Let’s have a look at something called nasal sounds and how to pronounce them in French.

In course 1, we learnt a few words that have something called a “nasal sound” at the end. For example, the following words contain a nasal sound at the end:


How do I pronounce a nasal sound?

To pronounce this nasal sound, we can imagine there is a letter “g” after the “n”, but then we stop just before we pronounce it. Let me show you what I mean:

Let’s take the word “bon”. Imagine it’s spelt “bong”, and say it out loud, but stop just before you get to the “g”. Can you feel your throat close slightly? That’s what creates the nasal sound – by closing your throat slightly, the air, and sound, is forced to come through the nose, instead – hence, nasal sound.

So, if we take those five examples again, you can imagine there is a “g” on the end of all of them, but you stop just before you get to it. Your throat still closes, and the sound has to come out through your nose.

bon good (“bon(g)”)
no (“non(g)”)
my (“mon(g)”)
a (“an(g)”)
restaurant (“reh-stoh-RON(g)”)

What do nasal sounds look like?

A nasal sound is produced in French whenever you have a vowel followed by the letter M or N at the end of a word.

painbread (“pan(g)”)
chiendog (“shee-an(g)”)
européenEuropean (“eugh-roh-peh-AN(g)”)

You can also have nasal sounds that aren’t at the end of a word in French. When you have a vowel followed by the letter M or N, if there is another consonant immediately after, this is also a nasal sound. However, if a vowel comes after the M or N, there is no nasal sound.

Compare these words that have nasal sounds with words that don’t:

una (“an(g)”)
unea (“oon”)

cousincousin (“koo-zan(g)”)
cousinecousin (“koo-zeen”)

Let's practise

Let’s practise pronouncing the nasal sound in French with the following words:

  1. pain (bread)
  2. mon (my)
  3. fin (end)
  4. ceinture (belt)
  5. ont (have)
  6. sont (are)
  7. orange (orange)
  8. certain (certain)
  9. résistance (resistance)
  10. français (French)
  11. enfant (child)
  12. temps (weather)
  13. blanc (white)
  14. important (important)
  15. bon (good)


  1. “pan(g)”
  2. “mon(g)”
  3. “fan(g)”
  4. “san(g)-TEUGHR”
  5. “on(g)”
  6. “son(g)”
  7. “oh-RON(g)-sh”
  8. “sair-TAN(g)”
  9. “reh-ziss-TON(g)-ss”
  10. “fron(g)-SEH”
  11. “on(g)-FON(g)”
  12. “ton(g)”
  13. “blon(g)”
  14. “an(g)-poor-TON(g)”
  15. “bon(g)”

In context

It’s always good to look at rules in context, because it helps to solidify them in your mind. So, let’s read through a poster from August 1940, which appeared at the beginning of the Second World War, as a way to motivate the French people. It’s a very famous poster in France, and it’s principally an abridged version of the French president’s speech. It’s titled “À tous les Français” meaning, “To all the French people”. We’ll focus on any words that contain a nasal sound…


La France a perdu une bataille!

Mais la France n’a pas perdu la guerre!

Des gouvernants de rencontre ont pu capituler, cédant à la panique, oubliant l’honneur, livrant le pays à la servitude. Cependant, rien n’est perdu!

Rien n’est perdu, parce que cette guerre est une guerre mondiale. Dans l’univers libre, des forces immenses n’ont pas encore donné. Un jour, ces forces écraseront l’ennemi. Il faut que la France, ce jour-là, soit présente à la victoire. Alors, elle retrouvera sa liberté et sa grandeur. Tel est mon but, mon seul but!

Voilà pourquoi je convie tous les Français où qu’ils se trouvent, à s’unir à moi dans l’action, dans le sacrifice et dans l’espérance.

Notre patrie est en péril de mort. Luttons tous pour la sauver!

Vive la France!

Général de Gaulle

Here are the words containing nasal sounds from that text.

Français French people (“fron(g)-SEH”)
France France (“fron(g)-ss”)
gouvernants rulers (“goo-vair-NON(g)”)
rencontre meeting (“ron(g)-KON(g)-treugh”)
ont have (“on(g)”)
cédant giving way (“seh-DON(g)”)
oubliant forgetting (“ooh-blee-ON(g)”)
livrant delivering (“lee-VRON(g)”)
cependant however (“seugh-pon(g)-DON(g)”)
rien nothing (“ree-AN(g)”)
mondiale global (“mon(g)-dee-AL”)
dans in (“don(g)”)
immenses immense (“eeh-MON(g)-ss”)
encore yet (“on(g)-KOOR”)
un a (“fron(g)-SEH”)
écraseront will crush (“ay-krah-zeh-RON(g)”)
présente present (“preh-ZON(g)-tt”)
grandeur greatness (“gron(g)-DEUGHR”)
mon my (“mon(g)”)
convie invite (“kon(g)-VEE”)
l'action the action (“lak-SYON(g)”)
l'espérance the hope (“leh-speh-RON(g)-ss”)
en in (“on(g)”)
luttons let’s fight (“loo-ton(g)”)

Double MM and double NN

Now, I said earlier that a nasal sound is produced in the middle of a word if a vowel is followed by an M or an N, and then another consonant. However, there is one exception to this, which you might have noticed in the poster above. If you have a double MM or a double NN, there is
no nasal sound.

In the text above, we had these words:

honneur honour (“oh-NEUGH”)
immenses immense (“ee-MONCE”)
donné given (“doh-NAY”)
l’ennemi the enemy (“leh-neh-MEE”)

You can also see lots of words in the text that have a vowel with an N or an M, and they’re followed by another vowel. This means there’s no nasal sound:

une a (“oon”)
panique panic (“pah-NEEK”)
l’univers the universe (“loo-nee-VAIR”)
s’unir to unite (“soo-NEER”)
général general (“jsheh-neh-RAL”)