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Nasal vowels in French

  • 1382

The sound "an" in "mange" belongs to the French "nasal vowels", which are sounds made by expelling air through the mouth and nose with no obstruction of the lips, tongue, or throat.

Usually, vowels followed by "M" or "N" are nasal. When the nasal consonant is followed by another vowel, the vowel and consonant are both voiced. For example:

(click on the speaker button to hear the audio)

You can practice your pronunciation skills with this link for the sound "an":

French has 4 nasal vowels:

"en" and "an":

  • "en": e.g., in "vendre" (to sell). "en" becomes "em" before a "M" and a "P": e.g., in "emporter" (to bring)
  • "an" becomes "am" before a "B" and a "P": e.g., in "jambe" (leg) and in "camp" (camp)

"oin", "ein", "ain", and "in":

  • "oin": e.g., in "moins" (less)
  • "ein": e.g., in "peindre" (to paint)
  • "ain": e.g., in "pain" (bread)
  • "in": e.g., in "fin" (fine). "in" becomes "im" before a "M" and a "P": e.g., in "imprimer" (to print)


  • "on": e.g., in "garçon" (boy). "on" becomes "om" before a "M" and a "P": e.g., in "pompe" (pump)


  • "un": e.g., in "un" (one) or "brun" (brown)
November 11, 2013



Is there a phonetic difference between "in" ,"an" and "un"?? Because they sound the same to me most of the times :( (the words themselves are easy to tell apart though)

"ain" in "pain" sounds a lot like "in" in "vin", or "an" "mange" (w/o the n). Is there an actual difference? When I started learning french I though the "ain" in "pain" should sound more like "ai" in "j'ai" or "mais", but now I realize that is not true. Is it because of the "n"?

  • 1382

Most of the times, "in" sounds almost the same as "un". (ex: the adjective "fin" (fine, or thin) and the article "un" (a)). "an" never sounds like "in" or "un".

"ain" in "pain" sounds a lot like "in" in "vin", but NOT like "an" in "mange", and NOT lile "ai" in "J'ai" or "mais".


There's a sentence to memorize the four nasal sounds, which are indeed all pronounced differently: Un bon vin français So if you think you pronounce the nasals here in a same way, you should search for a difference listening to natives ;)


Forvo: different persons pronounce the word you order. Here with un bon vin français http://el.forvo.com/search/un%20bon%20vin%20fran%C3%A7ais/fr/


I can see you're making old informative posts as stickies. This is a great idea Remy, but I think It would be more fruitful to create a new thread that links to all the interesting and important threads that offer informative information about learning French. Like the Dutch contributors have done in their thread.

Currently they are all in the Forum graveyard, never to be seen.

  • 1382

Thanks for your comment Dessamator, here you go! https://www.duolingo.com/comment/4013405


I still can't distinguish the sound between un and en in a sentence.

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