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Born and raised in Yangon, he has lived in six countries and knowledgeable in unrelated areas including self-taught programming languages. His free online Burmese lessons serve as an effective communication bridge that connects international community with ordinary Myanmar people.
Basic Conversational Burmese with Script in PDF format and Audio in Zip file
The latest version of PDF file including Lesson 2a, 2b, and 2c is available for download.
Revision: M Revised Date: 2019-10-08 File Size: 333 KB Number of Pages: 45
Spelling and usages in Burmese script are consistent with (and checked against) the Spelling Reference Book and Burmese to Burmese Dictionary published by the Ministry of Education in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.
More than 130 Audio files are zipped for easy download and offline study.
In the previous lesson, I have covered the comprehensive list of Burmese tones in a system similar to Hanyu Pinyin tone system. Please refer back to the discussion on Tones in Burmese for the detailed explanations on the correct pronunciations of the words. In this lesson, we will start with some useful simple Burmese phrases.
Body Language in Greeting
Pressing of the raised palms together during the greeting with mutual respect is not yet commonly practiced in Myanmar like 'Wai' greeting in Thailand or 'Namaste' greeting in India. Usually, this gesture is a one-way respect from the younger person to the elders, to the monks, or Buddha images and Pagodas. The tradition can be traced back to Ancient India 4,000 years ago, and is called Anjali Mudra in Sanskrit.
If you are a foreigner greeted with Min2-ga1-la2ba2, it's OK to reply with Min2-ga1-la2ba2 accompanied by a simple nod and a smile.
That's the standard greeting that you might have read it or heard of before. "Min2-ga1-la2" has attributes of wholesomeness, graciousness, joy and freedom from imperfections. It is quite close to the English word "auspicious", but "auspicious" is the adjective usually associated with day or event, whereas "Min2-ga1-la2" bestows those attributes to the human being.
When "ba2" is added to the end of the sentence, it gives a soft suggestive feel to it. It's as though the speaker is graciously offering a gift of wholesomeness and a wish to bring a perfect experience to the person who rightfully deserved it. There is no excitement in saying it, but it has an air of tranquility and calmness in it. So, my translation of Min2-ga1-la2-ba2 would be
"Hello, welcome and enjoy a perfect occasion!"
The Root of Min2-ga1-la2 ba2
The word Min2-ga1-la2 in Burmese greeting min2-ga1-la2ba2 comes from the ancient Pali word meaning 'something auspicious', 'good luck', or a 'good omen'.
Myanmar English Dictionary by the Ministry of Education defines this word in English as
source of prosperity, blessing
anything auspicious, joyous, festive
Min2-ga1-la2ba2 is a formal word used to greet teachers, hotel guests, and customers. Another common usage to min2-ga1-la2 is min2-ga1-la2 hsoun2, which means to marry and wed with a formal ceremony.
In one of the most popular Buddhist Suttas (sermon) known as "Maha-mangala Sutta", the Buddha teaches on how to live a happy life by common sense approaches such as avoidance of bad company and developing the serene mind.
Myanmar Grammar Notes:"Min2-ga1-la2" is a noun in Burmese grammar. The correct translation of auspicious is min2-ga1-la2 shi1 dthau3 (adjective).
Burmese sentences can be formed without reference to pronouns and persons. There is no "I" or "You" in the above sentence. It is understood that the wish is aimed at the person being spoken to. Having said that, I remember as a child greeting to the teacher in the classroom as
The Master : "hsa1-ya2"
"Hsa1-ya2" refers to the teacher or a master of any trade, like "Shi1 Fu" in Mandarin Chinese. In Myanmar, there are no slaves, everyone is a "master"...
sa2-yay3 hsa1-ya2 - a writer.
hsite-ka3 hsa1-ya2 - a trickshaw / trishaw (tricycle that carries two passengers, one facing the back) driver
hsa1-ya2-dau2 - Venerable Monk, and so on...
When addressing to a female teacher, "ma1" is added to "hsa1-ya2".
hsa1-ya2-ma1 could refer to a female teacher, a female nurse, a female superior, a female doctor, or any professional-looking female.
Hote-keare1hsa1-ya2-ma1 - Yes, madam!
Note: The 7th Burmese character Hsa1 sounds almost like the 6th character Sa1 but with more hissing sound. Please refer to lesson33 for pronunciations of consonants.
