Speaking Khmer will no doubt enrich your stay in the Kingdom, starting from negotiating a fair tuktuk fare to deepening your cultural understanding. A little goes a long way so start getting hip to the lingo.

There are some great Khmer-English/French language and phrasebooks widely available in the Kingdom, (such as Colloquial Cambodian: The Complete Course for Beginners by David Smyth, available at Monument Books on 111 Norodom Blvd or at Aeon Mall), along with a range of apps, and if you’re really keen or plan to stay a while, language classes, including private tuition are offered in the major cities. Here are a few useful phrases to get you started.

Meeting people

English Khmer script Phrase
Hello (formal) ជំរាបសួរ johm riab suor *
*This is appropriate for greeting people older or superior to yourself, such as government officials, and should be combined with the gesture of joining your palms in front of your heart and slightly lowering the head (sampeah). If in doubt, reply with the same greeting as given to you.
Hello (informal) សួស្ដី sous-dey
What is your name? (formal) លោកមានឈ្មេះថាមេ៉ច ? lohk mean chmuah tah much?
What is your name? (informal) អ្នកឈ្មេះអី ? neak chmuah ay?
My name is ______. ខ្ញុំឈ្មេះ ___ khñomm chmuah _____.
Nice to meet you. ខ្ញុំ​ត្រេក​អរណាស់​ដែលបាន​ស្គាល់​លោក khñom trawk or nah dael bahn skoal lohk
How are you? (formal) តើលោកសុខសប្បាយជាទេ ? tae lohk sokh sabbay chea teh?
How are you? (informal) សុខសប្បាយជាទេ ? sokh sabbay chea teh?
Fine, thank you. ចា៎/បាទ ខ្ញុំសុខសប្បាយ អរគុណ chah (f.) / baht (m.)
khñom sokh sabbay, orkun.
I can’t speak Khmer. ខ្ញុំអត់ចេះភាសាខ្មែរទេ khñomm ort cheh piasah khmaaer teh
Do you speak English? អ្នកចេះភាសាអង់គ្លេសទេ ? neak cheh piasah ongkleh baan teh?
Is there someone here who speaks English? មានម្នកណាចេះភាសាអង់គ្លេសទេ ? meean m’neak na cheh piasah ongkleh teh?
I don’t understand. មិនយល់ទេ min yuall teh
Goodbye (formal) ជំរាបលា chum reap leah
Goodbye (informal) លាសិនហើយ leah sin houwy

Out and About

English Khmer script Phrase
Yes. ចា៎
chah (f.)
baht (m.)
No. អត់ទេ ort teh *
*This is a useful phrase if you want to refuse something which is offered, such as a tuktuk. You can pair this with a so-so type hand gesture, with an open palm as if turning a doorknob.
Excuse me/I’m sorry សំទោស somm toh
Where is the toilet? បន្ទប់ទិក​នៅ​ឯណា? bantub dakk noew ay nah?
Please. សូម soum
Thank you (very much). អរគុណ (​ច្រើន) orkun (cheraown)
No problem. អត់បញ្ហាទេ Ort bañe-hah teh
How much is it? ថ្លៃបុ៉ន្មាន ? t’lay bonmaan?
So expensive! T’lai na!
May I have the Bill please. សូមគិតលុយ ! Soum git loi!

Drinking and dining

English Khmer script Phrase
Eat Nham *
Rice Bai *
*Often the words ‘Eat’ and ‘Rice’ are used together to indicate the act of eating or a meal, with Nham Bai Hoey? (Have you eaten yet?) often used in greeting.
Delicious ឆ្ងាញ់ chhnganh
*A challenge to say, but the message is generally understood if combined with a smiling patting of the stomach. All locals love to hear this, whether they are the chef or not.
One more, please. សូមមួយទៀត Soum moi ti-at
An ashtray please. Soum chan ‘ku baray. *
*In accordance with the passing of a new law, smoking in bars and restaurants is prohibited but there is often an outdoors area where you can light up.
Cheers! ជល់មួយ choul mouy

Forms of address

English Title Notes
Uncle Pu This is usually the correct form of address for tuktuk and moto drivers.
Aunty/girls who are younger than you. Ming This is usually the correct form of address for female stallholders at markets.
Teacher Kru
High authority, generally monks Lok
Husband, Older Relative/Friend Bong
Wife, Younger Relative/Friend Oun
Relative that is older than your parents, or your nephew/nieces from your younger sibling. Oum
Grandma Yeay
Grandpa Ta

On the road

English Khmer word
Stop Choup
Turn Bot
Right Sa-dahm
Left Ch-wang
Straight Throng
Slow down Yeut yeut