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How to pronounce the /ng/ sound in English: Examples and exceptions

This video explains how to pronounce a very common sound that is important for English clarity: the NG sound. You’ll find examples of word pairs where it’s important to distinguish between the NG and other sounds below! 

And, as always, in English there are always exceptions to the rule. Watch ‘til the end to make sure you learn the exceptions on how to pronounce NG too 😉 

The NG sound is a single nasal sound [ŋ], even though it is usually spelled with two letters – NG. Just like other nasal sounds, such as M or N, the air is blocked inside the mouth and comes out through the nose, but with the NG sound, the air is blocked by pushing the back of your tongue against the soft palate, and not behind the teeth (like the N sound) or with the lips (like the M sound). 

Since the NG [ŋ] is a single sound, it means there’s actually no G sound. It’s not a big deal if you do pronounce a G sound, though. What is most important is that you don’t pronounce an N sound instead of an NG sound at the end of words, because that may lead to misunderstanding.

To practice the NG sound, say the following minimal pairs out loud and pay attention to the position of your tongue:

  • win – wing
  • sin – sing
  • ban – bang
  • fan – fang
  • run – rung
  • ton – tongue
  • lawn – long

Practice saying more words with the NG out loud, such as king, strong, hang, and lung, and use them in sentences. 

For example:

  • The strong king had some problem in his lungs.
  • It took me a long time to sing that song.
  • Spring has sprung, and my gardening is in full swing.


The -ING Suffix

You can also find the NG sound in the -ing suffix, especially in more formal settings. However, in more informal settings, you would often hear people use an N sound instead. 

For example, you might hear people say readin’ instead of reading. In most cases this will not lead to misunderstanding.

Words where the NG is pronounced as NG+G

As you probably know already, spelling and pronunciation do not always correspond in English. So actually, the NG sequence doesn’t always represent this one nasal velar sound.

Sometimes it may represent two separate sounds – NG+G – in words like:

  • hunger, finger, anger:   hung-g’r, fing-g’r, ang-g’r   
  • single, English, language:   sing-g’l, ing-glish, lang-gwidj


When NG doesn’t sound like NG 

Sometimes there’s no NG sound at all. When the spelling is nge, it’s pronounced as an N sound as in ‘no’ + and a DJ sound as in ‘judge’  – /ndʒ/ – as in the words: challenge, tinge,  plunge,  syringe,  fringe, danger, and ginger.

That’s the NG sound! Were there some examples that were especially helpful for you? Make sure to write them down for yourself and practice a few times a day to create even more clarity pronouncing your English NG sounds 🙂


Podcast intro:

Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 305. And today we’re gonna talk about everything you need to know about the NG consonant.

Hey everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast, cuz we are always in fluency. So today I wanted to teach you a sound that creates some kind of an issue for some people, mainly because they don’t know how to think about it. So I’m gonna go a little deeper in terms of the pronunciation of the NG consonant.

And I bet that I’m gonna share some things that you’ve never thought about or never noticed, at least if you haven’t done a lot of pronunciation or phonology work before. And even if you have, it’s nice to kinda like refresh your memory with the things that I’m gonna share with you today.

And I truly believe that understanding the theory behind the sounds that we learn and understanding how it clashes with what we expect because of our first language, gives you a lot of power, and a lot more ownership over the language. So it’s really not just about learning how to pronounce a sound, it’s also understanding it and understanding what gets in your way. And that’s what I love doing in my lessons. And this is what we’re going to do today as we address this very fun, unique consonant sound.

And by the way, I also talk about hierarchy a lot and about why not all sounds are equally important. And the NG consonant is critical for some people, and for others – not so much. So make sure you listen to this episode all the way to the end to understand if it is important for you to focus on and actually do the practice, or maybe you just need to become more aware of it and start listening to English with that perspective, but maybe you don’t need to practice it as diligently as others. Let’s see. All right, so I hope you enjoy today’s episode. And let’s listen.

Video transcript:

Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today we are going to talk about the NG sound, also known as /ŋ/. We’re gonna talk about how to pronounce it, when to use it? Is there or is there not a G sound at the end of the NG. We’re gonna talk about how not to confuse it with similar sounds. And then to the most important question of all, can we drop the G sound when there is an ING suffix as in walkin’, talkin’, and thinkin’. Watch till the end to find out.

