1. The word “bOO“ ບໍ (low rising tone) is an utterance-final question word. It is used to transform a statement into a question to which the answer is “yes” or “no”. The short “yes” answer to a “bOO“ question is simply to repeat the verb or verb phrase used in the question. A short “no” answer requires the insertion of the negative “bO#O“ ບໍ່ (high mid tone) before the verb or verb phrase used in the question. ( For a description of tonal differences in the Vientiane dialect you must now go to Tone Chart. You should refer to this chart often and memorize it as part of mastering tones.)
||la2aw saba4ay di4i
||la2aw saba4ay di4i bOO
||Is he well?
2. In Lao, adjectives do not occur with the verb “to be”. Thus, “saba4ay” ສະບາຍ means “to be healthy”, not simply “healthy”. In other words, “to be” is automatically part of the adjective. There is no clear distinction between verbs and adjectives in Lao.
3. When people part, the one leaving says “la2a kO#On“ ລາກ່ອນ “good-bye”; the other person says “se2en pay di4i“ (ເຊີນໄປດີ) “please, go well” (Farewell).
4. The subject (noun or pronoun) is often not present in a Lao sentence. This grammatical phenomenon is called “pro-drop”, dropping the pronoun. It is not necessary to use pronouns in face-to-face conversations. The use of kinship terms instead of pronouns is much more common, especially with family members or friends. The use of the pronouns “I” /khO3y/ and “you” /ca1w/ below is quite formal.
||ca1w saba4ay di4i bO#O
||How are you?
| (ຂ້ອຍ)ສະບາຍດີ ຂອບໃຈ
||(khO3y) saba4ay di4i, khO3Op-cay
||(I’m) fine, thank you.
5. Adjectives follow nouns in Lao. In the following phrase, note that “my” khO3y ຂ້ອຍ follows “wife” mi2a ເມຍ.
| ເມຍຂ້ອຍ (wife my)
||mi2a khO3y (wife my)
6. Often question words “who” pha4y (ໄຜ) and “what/how” n)a4N (ຫຍັງ) are replaced by the answer with no other change in the sentence.
||la2aw mE#E#n pha4y (he is who)
||la2aw mE#E#n na2ay-khu2u (he is teacher)
||He’s the teacher.
||la2aw sy#y n)a4N (he named what)
||What’s his name?
||la2aw sy#y bu4nmi2i (he named Boonmee)
||His name is Boonmee.
7. “mE#En“ (ແມ່ນ) “to be”, is a verb which specifies or defines someone or something. It is not used wtih adjectives, like “to be fat,” “to be old,” etc.
||la2aw mE#En na2ay-khu2u (he is teacher)
||He’s a teacher.
“mE#En bOO“ ແມ່ນບໍ is used to verify a statement.
If the question is “he’s the teacher, right?”, “la2aw mE#En na2ay-khu2u mE#En bOO“ ລາວ ແມ່ນ ນາຍຄູ ແມ່ນບໍ , the answer can be “mE#En lE1Ew” ແມ່ນແລ້ວ, ‘Right’ or “bO#O mE#En” ບໍ່ແມ່ນ , “no, not right”.
8. “de2e“ ເດ is a question word meaning “what about?” and “and ….?”.
||What about the teacher?