There are a few people who campaign for English language spelling reform. I admire them, I really do, there is so much to be reformed. But alas I fear they are doomed to failure for several reasons. One of which is English’s inadequate alphabet. There are (at least) 44 sounds in English, but only 26 letters to cope with that. I think they should start a campaign for extra letters. One of which could be the sound that NG makes.

How to pronounce NG

In the  International Phonetic Alphabet we have a lovely symbol for this sound, it’s an n with a inward tail, like this /ŋ/. It’s a velar nasal sound, which means you say it through your nose and with the back of your tongue.  Start by saying /n/ then slide your tongue down to push the sound out of your nose /ŋ/. Be careful not to push air out of your mouth at the end or you’ll end up with a /k/ sound which is not what we want.

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Use your nose.


How to spell it.

Listen to this section here:

So anytime you see NG at the end of a word, it will be pronounced /ŋ/ sing, being, pang, long, clang, eating, drinking, among, lung. All the same ending (hurrah, can you believe a spelling rule that is actually true).

Words that end NK also have this sound plus a /k/ for example link, rink, drink, thank, trunk, shrank, bank.

In English NG and the sound /ŋ/ never appear at the start of a word. There are NO English words that start NG. (Another actual rule, what’s going on?)

However the /ŋ/ sound can occur in the middle of words too. If you add a suffix on words that end with NG or NK you still keep the /ŋ/ sound. So singer, hanger, drinking, longer, lungs, clanger, thanking, banks all keep /ŋ/.

There are a few other words that contain NG and have a slightly different pattern. For example;  single and jingle have the /ŋ/ sound and a /g/ sound too. Finger, angry, angle, tango, jungle, wrangle also follow the /ŋ.g/ pattern.

So this is where that extra letter for NG could come in useful, because although all words that end NG or NK have the /ŋ/ sound, words that end NGE do not sound /ŋ/ but sound a normal /n/ sound and make the G into a soft sound /ʤ/ as we saw here. As in orange, challenge, exchange, and strange. (I knew it was too good to be true)

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And in case you were wondering angel is not pronounced with an /ŋ/ sound. So what did I miss, can you think of any other rules for NG or  /ŋ/ ? Let me know below.



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