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Nasal sounds in English

Nasal sounds in English

This lesson will focus on how to pronounce Nasal Sounds in English which also includes how to pronounce the –ing sound, which is something that troubles a lot of English learners.  

That is, we see the -ing suffix in many gerunds such as “cleaning” or “working”, however, many people pronounce this sound incorrectly. Let us show you how to pronounce it!

This means all gerunds (verb + ing) as well. 

Due to these three sounds /m/, /n/ and /ŋ/ being nasal and similar, we have grouped them in the same lesson.

What is a nasal sound?

Sounds such as /m/, /n/ and /ŋ/ in which the air tends to escape through the nose are considered nasal sounds.

/m/, and /n/ are very easy and intuitive, however, the /ŋ/ sound is not so easy.

We’ll be digging deeper to get to know how to pronounce all three sounds correctly, especially the /ŋ/ sound, which is not so easy at first glance.

Although these sounds are similar, they are still different and it’s also very important to differentiate them from the get-go.

Let’s take a quick look at the differences in Nasal Sounds in English

/m/

  • Mice – /maɪs/
  • Mother – /ˈmʌðə/
  • Me – /miː/

As you can see, this sound /m/ is intuitive, and you should not have any issues.

/n/

  • Nice – /naɪs/
  • No – /nəʊ/
  • Nylon – /ˈnaɪlən/

The /n/ sound is very regular, that is, it commonly represents the letter n, and it is not hard to pronounce at all.

/ŋ/

  • Helping  – /ˈhɛlpɪŋ/
  • Ring – /rɪŋ/
  • Brink – /brɪŋk/

The /ŋ/ sound never occurs in the initial position of a word. Moreover, this sound, /ŋ/ can only represent the letters ng or nk and never n on its own.

Even though /ŋ/ is not hard to pronounce, you do need to pronounce it correctly and avoid pronouncing it as /n/ when you have the letters ng or nk. We cannot emphasise this enough.

/ŋ/ vs /n/

You need to say:

  • Sing – /sɪŋ/
  • Bring – /brɪŋ/
  • Sink – /sɪŋk/

And not:

  • Sing – /sɪn/ = X
  • Bring – /brɪn/ = X
  • Sink – /sɪnk/ = X

/m/, /n/ and /ŋ/ – The Nasal Sounds sounds in English

Let’s revise these sounds /m/, /n/ and /ŋ/ one last time.

/m/ – This sound is representative of the letter m in most cases  

  • Man – /mæn/
  • Mutter – /ˈmʌtə/
  • Milk – /mɪlk/
  • Mash – /mæʃ/
  • Monday – /ˈmʌndeɪ/
  • Mighty – /ˈmaɪti/

/n/ – Mostly representative of the letter n when it is on its own, and not representative of the letter pairs ng or nk

  • Net – /nɛt/
  • Nepotism – /ˈnɛpətɪzm/
  • Need – /niːd/
  • Nobody – /ˈnəʊbədi/
  • None – /nʌn/
  • Nit – /nɪt/

/ŋ/ – This sound can only represent the letters ng and nk

Remember, this sound, /ŋ/ does not represent the letter n on its own.  

  • Hang – /hæŋ/
  • Mingle – /ˈmɪŋgl/
  • Becoming – /bɪˈkʌmɪŋ/
  • Shrink – /ʃrɪŋk/
  • Think – /θɪŋk/
  • Ink – /ɪŋk/

These three sounds /m/, /n/ and /ŋ/ are all nasal, easy to pronounce, and are also fairly regular regarding the letters they represent. However, when it comes to differentiating between the /n/ and /ŋ/ sounds, remember that /n/ is the sound you need to produce when the letter n is on its own, and /ŋ/ needs to be produced when you see the letters ng and nk

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