If you’re new to my channel, then hi, my name is Hadar. I’m a non-native speaker of English. I’m obsessed with learning and teaching pronunciation. And I am here to help you speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom. Check out my website at hadarshemesh.com for a lot of free resources. And my Instagram at @hadar.accentsway for daily fun content.

All right, so let’s talk about the NG sound. When we talk about the NG sound, we’re actually talking about one sound that is represented by the two letters – N and G. It is created in the back of the tongue, and it is a nasal sound. Nasal means that the air comes out through the nose as you pronounce it, so it’s blocked in the air and comes out through the nose.

But before I teach you about the NG sound, I’m gonna talk about two other very common sounds that are also nasal. And those are the /m/, represented with the letter M, as you close the lips and the air comes out through the nose. If you wrap your nose, you’ll feel the vibrations. And /n/ – as the tip of the tongue blocks the air inside the mouth and the air comes out through the nose. And again, represented with the letter N. M – N.

The NG, which is going to sound exactly the same for some of you, is created in the back of the mouth. The back of the tongue goes up, blocks the air like you would for a G sound, G, it’s a velar sound. The tongue blocks the air in the soft part of the throat, and the air comes out through the nose: /ŋ/. It’s like you’re pronouncing an N sound in the back: /ŋ/. You have to be able to pronounce a continuous sound, so it differs from G where you block the air in the back and release the sound with a puff. G – NG.

Let’s try it again. Keep the tip of the tongue right below the bottom teeth, bring the back of the tongue up as if you’re pronouncing a G sound, you need to see it. And then hold it and release the air through the nose as if you’re humming with the tongue in this position: /ŋ/.

Now that we established how to pronounce the NG sound, let’s talk about why it is important. First of all, because I need you to understand that the NG sound is one sound, and there is no G sound. It’s not a big deal if you pronounce the G. And we’ll talk about the more advanced nuances when you should pronounce a G and when you shouldn’t. But the most important thing is to avoid confusion. Remember, clarity over accuracy.

So while pronouncing the G sound when you shouldn’t, is not gonna affect your clarity. If you replace the NG sound simply because you don’t have that in your language, and you’re not aware of it, with a similar sound, for example, an N sound that is also nasal because to you they may sound the same, or maybe in your language you actually alternate between the two sounds without a clear distinction. As a result, different words are going to sound the same. And then it will affect your clarity cuz you’re gonna want to say one word and people are going to hear a different word.

And that usually happens when you confuse the N sound and the NG. For example, in the word ‘win’ where there is a clear N sound: I’m going to win this. I’m going to win in this race. ‘win’. The tip of the tongue blocks the air, air comes out through the nose.

Versus ‘wing’. Now, I know it might sound very similar to you, but these are two different words. Listen again. win – wing, win – wing. The second one is the NG sound, and as you can hear, I do not pop the G – ‘winG’, there is no G sound. Wing. Wing. /n/ – /ŋ/, /n/ – /ŋ/. win – wing, win – wing.

Now, if this is really hard for you, by all means, pop the G. If you cannot get to the NG without popping the G, it is more important that you say ‘winG’, and it’s very clear that you’re talking about wings, versus it sounding the same – ‘win’ and ‘win’. So pay the price of popping the G even if it’s not being accurate, for just the sake of sounding clear.

Let’s practice a few more minimal pairs. sin – sing, sin – sing. ran – rang, ran – rang. ton – tongue, ton – tongue. lawn – long, lawn – long. Can you hear the difference? If you cannot, just play this part again until you can hear the difference, because if you can’t hear it, you cannot make it. So it’s so important that you first hear the differences because they are different. And once you train your ear, it will be easier for your tongue to catch up and make that distinction when you speak.

So now that we talked about the most important thing, which is distinguishing between N and NG, now I wanna talk about when to use the NG. So, as I said, the NG is a phoneme, however, it only appears at the end of words, with a caveat. For example: king, strong, lung. Can you hear it? I’m not popping the G, really. ‘lung’. That’s it. ‘hang’.

