Thai Reference Grammar was published in 2002 by Orchid Press in Bangkok. It covers all aspects of Thai sentence structure (over 500 topics) illustrated with typical Thai sentences that catch the sound of modern spoken Thai (over 2000 sample sentences).

The book was written for people learning Thai at the intermediate and advanced level and much of the information is new, based on analysis of Thai grammar by the authors. The book uses same phonetic system and tone markers described on this webpage, and examples are also written in Thai script (see the sample pages). Because of the complexity of the English and Thai examples given, native Thai speakers will also find the book useful for studying English and for understanding the grammar of their own language.

The authors spent many years collecting and analyzing samples of spoken Thai, starting when they worked together at a refugee camp in Thailand. Many other people contributed to the book, most of them language teachers and trainers working in the same refugee camp. The American author organized the book and found the various sentence patterns, while the Thai author analyzed the structures and explained usage. Together they developed descriptions and rules of Thai syntax covering all the patterns they were able to find.


Review from Amazon US:

The most important and comprehensive book on Thai ever
This book is a genuine breath of fresh air in the domain of Thai language studies. It breaks new ground in many areas, and any intermediate student will want to have this book.
I could quibble: nobody needs a new system of Thai transliteration, but the authors have thunk up their own, and it's not as good as they think. As a friend said long ago, "The last thing anyone needs is a new system of Thai transliteration." Why?? Picture the avid student of Thai, trying to deal with 15 books with 15 different systems of Romanisation.
But ignore the quibble: this book is really a crowning achievement, going instantly to the head of the class. It is full of real sentences and real language. In this respect, it puts the eccentric reference grammar by Moss (written decades ago) into a much-deserved shade.
Good luck on understanding the difference between "pen" and "kheu"!!

Reviews From Thai Students Webpage (University Students in Thailand operating Thai Hypermart)

Review by "mrentoul":
A new book on the grammar of spoken Thai has been released, and it must be the best book on Thai I've seen. Thai Reference Grammar, by James Higbie and Snea Thinsan, is a reference book rather than something you're likely to polish off in one sitting. The authors analysed examples of spoken and colloquial Thai, then came up with their own examples to illustrate how sentences are built. It comes to more than 400 pages, and must represent thousands of hours of work.

The authors consulted Thai speakers interested in passing on the language, to find out what makes it tick. The transliteration system is good: it gives you the length of vowels as they exist in spoken Thai.

This can be different from their value in written Thai, and in fact the authors change the Thai spelling of some words, given in their examples, to show the way the words are pronounced (kao, for he, has a high tone in spoken Thai but rising tone in written Thai) in cases where this differs from the written version!

The book does not confine itself to spoken Thai, however; for any given word ('so', for example, in the sense of consequently or therefore) it will give you the six or seven Thai words in use, and show you how they are deployed; and will tell you which are in every-day use and which you're likely to encounter mainly in writing ie the formal ones you can avoid.

The authors seem to know exactly what trips up or holds back a learner. You'll find an entire chapter here devoted to the order of events (before, after, in three days time), another to tenses, another one again to the use of 'gor', and yet another to end-sentence particles.

This book is a serious and comprehensive study of Thai. I know of none better, and have read plenty. It is accessible, though will take you a while to get through: I spent three hours with it today, and covered less than half a chapter!

Review by "Chai":
Not only is this a pretty cool grammar book, but this book also gives you the essential information to take your "classroom thai" and transform it more into "common speech." I use this book all the time, and I highly recommend it to any and all intermediate and advance students.