ບໍ່ໄດ້ລົງມາຈາກພູແລ້ວ (bae bo dai long ma chak phou laew /bɛ̂ː bɔ̄ː dâj lóŋ máː tʃàːk pʰúː lɛ̂ːu/)
    The goat did not come down from the mountain.


There are two markers used to indicate actions to be completed in the future, ຊິ (si /sī/) and ຈະ (cha /tʃáʔ/). Both of these always precede the verb. To indicate that something is just about to happen, one can say ກຳລັງຈະ (kamlang cha /kamláŋ tʃáʔ/).

  • ຄົນນາຈະກິນເຂົ້າໜຽວ (khon na cha kin khao nio /kʰón náː tʃáʔ kin kʰàu niǒ/)
    The farmer will eat sticky rice.
  • ຄົນນາຊິກິນເຂົ້າໜຽວ (khon na si kin khao nio /kʰón náː sī kʰàu niǒ/)
    The farmer will eat sticky rice.
  • ຄົນນາກຳລັງຈະກິນເຂົ້າໜຽວ (khon na kamlang cha kin khao nio /kʰón náː kam láŋ tʃáʔ kin kʰàw niǒ/)
    The farmer is just about to eat sticky rice.


Although no particle is generally needed to mark a present progressive statement, Lao uses three, ພວມ (phuam /pʰuáːm/) and ກຳລັງ (kamlang /kamláŋ/) before the verb, ຢູ່ (yu /jūː/) after it.

  • ເດັກພວມນອນ (dèk phouam non /dék pʰúaːm nɔ́ːn/)
    The baby is (still/currently) sleeping.
  • ເດັກກຳລັງນອນ (dèk kamlang non /dék kamláŋ nɔ́ːn/)
    The baby is (still/currently) sleeping.
  • ເດັກນອນຢູ່ (dèk non you /dék nɔ́ːn jūː/)
    The baby is (still/currently) sleeping.

Modal verbs[edit]

Modal or auxiliary verbs (ວິກະຕິກິລິຍາ, vikatikiligna) are verbs that serve auxiliary function, such as want, obligation or need like English ought to, should, must, can, etc.


ຄວນ (khouan /kʰuán/) Should, ought to

  • ຂະເຈົ້າຄວນເວົ້າກັບເຈົ້າແຂວງ (khachao khouan vao gap chao khwaeng /kʰátʃâw kʰúan vâːw tʃâw kʰwɛ̌ːŋ/)
    They should speak with the governor.
    Literally: They (formal) + should + speak + with + governor.
  • ເຈົ້າຄວນນົບເມື່ອທ່ານສະມິຖເຂົ້າມາ (Chao khouan nop meu than samit khao ma /tʃâw kʰúan nōːp mɯ̄a tʰāːn sáʔmit kʰȁw máː/)
    You ought to nop (bow) when Mr. Smith comes inside.
    Literally: you + should + bow (v) + when + mister + Smith + enter+come (v).


ຕ້ອງ (tong /tɔ̂ːŋ/) to need, must.
When the need is a noun, ຕ້ອງການ (tong kan /tɔ̂ːŋ kàːn/) is used instead.

  • ມື້ນີ້ຕ້ອງໄປເຮັດນາ (meu ni tong bai het na /mɯ̂ː nîː tɔ̂ːŋ paj hēt náː/)
    Today, I must till the fields.
    Literally: Day + this must+go (v) + do (v) + field.
  • ຊ່າງຄຳຕ້ອງການຄຳ (Sangkham tong kan kham /sāːŋkʰám tɔ̂ːŋ kàːn kʰám/)
    The jeweller needs gold.
    Literally: Jeweller + must+ການ (v) + gold.


ຢາກ, yak /jȁːk/, to want, to desire
Used to express a want or desire. When this is a noun, then the form ຢາກໄດ້ (yak dai /jȁːk dâj/) or the common verb ເອົາ (ao /aw/) is used instead, but the latter is not as polite.