Sometimes, if you add a suffix to a word that ends with an NG, you’ll still pronounce that as an NG: sing – singer. I did not pop the G: singer, singer. Because the ‘er’, the [ur], is a suffix. So the root of the word has an NG phoneme in it, sound, and that sound is always /ŋ/, it doesn’t have a G sound in it: singer.

Now, we’ll also see it with other suffixes, like -ING. For example: ping, pinging. ‘I’m pinging you right now’. ‘pinging’, ‘-ing’. I know it sounds funny. It’s not pinGinG, there is no G. ‘pinging’. long – longing. longing, not lonGinG.

Now, again, to clarify, if you pop the G, it’s not a big deal. You’re still going to be clear, and clarity is more important than accuracy. It is perfectly fine. This is a bit more advanced. But the most important thing is that you train your ear and your tongue for the sake of practice, but don’t obsess over it, okay? Just to clarify.

Also, when we have other suffixes, like king – kingdom, we do not pop the G. However, when you see the NG spelling pattern in the middle of a word, and it’s not right before suffix, for example, in the word ‘English’ or in the word ‘finger’, you actually pop the G. It’s not that you pop the G, there is a /g/ sound in addition to the /ŋ/ sound: finger, English, hungry.

So when the NG is at the end of the word and then there is a suffix, we do not pop the G: things – no G – things. But when the NG spelling is in the middle of a word, it’s not right before a suffix, there is actually a G sound as well: /ŋ/ and then /g/.

A funny thing, sometimes even if there is no NG in the spelling, you will pronounce an NG. And you know when? When there is an N sound and a K sound right after. For example: think, think. You wouldn’t think about it, but the end that you’re pronouncing is actually an NG sound: think, it’s not thi[n]k, but thi[ŋ]k. This is an anecdote, you don’t have to practice it. It usually happens naturally. So this is just a side note. Don’t worry about it if it was just like a little too much right now.

Now here’s a fun fact. Sometimes you will see NG in the spelling, but it’s not gonna be pronounced as an NG at all. And it’s usually when there is a silent E at the end, like in the word ‘challenge’ or ‘danger’ or ‘ginger’.

Now finally, let’s talk about the ING suffix ‘-ing’. Technically it’s a lax /ɪ/ sound, and then an /ŋ/ – /ɪŋ/. It doesn’t have a G sound at the end. It’s not /ɪŋg/, it’s /ɪŋ/. And some people might pronounce the /ɪ/ sound a little higher, so it’s going to sound closer to an /i/ – /iŋ/. Both are fine, don’t worry about it.

But, and here’s the interesting part, sometimes – and you also see it in writing – people choose to not pronounce it as an NG sound, but to pronounce it as an N. So technically, it’s like you’re dropping the G, but not really, you’re just replacing one consonant with another.

So instead of ‘walking’ you might hear people saying walkin’, thinkin’, right, with an N sound. Now here’s the thing, it’s not gonna affect your clarity because people understand that even if you replace one sound with another, they still understand it within the context, cuz it still sounds like an ING suffix. So it’s really not like you are taking the word ‘wing’ and replacing it with ‘win’, which turns it into a different word.

If you say walking, because it’s a suffix, and changes with walkin’, it’s not gonna affect your clarity, but you’ll have to take into consideration that you will be perceived differently, or it’s gonna sound very, very informal. So it’s only a question of when to use it and how to use it, and if you want to use it. So as long as you make that decision, and it’s not your tongue that makes that decision for you, you’re good.

All right, so let’s wrap up. Today we talked about how to pronounce the NG, how to distinguish it between similar sounds, like the N sound as in ‘win’ and ‘wing’, ‘sin’ and ‘sing’, and why it’s important. We also talked about when the NG is actually pronounced, so when it’s pronounced as /ŋ/ and when it’s pronounced with a /g/ sound at the end. We talked about the different spelling patterns and what sounds they represent. And then finally, we talked about the -ing suffix.

Now, if you like this video, please comment and like and share and subscribe to the channel. And of course, I’m inviting you to check out my website – hadarshemesh.com, where I have a ton of other pronunciation lessons and free resources for you to practice with, so check it out. And thank you for being here. I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
305. How to pronounce NG | American English Pronunciation

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