Yes, positively "hote"
Nowadays, on the Internet Chat and SMS, a short form of "yes" is commonly used..
Question: Hotela3 - Is that so? Literally, it means "yes?"
Answer: Hote - Yes.
Koun3byi2lay2 - Oh, well.. what you said is fine with me. (Lit: good, let it be)
There are more than one way to say "yes" depending on the context. We will discuss more in lesson 3.
A good word to know: "koun3"
koun3 means "good".
Koun3yeare1la3 - Is it to your liking? Good or not?
Koun3deare2 - Good!
Koun3deare2, in this case, is the answer "yes" to the question "good or not". You use back the word Koun3 (adjective) in the question.
Koun3deare2 can also be a statement. For example, after you have tasted delicious food, you can say Koun3deare2 - Good!
The question mark: "La3"
When the word la3 (particle) is added to the end of the sentence, it becomes a question mark.
Koun3la3 - Good?
Nay2-koun3la3 - How are you? ([feeling well= live + good] + ?)
Koun3ba2deare2 - I am fine; pretty good! (good+ confirmation clause according to what the speaker sees or feels)
The word nay2-koun3 is a verb meaning feeling well. It is a compound word made up of nay2, which is a short form of the word nay2-htine2 meaning to live or to dwell. The word koun3, as we have seen earlier, means "good".
Also note that the question has the verb portion nay2 and the adjective portion koun3. In the answer, the verb portion nay2 is omitted.
The plural "ja1" for people
The word ja1 (particle) indicates that the conversation refers to more than one person.
Nay2-koun3ja1la3 - How's everyone? (feeling well + plural + ?)
Nay2-koun3ja1ba2deare2 - We are fine. (feeling well + plural + affirmative)
Hote-keare1...Nay2-koun3ja1ba2-deare2 - Yes, we are fine. (yes + feeling well + plural + affirmative)
Showing doubt and concern with "yeare1"
yeare1 (postpositional marker) is added when the person asking the question has no idea on the situation of the conversation, and it put the tone of concern, doubt, and a sincere desire to know what's going on.
Hoteyeare1la3 - Are you sure? (yes + doubt and concern + ?)
When you don't hear from your family for a long time and wondering if they are OK or not, you add yeare1 mentioned above to seek assurance and to show concern.
Nay2-koun3ja1yeare1la3 - How's everyone? Is everyone OK? (feeling well + plural + doubt and concern + ?)
Hote-keare1, Nay2-koun3ja1ba2-deare2 - Yes, we are fine. (yes + feeling well + plural + affirmative)
Affirmative "deare2" or "ba2 deare2"
Ba2deare2 is the positive affirmation in the answer. "Ba2" in the word ba2deare2 is a polite word which softens the feeling tone, and at the same time put the emphasis on the verb or the noun before it with the meaning somewhat like "indeed". (It is spelled as "pa2" in Burmese script.) Some phrases sound too abrupt without this word.
Hoteba2deare2 - Yes, the way I see it. Yes, that's right!
Koun3ba2deare2 - (good + affirmative) It was previously used as an answer: "I am fine!" to "How are you?" type of question. Depending on the context, it could also mean "it is good that way, the way I see it." If you want to sound real Burmese, you might even want to add lay2 to the end of this sentence:
It adds a deep thought and unconditional acceptance of the situation in which one cannot do much to change. Believe me, it's quite common for the Burmese people in Myanmar. Just four words, and they sum up the following lengthy English expression:
"Well, the way it turns out... it's good that way. We have to look at it positively and accept the situation..."
to which I agree absolutely by saying:
The feeling is all there. Though unspoken, we know. We understand. We silently feel the thoughts behind the speaker. (There you go. Now you are learning REAL Burmese that the Lonely Planet never teach you...)
Delicious or not?
Sa3 means to eat.
Sa3-koun3yeare1la3 - How was the food? Good? (delicious+ doubt and concern + ?)
Koun3ba2deare2 - Yes, it was good. (good + affirmative)
The word delicious is coined by sa3 - to eat, and koun3, which means good. Also note that the verb sa3 is omitted in the answer just like the answer to "how are you?" question.