  • ເອື້ອຍຢາກໄປວຽງຈັນຫ໌ (Euy yak pai Vientiane /ʔɯ̂ːj jȁːk paj wiáːŋcan/)
    Older sister wants to go to Vientiane.
    Literally: Older Sister + want + go + Vientiane.[dubious ][check IPA for euy]
  • ເອື້ອຍຢາກໄດ້ຜົວວຽງຈັນຫ໌ (Euy yak dai phoua Vientiane /ʔɯ̂ːj jȁːk dâj pʰuǎː wiáːŋcan/)
    Older sister wants a husband from Vientiane.
    Literally: Older sister + want+ໄດ້ + husband + Vientiane.
  • ເອົາຕຳຫມາກຫຸ່ງທີ່ນຶ່ງບໍ່ໃສ່ປາແດກ (ao tammakhoung thi neung bo sai padèk /aw tammȁːk.hūŋ tʰīː nɯ̄ŋ bɔ̄ː sāj paːdɛ̏ːk/)
    I want one dish of papaya salad without padaek.
    Literally: Want (v) + papaya salad + classifier + one + no + add (v) + Lao fish sauce.

Can, be able to[edit]

ໄດ້ (dai /dâj/) to get, to have, to be able to
That is used to indicate the ability to do something. It is the closest Lao word for the English verb can and in requests when English speakers would use may. When used in that sense, it follows the verb; before the verb, the meaning changes to to get or to have.

  • ຜູ້ເຖົ້າຍ່າງສິບຫ້າກິໂລເມັດໄດ້ (phou thao gnang sip ha kilomet dai /pʰȕː tʰȁo ɲāːŋ síp hȁː kílóːmēt dâj/)
    The old man can walk fifteen kilometres.
    Literally: Old man + walk (v) + fifteen + kilometer + can (v).
  • ຂ້ານ້ອຍຊ່ວຽທ່ານໄດ້ບໍ່ (khanoy soi than dai bo /kʰȁːnɔ̂ːj sɔ̄ːj tʰāːn dâj bɔ̄ː/)
    May I help you?
    Literally: I + help (v) + you (formal) + can + interrogative.

ເປັນ (pèn /pen/) to be, to be able to
In addition to being a verb for the copula, it can also be used to indicate that one can do something because of knowing how to do it.

  • ຄົນຝຣັ່ງເສດປາກພາສາລາວເປັນ (Khon farang pak phasa lao pen /kʰón frāŋ sȅːt pȁːk pʰáːsǎː láːw pen/)
    The Frenchman (can/knows how to) speak the Lao language.
    Literally: Person + French + speak (v) + language + Lao + language + can[check romanization and IPA for falang]
  • ຄັນທັບປະໂຄມພິນເປັນດ້ວຽ (Khanthap pakhom phin pen duay /kʰántʰāp páʔkʰóːm pʰín pen duâːj/)
    The court dancer (can/knows how to) play the lute.
    Literally: Court dancer + play (v) + lute + can + also.

ສາມາດ (samat /sǎːmâːt/) to be able to, to be possible
It functions much like can but with the sense of being physically possible to do.

  • ເດັກຜູ້ຊາຽບໍ່ສາມາດຍົກໂຕຄວາຍຂຶ້ນ (dek phousai bo samat gnok to khwai kun /dék pʰȕːsáːj bɔ̄ː sǎːmâːt ɲōk tòː kʰuáːj kʰɨ̏n/)
    The boy cannot lift a water buffalo.
    Literally: Child + boy + not + can + lift (v) + classifier + water buffalo + upward.

Enter, join[edit]

ເຂົ້າ, khao /kʰàw/, to enter, to join, to participate
Used to indicate movement from one place to another inside, such as a house or building.

  • ເຮົາເຂົ້າໄປເຮືອນ (hao khao bai heuan /háw kʰàw paj hɯáːn/)
    We go into house.
    Literally: We + enter+go + house.


ໃຫ້, hai /hàj/ to give, to permit, to let
Used to indicate that the verb is intended for someone or something else or to express a desire, a wish, or a command.

  • ຂໍໃຫ້ມີໂຊກດີ (Kho hai mi sok di /kʰɔ̌ː hàj míː sôːk dìː/)
    I wish (to/for) you good luck.
    Literally: request+give + have + luck + good.
  • ດອກກຸຫລາບນີ້ຢາກໃຫ້ເຈົ້າມີ (Dok kulap ni yak hai jao mi /dɔ̏ːk kúlȁːp nîː jȁːk hàj nîː tʃâw míː/)
    This flower I want (to/for) you to have it.
    Literally: Flower + rose + this + want+give + you + have.

