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Grammar Notes



1. The word “bOO  ບໍ Click to Listen (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 Click to Listen   (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.)

For example,

  ລາວສະບາຍດີ   Click to Listen la2aw saba4ay di4i He’s well.
  ລາວສະບາຍດີບໍ Click to Listen la2aw saba4ay di4i bOO Is he well?

2. In Lao, adjectives do not occur with the verb “to be”.  Thus, “saba4ay” ສະບາຍ  Click to Listenmeans “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.

For example,

  ຂ້ອຍສະບາຍ Click to Listen khO3y saba4ay I’m fine.

3. When people part, the one leaving says “la2a kO#On  ລາກ່ອນ Click to Listen “good-bye”; the other person says “se2en pay di4i  (ເຊີນໄປດີ)  Click to Listen “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. 

For example,

  ເຈ້າສະບາຍດີບໍ  Click to Listen ca1w saba4ay di4i bO#O How are you?
  (ຂ້ອຍ)ສະບາຍດີ ຂອບໃຈ Click to Listen (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 Click to Listen         follows “wife” mi2a ເມຍ. Click to Listen

  ເມຍຂ້ອຍ (wife my) Click to Listen mi2a khO3y (wife my) My wife

6. Often question words “who” pha4y (ໄຜ) Click to Listen  and “what/how” n)a4N (ຫຍັງ)Click to Listen                   are replaced by the answer with no other change in the sentence.

For example,

  ລາວແມ່ນໃຜ Click to Listen la2aw mE#E#n pha4y (he is who) Who’s he?
  ລາວແມ່ນນາຍຄູ Click to Listen la2aw mE#E#n na2ay-khu2u (he is teacher) He’s the teacher.
  ລາວຊື່ຫຍັງ Click to Listen la2aw sy#y n)a4N (he named what) What’s his name?
  ລາວຊື່ບຸນມີ Click to Listen la2aw sy#y bu4nmi2i (he named Boonmee) His name is Boonmee.

7. “mE#En  (ແມ່ນ) Click to Listen   “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.

For example,

  ລາວແມ່ນນາຍຄູ Click to Listen la2aw mE#En na2ay-khu2u (he is teacher) He’s a teacher.

“mE#En bOO ແມ່ນບໍ Click to Listen   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 Click to Listen,    the answer can be “mE#En lE1Ew” ແມ່ນແລ້ວ,Click to Listen                            ‘Right’ or “bO#O mE#En” ໍ່ແມ່ນ Click to Listen,     “no, not right”.

8. “de2e  ເດ   is a question word meaning “what about?” and “and ….?”.

Fore example,

  ລາວເດ  Click to Listen la2aw de2e And him?
  ນາຍຄູເດ Click to Listen na2ay-khu2u de2e What about the teacher?


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