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Nasal sounds - How to pronounce "não"??

It might seem hard for those who speak English and other languages, but in fact it's possible.

The "ão" sound tricks people who try to actually sound like "a" and "o", but when you get free from that idea, it flows.

Remember nasal sounds are just like the sounds of vowels plus "n" or "m".

In Portuguese the following three lines have the same sounds:

  • an / en / in / on / un
  • am / em / im / om / um
  • ã / ........ / ....... / õ / ....... (there are no tilds for "e", "i" and "u")

In English, their (almost) equivalent sounds are:

  • un / aim / in / on / oom
  • ung / ang / ing / ong / oong?

But why do I say the "m" and "n" sound the same?
Because in Portuguese, we don't "close" the sound at the end. That is:

  • One doesn't touch the top of the mouth with the tongue when sayin "an", "en", "in", "on", "un".
  • One doesn't touch the lips to finish the "m" sound in "am", "em", "im", "om", "um".
  • The English versions ending in "g" are even closer, their ending are lighter.

So, just say them without "finishing", leave it "open" at the end.

And now the big secret!

How to say "pão" (bread) without sounding like "pau" (wooden stick)

  • Just like "sun" and "boom", say it "pun oom".

And how to say "õe" (like in "põe", "opiniões", etc)?

  • Add up "on" and "in" to make it "on ing".
  • Try this English word: boing = bõe! (But "bõe" means nothing)

And what about "ãe" in "mãe" and "capitães"?

  • With "un" and "in" to sound like "un ing"

Just try to remove the "n" in the middle by not "finishing" its sound. (Not touching the top of the mouth with the tip of your tongue)

"Boing" credits to emeyr :)

Back to the Portuguese Help Index: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/6331998

May 6, 2015



You can also listen to the podcast "Tá Falado", a podcast about pronunciation of Brazilian Portuguese (in particular lesson 8 about pronunciation of nasal diphthongs: http://www.coerll.utexas.edu/brazilpod/tafalado/lesson.php?p=08)

Also, just in case someone is not aware of it, "pau" can mean something else that wooden stick ;-) (see http://pt.wiktionary.org/wiki/pau). So if you want to say something like "Quero comer pão", it’s really important that you pronounce the nasal sound correctly :D


Hahaha. That reminds me of the head priest at my dad's old church. Every Christmas I had to remind him to pronounce the "ñ" properly, and every time he forgot it anyway when he closed out the service playing guitar and singing "Feliz Navidad and Prospero Ano"...


I was told by someone and/or some website, that when you speak Portuguese quickly, (not TOO fast, but fast enough), the nasalized sounds will come naturally. I don't know if this is necessarily true, but I'm just sharing what I found.


Nice, Dan! I tested it on a native English speaker and it worked well. :]


This is a very helpful post.

In addition to not closing the lips and not touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth behind the teeth, don't you also have to “close off” the front part of your mouth with the back of your tongue, so that the air is forced through the nose? That's how you get the nasal sound, right?


mmmmm.....not necessarily.....

Got the hmmm?

Actually when you say the English word "sun", you are making a nasal sound, when you say "aim" too. There is a certain point in the word where you actually block the air to the mouth, but the first part of the word is still nasal.

Words like "going", "blond", "blend", "punk", "dance", "monk", all use nasal sounds. It's not different from that.

In fact I just realised that words ending in "ung", "ang", "ing", "ong" are a little closer to the real sound, because the "g" closing is lighter than m and n closings.


I think that não sounds a lot like now - but is much more nasal. The most nasal sound I can think of in English is "boing": The ball goes boing, boing, boing down the street. It seems as if the back of the tongue rises and touches the back of the palate and shuts off the air.


Great boing example!!

Boing is almost exactly "bõe".

Well, for a real English word approaching "não", I would say "numb" or "none". Neither are exactly, but either are close to it.

That's because "now" is really like "nau" (which is a type of ship).


Now is an English word. Rhymes with ow.


Yes it is!!! But for "não" it's not a good one.


If I’m not mistaken, the sound of ã is much closer to a nasal schwa (a "schwa" is the sound of "u" in "but" or "numb", or the sound of "a" in "about", etc.) than to a nasal "a" ("a" being the sound you have in "now"). So "não" is not just a more nasal "now", it’s rather a more nasal "nuw" (if it were a word).


LatCarf I don't know what is your mother language but what you said is pretty accurate (I'm Brazilian and I speak English as a second language)


I see a clear difference between "but" and "numb" (especially considering how it's sung in Pink Floyd's "Comfortably numb" song)

"Não" is definitely close to "numb", but not to "but".

If I'd try to speel those sounds in Portuguese, they'd be:

  • Nãb for "numb"
  • Bât for "but".


I think I understand. I didn't think about there being multiple degrees of nasality.

So the nasal sounds in Portuguese are not "pure" (as in, air only going through the nose); rather, when making the nasal sounds you're exhaling through the both through the nose and mouth?

There’s probably some nifty linguistics vocabulary to be able to describe this better, he he. In fact, there's an interesting wiki page on this.

I found this on that wiki: “the word "huh?" is generally pronounced with a nasal vowel”. When I say "huh?" out loud it seems to generate the kind of sound we’re discussing here.


Yes, both mouth and nose

But I don't think "huh" is a good one, I say "un".

The word maçã, for instance, is fairly more like "mah-sun" than "mah-suh".

Don't be afraid of the "n" sound, it's there in all tilds.

The sound of "huh" is hardly present in BP, but I would say it happens when you try to do a nasal sound and block your nose.


Can I ask Mr anachron. how you feel when your reach Portuguese level 22. Now you can speak? what is the last level of Portuguese? Currently I am in level 10 How long it will for me to complete another 10 level more.


I don't really speak, as I haven't any practice. If a Portuguese-speaking person slows way down and use simpler words, I can probably understand most of it, but it depends on their accent. I can read simple texts, but anything more complex and I get kind of overwhelmed by the many words I don't know. I do, however, usually get the gist of what it is about.

I have no idea how long it will take to get from level 10 to level 20. It mostly depends on how much you use duolingo.


I can read fast. All the other are same like you. Thanks for your comment...

[deactivated user]

    A tip for better pronunciation- try Idahosa Ness's courses :)


    Try to speak with someone that is from my country Brazil, and you will learn this word better. I did that when I was studing English, it's really imoprtant.


    If you understant how to use the accents this will be more easy, and about the others rules it's so difficult for us too and I born speaking in Portuguese. Haha


    Thanks, I desperately needed help with this.


    Very good, your tips.


    Thank you -- I'm taking a break from Portuguese just now, but am flagging this for when I come back :)


    Very helpful. Thanks!


    If you are dutch like I am: nou=nÃo A bit of a nasil form of the au/ou sound


    This is very helpful, thanks!

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