Affirmation and negation[edit]

To say no is as simple as saying ບໍ່ (bo /bɔ̄ː/), and negation simply involves placing that word in front of the verb, adjective, adverb, or noun to be negated. To say yes, especially to indicate that one ia listening, one uses ໂດຍ (doi /dòːj/), especially in formal situations, or ເຈົ້າ (chao /tʃâw/). To answer a question, one often repeats the verb of action that was used in the question to indicate that that action was or will be completed. One can also use ແມ່ນ (mén /mɛ̄ːn/), especially if the question had ແມ່ນ, as an element of the interrogative particle.

Adverbs and adjectives[edit]

Little distinction can be made between adjectives and adverbs, as any adjective that could logically be used to modify a verb can also be used as an adverb. They are often duplicated to indicate a superlative and can even be modified like verbs, mainly by the lack of a copula to link the object and adjective/adverb. Adjectives come after the noun.

  • ຊ້າງຊ້າ (Sang sa /sâːŋ sâː/)
    A slow elephant.
  • ໄປບ້ານຊ້າໆ (Bai ban sa saa /baj bâːn sâː sâː/)
    Go to the village slowly.
  • ສາວງາມທີ່ໄວ (Sao ngam thi wai /sǎːw ŋaːm tʰiː vaj/)
    A lady who becomes pretty quickly.
  • ບ່າວທີ່ຊິໂກ້ (Bao thi si ko /bāːu tʰīː sī kôː/)
    A boy who will be handsome.

Equivalence, comparatives, and superlatives[edit]

To indicate that something is the same, one uses ຄືກັນ (khu kan /kʰɯ́ː kan/). To indicate that one is similar to something else, one uses ຄືກັບ (khu kap /kʰɯ́ː káp/).

  • ພາສາລາວແລະພາສາອີສານຄືກັນ (Phasa lao lae phasa isan phasa khu kan /pʰáːsǎː láːw pʰáːsǎː iːsǎːn kʰɯ́ː kan/)
    The Lao language and the Isan languare are the same.
  • ອາຫານຈີນບໍ່ຄືກັບອາຫານລາວ (Ahan chin bo khu kap ahan lao /ʔàːhǎːn tʃiːn bɔ̄ː kʰɯ́ː káp ʔàːhǎːn láːw/)
    Chinese cuisine is not the same as Lao cuisine.

Comparatives take the form "A ກວ່າ (kwa /kuāː/) B", or A is more than B. The superlative is expressed by "A ທີ່ສຸດ (thisut /tʰīːsút/)", or A is the best. All adjectives can be altered in this way:

  • ຜອງ (pong /pʰɔ̌ːŋ/) tall + ກວ່າ = ຜອງກວ່າ taller.
  • ນ້ອຽ (noy /nɔ̂ːj/) small + ກວ່າ = ນ້ອຽກວ່າ smaller.
  • ຄູປ່ອງກວ່ານັກຮຽນ (Khou pong kwa nak hian /kʰúː pɔ̄ːŋ kuāː nāk hiáːn/)
    The teacher is smarter than the student.
  • ສາວນັ້ນງາມທີ່ສຸດ (Sao nan ngam thisut /saːw nân ŋáːm tʰīːsút/)
    That lady is the prettiest.


Lao uses special tag words at the beginning or the end of the sentence to indicate a question so the modern use of the question mark (?) redundant.

Yes-no questions end in ບໍ່ (bo /bɔ̄ː/), but Lao also has other sentence interrogative finals that indicate whether or not the speaker expects an answer, knows the answer to be expected, will be surprised, or is rhetorically asking a question, but they are generally used only in conversational settings.

  • ສະບາຽດີບໍ່ (sabai di bo /sáʔbaːj diː bɔ̄ː/)
    Are you well?

Other common interrogatives
Who? ຜູ້ໃດ (phoudai /pʰȕːdàj/) and its common short form ໃຜ (phai /pʰǎj/)

  • ຜູ້ໃດຂາຽໄຂ່ໄກ່ (phoudai khai khai kai /pʰȕːdàj kʰǎːj kʰāj kāj/)
    Who sells chicken eggs?
    Literally: Who [interrogative] + sell (v) + egg + chicken.
  • ໃຜກັບໄປຈຳປາສັກ (phai kap pai Champassak /pʰǎj káp paj càmpàːsák/)
    Who left for Champassak?
    Literally: Who [interrogative] + leave for (v) + Champassak.

