The “ng” sound

How to pronounce the “ng” sound: /ŋ/

The “ng” sound, or /ŋ/ sound, is a voiced nasal consonant produced with the back of the tongue touching the soft palate. The air flows out of the nose. Don’t release your tongue when you pronounce the g.

In American English, you don’t drop the final g in the word ending -ing, but you don’t want to over-pronounce it either. 

This sound is challenging for many English learners as they may easily confuse it with the /n/ and /nk/ sounds, depending on their native language influence.  If this is something you struggle with, read on!

 

The “ng” sound /ŋ/ vs. /n/ and /nk/ 

Remember, to pronounce /n/ as in pin, the tip of the tongue touches the gum ridge, just behind the teeth. 

To pronounce /ŋ/ as in king, the tip of the tongue is down, not touching anything. The back of the tongue is up, touching the soft palate at the back of your mouth. 

Again, be careful not to release the tongue when pronouncing the final g, or this could be confused with a /nk/ sound, as in sink

 

Practice the “ng” sound with commonly confused minimal pairs:  

Focus on the difference in pronunciation between the /ŋ/ sound  vs.  /nk/ and /n/  

  • Thing – think – thin          Sung – sunk- sun
  • Wing – wink – win             Ring – rink – Rin
  • Rang – rank – ran

Need help?

To learn more about other tricky consonant sounds, check out these articles:

To learn more about English pronunciation and practice it in conversation, join SpeakUp, a dynamic program that engages you in authentic conversations on relevant topics. You can also get feedback from a professional and experienced English teacher.  The first week is free for you to try it out!  

Anita Collins

Anita Collins

Anita is a long-time English teacher and language enthusiast from Canada, currently living in the multilingual city of Montreal. She majored in linguistics, dabbled in translation, and has been teaching students from all over the world for over a decade. She now spends each morning trying to balance her two loves: planning the next trip and spoiling her beagle. The rest of her day she spends on curriculum design and language classes, with the beagle underfoot.
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