There are three ways to express the continuity of an action, or to say what someone “is doing” in the current moment or “was doing” at some point in the past: “กำลัง” + verb [gamlang + verb], “verb + “อยู่” [verb + yùu] and “กำลัง + verb + อยู่” [gamlang + verb + yùu]. For example,

[mâe gamlang tam aahǎan]

[mâe tam aahǎan yùu]

[mâe gamlang tam aahǎan yùu]

Even though these three sentences mean exactly the same thing, which is “Mom is cooking,” there’s a small nuance between them. In sentences using “กำลัง” + verb [gamlang + verb], the action is slightly more focused, which makes the sentence sound more active than if it was expressed with “verb + “อยู่” [verb + yùu]. Now, look at these sentences below.

1. I’m writing a letter to my parents.

a) ผมกำลังเขียนจดหมายถึงพ่อแม่
[phǒm gamlang kǐan jòt mǎai teǔng pâw mâe]

b) ผมเขียนจดหมายถึงพ่อแม่อยู่
[phǒm kǐan jòt mǎai teǔng pâw mâe yùu]

2. I’m taking photos of the things I’m posting for sale.

a) ฉันกำลังถ่ายรูปของที่จะโพสต์ขาย
[chán gamlang tàai rûup kǎwng tîi jà post kǎai]

b) ฉันถ่ายรูปของที่จะโพสต์ขายอยู่
[chán tàai rûup kǎwng tîi jà post kǎai yùu]

In these two sentences above, even though either a or b can be used to express the same meaning, a sounds slightly more active than b. The action may appear to be more vivid in the listener’s mind when the structure a is used although there is no difference whatsoever in terms of meaning.

With so many options, you may be asking yourself “Which form should I use to express a continuous action”? The most commonly used structure is “กำลัง + verb + อยู่” [gamlang + verb + yùu]. The structure “verb + “อยู่” [verb + yùu] is also nearly as common.

You may rarely hear anyone use the form “กำลัง + verb” [gamlang + verb] and it can even sound funny or unnatural in some situations. So, your best bet is to use either “กำลัง + verb + อยู่” [gamlang + verb + yùu] or “verb + อยู่” [verb + yùu]. There’s not really any difference between the two. For example, to say “It’s raining,” it’s best to say either one of the following;

[fǒn dtòk yùu]

[fǒn gamlang dtòk yùu]

This works for most cases. But there are a few exceptions where it’s better to use “กำลัง + verb” [gamlang + verb] than “verb + อยู่” [verb + yùu].

For clauses that follow conjunctions such as “while,” “as,” “during,” or “when,” although it’s not wrong to use “verb + อยู่” [verb + yùu],” it’s better and more common to use either “กำลัง + verb” [gamlang + verb] or “กำลัง + verb + อยู่” [gamlang + verb + yùu]. For example,

1.) Mom called when I was washing dishes.

[mâe tow maa dtawn tîi chán gamlang láang jaan]

[mâe tow maa dtawn tîi chán gamlang láang jaan yùu]

2. I fell asleep while they were fighting.

[chán làp rawàang tîi pûak káo gamlang taláw gan]

[chán làp rawàang tîi pûak káo gamlang taláw gan yùu]

3. Her microphone suddenly went out as she was performing.

[yùu yùu mic gâw dàp kanà tîi káo gamlang ráwng pleeng]

[yùu yùu mic gâw dàp kanà tîi káo gamlang ráwng pleeng yùu]

Another time when “กำลัง + verb” [gamlang + verb] is preferred over “verb + อยู่” [verb + yùu] is when we talk about a state someone is currently in, rather than an action that is going on. For example,

1. ฉันกำลังมีความรัก
[chán gamlang mii kwaam rák]
I’m in love.

2. เมียผมกำลังท้อง
[mia phom gamlang táwng]
My wife is pregnant.

3. เขากำลังมีความสุขกับชีวิต
[káo gamlang mii kwaam sùk gàp chiiwít]
He’s happy with his life.

4. ฉันกำลังเครียดเรื่องเงิน
[chán gamlang krîad reûang ngern]
I’m stressed about money.

5. เรากำลังต้องการความช่วยเหลือ
[rao gamlang dtâwng gaan kwaam chûai leǔa]
We’re in need of help.

When “กำลัง” [gamlang] is used with “ไป” [pai] and “มา” [maa], it means “to be on one’s way.” If you’re telling someone you’re on your way to see them, say “กำลังไป” [gamlang pai]. And to say that someone is on their way to see you, say “กำลังมา” [gamlang maa] because they’re moving toward where you are. Note that in this context, we only use “กำลังไป” [gamlang pai] or “กำลังมา” [gamlang maa], we do not say “ไปอยู่” [pai yùu], “มาอยู่” [maa yùu], “กำลังไปอยู่” [gamlang pai yùu] or “กำลังมาอยู่” [gamlang maa yùu].

In English, the expression “to be going to” can be used to talk about future plans. For example, “I’m going to the movies tonight.” But in Thai, the expression “กำลังไป” [gamlang pai] cannot be used in the same way. It can only mean “to be on one’s way.”

I’m going to Disneyland.
“ฉันจะไปดิสนีย์แลนด์” [chán jà pai Disneyland]
(I’ve made a plan to go to Disneyland some time in the future.)

I’m on my way to Disneyland.
“ฉันกำลังไปดิสนีย์แลนด์” [chán gamlang pai Disneyland]
(I’m in my car, heading to Disneyland.)

Another idiom worth knowing is “กำลังจะ” [gamlang jà] which means “to be about to do something.” For example,

1. ฉันกำลังจะออกจากบ้าน
[chán gamlang jà àwk jàak bâan]
I’m about to leave home.

2. น้องสาวเรากำลังจะแต่งงาน
[náwng sǎao rao gamlang jà dtàeng ngaan]
My sister is about to get married.

3. ผมกำลังจะบอกคุณ
[phǒm gamlang jà bàwk khun]
I’m about to tell you.

4. เขากำลังจะวางสาย
[káo gamlang jà waang sǎai]
She’s about to hang up the call.

5. เพื่อนคุณกำลังจะมา
[peûan khun gamlang jà maa]
Your friend will be here soon
(literal translation: your friend is about to come.)

Lastly, you may want to know what the word “กำลัง” [gamlang] means. When used as a noun, “กำลัง”  [gamlang] means power, strength, energy or force. Below are some of the compound nouns with the word “กำลัง” [gamlang]

กำลังม้า [gamlang máa] horse power
กำลังคน [gamlang kon] man power
กำลังใจ [gamlang jai] moral support
กำลังกาย [gamlang gaai] physical energy
(most commonly used in the word “ออกกำลังกาย” [àwk gamlang gaai]: “to work out” or “to exercise.”)

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