What? ຈັ່ງໃດ (changdai /tʃāŋdàj/) and its common short form ຫຽັງ (gnang /ɲǎŋ/)

  • ອາວຢາກເບິ່ງຫຽັງ (Ao yak beung gnang /ʔàːw jȁːk bə̄ŋ ɲăŋ/)
    What does Uncle want to watch?
    Literally: Uncle + want (v) + watch (v) + what [interrogative].
  • ເຮັດຈັ່ງໃດ (het changdai /het tʃāŋdàj/)
    What are you doing?
    Literally: Do (v) + what [interrogative].

Where? ໃສ (sai /săj/)

  • ຫຼວງພຣະບາງຢູ່ໃສ (louang Phabang you sai /luǎːŋ pʰāʔbaːŋ jūː sǎj/)
    Where is Luang Phrabang?
    Literally: Luang Phrabang + to be at (v) + where [interrogative].

When? ເມື່ອໃດ (mua dai /mɨ̄aː dàj/), and many others.
There are numerous ways to ask when something will occur, many of which are formed by adding ໃດ (dai /dàj/) which after a noun marking time, e.g., ເວລາໃດ (vela dai /véːláː dàj/), ຍາມໃດ (gnam dai /ɲáːm dàj/), and ປານໃດ (pan dai /pàːndài/).

  • ເມື່ອໃດຊິໄປປາກເຊ (mua dai si pai Pakxe /mɨāː dàj si paj pȁːkséː/)
    When will you go to Pakxe?
    Literally: When [interrogative] + future tense particle + go (v) + Pakxe.

Why? ເປັນຈັ່ງໃດ (pen changdai /pen tʃāŋdàj/)
The phrase by itself can also mean What's wrong?, but can also ask why or for what reason a condition is occurring.

  • ເປັນຈັ່ງໃດຄົນຫາປາຊົບເຊົາອີ່ຫຼີ່ (pen changdai khon ha pa pen sop sao ili /pen tʃāŋdàj kʰón hǎː paː sōp sáu ʔīːlǐː/)
    Why is the fisherman really sad?
    Literally: Why [interrogative] + fisherman + sad + really.

ແນວໃດ (nèw dai /nɛ́ːw dàj/)
There are numerous ways to ask how?, some interchangeable with Lao equivalents for what? and why? but in the sense of how something is accomplished or done, one can also use ເຊັ່ນໃດ (sen dai /sēn dàj/), ຢ່າງໃດ (yang dai /jāːŋ dàj/) or ດັ່ງໃດ (dang dai /dāŋ dàj/).

  • ເຮັດແນວໃດ (het nèw dai /het nɛ́ːw dàj/)
    How does one do it?
    Literally: Do (v) + how [interrogative].

How Much/Many? (General Things) ຈັກ (chak /tʃák/)

  • ບາດນີ້ຈັກຄົນໄປສູ່ຂວັນ (bat ni chak khon pai sukhwan /bȁːt nīː tʃák khón paj sūːkʰwǎːn/)
    How many people attend the baisi ceremony?
    Literally: Now + here [right now] + how many + people + go (v) + baisi ceremony.

How Much? (Price) ເທົ່າໃດ (thao dai /tʰāw dàj/) or its variant ທໍ່ໃດ (tho dai /tʰɔ̄ː dàj/)

  • ສິ້ນສີແດງນີ້ເທົ່າໃດ (sin si dèng ni thao dai /sȉn sǐː dɛ̀ːŋ nī tʰāo dàj/)
    How much is this red skirt?
    Literally: Skirt + colour + red + this + how much [interrogative]?

Right? Correct? ແມ່ນບໍ່ (mèn bo /mɛ̄ːn bɔ̄ː/)

  • ພຣະຍານາກພັກອາໄສນ້ຳຂອງແມ່ນບໍ່ (Phagna Nak you nam khong mèn bo /pʰāʔɲáː nâːk jūː nâm kʰɔ̌ːŋ mɛ̄ːn bɔ̄ː/)
    The Dragon is in the Mekong, right?
    Literally: Dragon + inhabit + river + Mekong + correct [interrogative].

Already? Yet? ແລ້ວບໍ່ (lèw bo /lɛ̂ːw bɔ̄ː/)

  • ທານເຂົ້າແລ້ວບໍ່ (than khao lèw bo /tʰáːn kʰȁo lɛ̂ːw bɔ̄ː/)
    Have you eaten yet?
    Literally: eat + rice + yet interrogative.