If you want to show your gratitude to the host, you can say:
Thate - extremely (adverb)
koun3 - good (adjective)
da2 - refers to the object (food in this case) which is good (particle)
beare3 - ending word (particle)
The particle "da2" modifies the adjective "koun3" into a noun "koun3 da2", which means something that is good. So, Thatekoun3da2 refers to something extremely good. Beare3 is the emphasis ending word roughly means, "exactly" in this case.
Thatekoun3da2beare3 - It was very good! In lesson 8 we will discuss more on how to express yourself better using adverbs.
More on Greetings
It's funny, but Min2-ga1-la2ba2 is not a common usage among Burmese to greet each other. It seems like a reserved word to teach the first Burmese word to foreigners:-) If I go out the street, a neighbor might ask:
Beare2leare3 - Go where? Where to?
When I come back home, she might ask again:
Beare2ga1pyan2 la2leare3 - Come back from where?
The word pyan2 la2 is to come back, and ga1 means from.
When it's near breakfast, lunch, or dinner time, she might say..
Sa3pyi3byi2la3 - Eaten already? where pyi3byi2 means "done".
How to say "Good morning", "Good afternoon", "Good evening" in Burmese
Speakers of some other languages will be interested in learning how to say those greetings in Burmese. For example, Malay and Indonesian languages have standard greetings like "Selamat pagi", "Selamat petang", "Selamat malam", and so on. Yes, it is possible to directly translate "Good morning", "Good evening" and "Good night" into Burmese. But, you will sound very odd and people will look at you in a funny way when you say those phrases.
Burmese culture is evolving
Although "Good Morning" is not a common usage in colloquial Burmese, you will probably hear radio DJ's using the term: min2-ga1-la2ma1-net-khin3 ba2.
ma1-net means morning, and khin3 covers the whole region or stretch of time.
Similarly, min2-ga1-la2nay1 leare2khin3 ba2 - Good Afternoon
min2-ga1-la2nya1 nay2khin3 ba2 - Good Evening
You will also hear more usage of the term min2-ga1-la2ba2 by commercial establishments such as restaurants and hair saloons as they compete for customers.
Nice to meet you
When someone introduces you to a native Burmese speaker, you can say
Tway1ya1 da2wun3-tha2ba2deare2 - Nice to meet you!
Tway1 - meet (verb)
ya1 da2 - as for being able to (particle)
wun3-tha2 - be glad (verb) equivalent to happy (adjective in English)
What if you have already met the person before? What kind of greeting can a foreigner say to a Burmese? Just say "hello" in English. Nay2-koun3la3 to one person or Nay2-koun3ja1 la3 to more than one person would also do fine.
You probably know that kjay3-zu3tin2ba2deare2 means Thank you. But, exactly what does it mean in Burmese? Here's the break-down.
kjay3-zu3 - a good work (help or merit) that a person does on an another person.
tin2 - to explain the facts and make a report as in tin2 pya1. It could also mean to have left behind a debt and gratitude in this case.
ba2deare2 - polite ending word with emphasis on tin2.
How to ask basic questions: 6W's and 3H
The word la3 is used at the end of the sentences to form questions which expect "yes" or "no" answer.
The word leare3 is used at the end of the sentence for all 6 W's and 3 H questions: "what", "which", "where", "who", "why", "when", "how", "how many", and "how much".
Beare2 is used in the beginning of all 6 W's and 3 H questions except "what" and "why". Sentences with Beare2 will always end with leare3 forming the pattern:
Beare2 ... leare3.
Ba2 is used in the beginning of the sentence to ask "what" and "why" questions. Don't confuse this Ba2 with suggestive and polite ba2 at the end of the sentences and phrases such as the greeting: Min2-ga1-la2ba2. They sound alike but spelled differently. Please refer to PDF file with Burmese Script.
Just like beare2, sentences with ba2 will always end with leare3 forming the pattern:
ba2 ... leare3.
You will see those patterns as we go along. Here comes a list of basic questions, answers and phrases.
Hotedeare2 - Yes, what you say is true. (yes/to be true + affirmative)
Simple negative statements will have the pattern Ma1-xxxx bu3, where xxxx is either adjectives such as "hot", "cold", or the verbs such as "need", "like".
Simple positive statements will have the pattern xxxx deare2, where xxxx is either adjectives such as "hot", "sweet", "red", or the verbs such as "hungry", "thirsty".
