The sound of N
The letter N is a nasal consonant which may take on a nasal vowel sound when combined with g or k.
The letter N is silent when it follows an M at the end of a word.
autumn, column, condemn, damn, hymn, solemn
Here is a word where the N is sometimes silent, depending on the dialect of the speaker.
A common letter combination is —ing, a suffix with a nasal n sound and a silent g.
singing, thinning, winking, wing
Words with double nn indicate that the preceding vowel is short or soft.
annual, banner, bonnet, cannot, inner, penny
This rule applies when, in saying the word, the stress is placed on that vowel.
When the stress is on another part of the word, the n is generally single.
inhabit, combination, silent
English is very inconsistent in this rule.
These words have an unexpected single n after a short vowel.
anvil, banish, canopy, energy, finish, honey
These words have an unexpected double nn, even though the stress in saying the word is not on the preceding vowel.
anniversary, connect, personnel, questionnaire
Confusing N words
neighbour [neighbor, US]
- Look in a text, a book, or an article on the Internet, for words containing a double-N. How are they pronounced?
- Look up the “Confusing N Words” for their definitions. Then use each of them in a sentence.
Special reading assignment
Numbers of narwhals are now never known near Norway at night.
This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published soon.