Or not? ຫຼືບໍ່ (lu bo /lɯ̀ bɔ̄ː/)

  • ອ້າຽຢາກໄດ້ເມັຽດີຫຼືບໍ່ (ai yak dai mia di lu bo /ʔâːj jȁːk dâj miáː diː lɯ̀ bɔ̄ː/)
    Does older brother want a good wife or not?
    Literally: Older brother + want+ໄດ້ + wife + good + or not [interrogative].

Eh? ຫຼື (lu /lɯ̀/)
This is a rather informal interrogative particle equivalent to English eh? or hmm? or huh?.

  • ສະບາຍດີຫຼື (sabai di lu /sáʔbàːj diː lɯ̀/)
    You okay, huh?
    Literally: Be well (v) + huh [interrogative].

Answers to questions usually just involve repetition of the verb and any nouns for clarification.

  • Question: ສະບາຍດີບໍ່ (sabai di bo /saʔbaj diː bɔː/) Are you well?
  • Response: ສະບາຍດີ (sabai di /saʔbaj diː/) I am well or ບໍ່ສະບາຍ (bo sabai /bɔː saʔbaj/) I am not well.

Words asked with a negative can be confusing and should be avoided. The response, even without the negation, will still be negated by the nature of the question.

  • ບໍ່ສະບາຍບໍ່ (bo sabai di bo /bɔː saʔbaj diː bɔː/) Are you not well?
  • Response: ບໍ່ສະບາຍ (bo sabai di /bɔː saʔbaj diː/) I am well.


Classifiers (ລັກສະນະນາມ, laksananam /lāksáʔnāʔnáːm/) are used for when referring to a number of things, either a group or a finite amount. Classifiers can be used in place of the counted noun when context makes it sufficient. There are many classifiers, which is daunting, and it is better to double the noun or the more common ones such as ທີ່ (thi /tʰīː/) or ໂຕ (to /toː/). For single items, the classifier comes before the number; for more, the classifier comes after it.

  • ເບັຽຂວດນຶ່ງ (bia khuat nueng /biaː kʰùaːt nɯ̄ŋ/)
    One bottle of beer.
    (Literally: Beer + classifier + one)
  • ເບັຽສອງຂວດ (bia song khuat /biaː sɔ̌ːŋ kʰuàːt/)
    Two bottles of beer.
    (Literally: Beer + two + classifier)

The classifiers can sometimes be used in place of the nouns they group in context.

  • ມີຫມາສອງໂຕໃນບ້ານ ໂຕກັດອ້າຍ (mi ma song to nai ban to kat ai /míː mǎː sɔ̌ːŋ ɗoː nái bâːn ɗoː kát ʔâːj/)
    There were two dogs in the village. The dogs bit older brother.
    (Literally: Have + dog + two + classifier + in + village. Classifier + bite + older brother)
Lao Classifiers
Lao Category
ຄົນ, khon /kʰón/ People in general, except clergy and royalty.
ຄັນ, khan /kʰán/ Vehicles, bicycles, umbrellas, kitchen utensils.
ຄູ່, khu /kʰūː/ Pairs of people, animals, socks, earrings, etc.
ສະບັບ, sabap /sáʔbáp/ Papers with texts, books, documents, manuscripts, etc.
ໂຕ, to /ɗoː/ Animals, insects, birds, shirts, letters, playing cards, furniture, chairs, things with legs.
ກົກ, kok /kók/ Trees.
ຫນ່ວຽ, nuay /nuāj/ Oval objects, fruits, eggs, eyes, pillows/cushions, drums, furniture, mountains, watches/clocks, and headgear.


To indicate that object X belongs to object Y, Lao uses the construction X ຂອງ Y. ຂອງ (khong /kʰɔ̌ːŋ/) can also be omitted without changing the meaning.

  • ແຜງຂອງມ້າ or ແຜງມ້າ
    A horse's mane.
    Literally: Mane + [possession particle] + horse or Mane + horse.


  • Enfield, N. J. (2007). A grammar of Lao. Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Cummings, J. (2002). Lao phrasebook. Footscray, Australia: Lonely Planet Publishers.
  • (in Thai) ภาษาและวรรณกรรมท้องถิ่นล้านนา : ฉบับสำนวนภาษากำเมือง [Northern Thai dialect and folk literature of Lanna]. Bangkok: Faculty of Humanities, MCU. 2009. ISBN 978-974-11-1078-0.
  • Mollerup, A. (2001). Thai- isan- lao phrasebook. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus.
  • SEAlang Library Lao Lexicography. (2010, 13 February). Retrieved from [1].