Normally, "hungry" in English is an adjective as in "hungry dog" unless it is used with the verb forming word in the sentence such as "I (am hungry)". Burmese word hsa2 is not an adjective but a verb "be hungry" in hsa2deare2 - I am hungry!. It can be used with the adjective forming particle as in (hsa2dthau3) khway3 - hungry dog. Similarly, several words that you would normally expect to be adjectives in English are used as verbs in Burmese.
Still not "thay3 bu3"
Ma1-hotethay3 bu3 - Still not right! (negative + yes + yet to be + negative ending)
Ma1-lo2thay3 bu3 - I don't need it yet. (negative + need + yet to be + negative ending)
Go where? Where to?
Beare2leare3 - Go where? (where + ?)
Beare2thwa3chin2leare3 - Where do you want to go? (where + go + want + ?)
Beare2thwa3ja1ma1-leare3 - Where shall we go? (where + go + plural + will + ?)
Where is it?
Beare2hma2leare3 - Where is it? (which + location indicator + ?)
Ho2hma2 - there! (that + location indicator)
De2hma2 - here! (this place + location indicator)
Note: The "where" word Beare2hma2leare3 is commonly spoken as Beare2ma1-leare3
Where are you?
Myanmar got talent. Go ahead girl. Give your best shot. Ask "Where are you?" in less than one minute.
How about that for improving your listening skills? She said "where" word four times in 55 seconds. Can you catch them? She reversed the question: "You + where?" to "Where + you?" and "Where + he?" to put more stress on the "where" word. We will go over "you" and "he" words later in Lesson 4. Here, I will give just one informal "Where are you?" By the way, her name is Eint Chit | ain1-chit and she also wrote the lyrics. Watch her when she was even younger back in 2009. The starting part of this song is in lesson 4. This rising star was discovered by Coca-Cola Myanmar and named the brand ambassador in April 2015 to join Sai Sai Kham Leng and Mi Sandi to tour the country.
Nin2beare2ma1-leare3 - Where are you? (you + where?)
Ba2leare3 - What? (in a sense, "Why do you call me?" "Why are you bothering me?")
Ba2lo2chin2leare3 - What do you want? (what + need + want + ?)
Ba2loatchin2leare3 - What do you want to do? (what + do + want + ?)
Ba2loatja1ma1-leare3 - What shall we do? for fun, etc.. (what + do + plural + will + ?)
Ba2sa3ja1ma1-leare3 - What shall we eat? (what + eat + plural + will + ?)
What is this?
Objects, subjects, people, places, or the words pointing to the nouns such as "this", "that", "he", "they" always come first in the question words: "what", "where", "who", "when", "why", "how", and "how much". The sequence is the same as Chinese, but opposite from English.
Da2ba2leare3 - What is this? (this + what + ?)
Want to go or not?
Thwa3chin2la3 - Do you want to go? (go + want + ?)
Ma1-thwa3chin2bu3 - I don't want to go. (negative + go + want + negative ending)
Ma1-thwa3chin2thay3bu3 - I don't want to go yet. (negative + go + want + yet to be + negative ending)
Thwa3chin2deare2 - I want to go. (go + want + affirmative)
Hote-keare1,thwa3chin2deare2 - Yes, I want to go. (yes + go + want + affirmative)
Are you going?
Thwa3ma1-la3 - Are you going? (go + will + ?)
Ma1-thwa3bu3 - I am not going. (negative + go + negative ending)
Thwa3meare2 - Yes, I am going. (go + going to)
Do you need it?
Lo2la3 - Do you need it? (need + ?)
Lo2-chin2la3 - Do you want it? (want + ?)
Lo2deare2 -- I need it. (need + affirmative)
Lo2-chin2deare2 - I want it. (want + affirmative)
Hote-keare1,lo2deare2 - Yes, I need it. (yes + need + affirmative)
Hote-keare1,lo2-chin2deare2 - Yes, I want it. (yes + want + affirmative)
Ma1-lo2bu3 - No need. (negative + need + negative ending)
Beare2-loutleare3 - How much? (where + approximately enough + ?)
De2-lout - This much. (this + approximately enough)
How much do you want?
Beare2-loutlo2-chin2leare3 - How much do you want? (how much + want + ?)
De2-loutlo2deare2 - I need it this much. (this much + need + affirmative)
De2-loutlo2-chin2deare2 - I want this much. (this much + want + affirmative)
Hote-keare1, de2-loutlo2-chin2deare2 - Yes, I want this much. (yes, this much + want + affirmative)
Ma1-loutbu3 - Not enough. (negative + be sufficient + negative ending)
Loutbyi2la3 -- Enough? (be sufficient + has reached certain level, state or condition + ?)
Ma1-loutthay3bu3 - Still not enough. (negative + enough + yet to be + negative ending)
Loutbyi2 - Enough. (be sufficient + has reached certain level, state or condition)
What's the difference between Loutla3 and Loutbyi2la3? Usually, byi2la3 is used to ask the question during some kind of action or activity. For example, you can say Loutbyi2la3 while you are giving cash to someone to buy something.
Have you reached the condition xxxx "byi2 la3"?
The question word byi2la3 such as in "enough already?" above has several uses. Note the similarities in sentence construction.
Youtbyi2la3 -- Have you/we reached there already? (arrive or reach the destination + has reached certain level, state or condition + ?)
Ma1-youtthay3bu3 - Not yet. (negative + arrive + yet to be + negative ending)
Youtbyi2 -- Yes, we are there already. (arrive or reach the destination + has reached certain level, state or condition)
Ya1byi2la3 - Have you got it already? (get + has reached certain level, state or condition + ?)
Ma1-ya1thay3bu3 - Not yet. (negative + get + yet to be + negative ending)
Ya1byi2 - Yes, I've got it already. (get + has reached certain level, state or condition)
The same word ya1 can also mean something is available, can be done, or ready. You can say ya1byi2la3 to ask if the repair is done, or if the dinner is ready. In lesson 15, the phrase be2-ya2ya1ma1-la3 is used to ask if beer is available.
Kone2byi2la3 - Used up (or) eaten up already? (empty + has reached certain level, state or condition + ?)
Ma1-kone2thay3bu3 - Not yet. (negative + empty + yet to be + negative ending)
Kone2byi2 - Empty and no longer available. It's all gone! (empty + has reached certain level, state or condition)
Pyi3byi2la3 - Finished already? (finish + has reached certain level, state or condition + ?)
Ma1-pyi3thay3bu3 - Not yet. (negative + finish + yet to be + negative ending)
Pyi3byi2 - Yes, done it. (finish + has reached certain level, state or condition)
As for the informal Burmese greeting "Eaten already?", there is a slight difference for the "not yet" answer.
Sa3pyi3byi2la3 - Eaten already? [greeting] (eat + finish + has reached certain level, state or condition + ?)
Ma1-sa3ya1thay3bu3 - Not yet. (negative + eat + get + yet to be + negative ending)
Sa3pyi3byi2 - Yes. (eat + finish + has reached certain level, state or condition)
The answer Ma1-sa3ya1thay3bu3 implies that the speaker has not got the opportunity or time to eat yet. If the question is asked in the middle of your meal and not a greeting, you can answer: Ma1-pyi3thay3bu3.
Haven't you xxxx "thay3 bu3 la3"?
Just like in English, "Have you got it already?" can be re-phrased by the negative question: "Haven't you got it yet?", negative questions in Burmese can be formed by the words thay3 bu3 la3.
Ma1-loutthay3 bu3 la3 - Still not enough? (negative + enough + yet to be + negative ending + ?)
Ma1-youtthay3 bu3 la3 - Are we not there yet? (negative + arrive or reach + yet to be + negative ending + ?)
Ma1-ya1thay3 bu3 la3 - Haven't you got it yet? (negative + get + yet to be + negative ending + ?)
Ma1-kone2thay3 bu3 la3 - Haven't used/eaten up yet? (negative + empty + yet to be + negative ending + ?)
Ma1-pyi3thay3 bu3 la3 - Haven't you done it yet? (negative + finish + yet to be + negative ending + ?)
Ma1-sa3ya1 thay3 bu3 la3 - Haven't you eaten yet? (negative + eat + get + yet to be + negative ending + ?)
No longer : dau1
Use the phrase "Ma1-xxxx "dau1 bu3" if you no longer do, want, or need something.
Ma1-lo2dau1 bu3 - I no longer need it. (negative + need + no longer + negative ending)
Ma1-loatdau1 bu3 - I am no longer doing it. (negative + do + no longer + negative ending)
Ma1-thwa3dau1 bu3 - I am not going anymore. (negative + go + no longer + negative ending)
Ma1-sa3dau1 bu3 - I am not going to eat. (negative + eat + no longer + negative ending)
Ma1-lo2chin2 dau1 bu3 - I no longer want it. (negative + need + want + no longer + negative ending)
Ma1-loatchin2 dau1 bu3 - I don't want to do it anymore. (negative + do + want + no longer + negative ending)
Ma1-thwa3chin2 dau1 bu3 - I no longer want to go. (negative + go + want + no longer + negative ending)
Ma1-sa3chin2 dau1 bu3 - I don't want to eat it anymore. (negative + eat + want + no longer + negative ending)
Ba2joun1leare3 - But, why? (what + reason + ?)
Note that "why" is the question "what" (Ba2leare3) with "joun1" in the middle.
Ba2pfyit-lo1leare3 - Why?, Why didn't you?, etc.. (what + because this happens + ?)
Ba2joun1leare3 is a question "why" as in a scientific investigation, whereas Ba2pfyit-lo1leare3 is more of a personal question.
Beare2dthu2leare3 - Who? (which + person + ?)
Thu2beare3 - That's him! (he + exactly!)
Beare2ha2leare3 - Which one? (which + thing + ?)
Da2beare3 - This is the one! (this + exactly!)
Da2lo2-chin2deare2 - I want this one. (this + want + affirmative)
Hote-keare1, da2lo2-chin2deare2 - Yes, I want this one. (yes + this + want + affirmative)
Do you see the pattern of "who" and "which" with the word "where" beare2leare3 in them? Similarly, "how" also has the pattern beare2...leare3. If you recognize those patterns, it will be easier for you to remember the questions: "how much", "what", why", "which", "how", and "where".
The question "when" also follows the pattern beare2...leare3 Here is an example:
Beare2-dau1 - when
la2 - come
ma1 - will
leare3 - ?
Beare2-dau1la2ma1-leare3 - When will you come?
We will discuss the details of "when" question in lesson 14.
The word ma1 is the colloquial form of hma2, which is a preposition "in" "at" "on" in English in "where" question, and also colloquial form of myi2, which indicates the intention to do something, and roughly future tense "will" in English.
Beare2-lo2loatja1ma1-leare3 - How shall we do now? [in this situation] (how + do + plural + will + ?)
Beare2-lo2leare3 - How did it go? What would you do now? How is it going? (how + ?)
De2-lo2 beare3 - So so.. Nothing unusual. (like this + exactly!)
Beare2-lo2thwa3ja1ma1-leare3 - How shall we go? Which route or transport to take? (how + go + plural + will + ?)
Burmese language uses "measure words" to ask and answer "how many" type of questions. When you say "a cup of tea", "two glasses of water", or "3 persons", "cup", "glasses", and "persons" are measure words. So, you need to have some familiarity with those measure words to ask questions like "How many cups of tea do you want?"
Extensive list of "measure words" are given in lesson 12 and examples are shown in lesson 25. Here, I will just show one useful phrase:
Beare2 hna1-youtleare - How many persons?
When the waiter in the restaurant or the front desk in the hotel asks you this, yout is the measure word used for the number of people.
How was the lesson?
So, Beare2-lo2leare3 - How did the lesson go?
Khetla3 - Difficult?
Lweare2la3 - Easy?
De2-lo2 beare3 - So, so ... (Lit: "Just like this.")
But, how was the teaching?
koun3yeare1la3 - Good or not?
Koun3ba2deare2lay2 - Oh, well... acceptance with a sigh..
You should now have a feel of how Burmese sentences are constructed. They are relatively simple and uncomplicated compared to English. You may reply by saying:
Hoteba2deare2 - Yes, the way I see it.
Better still, say like a real Burmese in Yangon:
Hote-pa1, hote-pa1... Yes, I agree with you absolutely!
to which, I reply:
Koun3byi2lay2 - Well, I am glad... (good + has reached that state + " OK, well")
and, end this lesson by saying:
Thwa3ome3meare2nau2 - Got to go now! (go + indication of intention + warm feeling tone)