Learn French from scratch!
Leçon 10

Lesson 10

Sound [ɛ̃]

French sound Similar English sound French letters and letter combinations Notes

nasal vowel [ɛ̃]

in, im
ain, aim

The letter combinations in, im, ain, aim, ein are pronounced as [ɛ̃] either if they appear at the end of a syllable or if they are followed by any consonant letters except for m, n.

You might not know it, but there are nasal vowels in English. The difference is that in English, the pronunciation of m or n is what causes the vowel in front of it to nasalize, whereas in French, the m or n is silent, serving only to nasalize the vowel. The key to pronouncing a nasal sound is to make the air pass through part of your nose as you’re saying it.

The sound [ɛ̃] is one of these nasal vowels. It is realized by making a big smile, we open our mouth horizontally and imagine that we pronounce an [i], then we pass the air through the nose.

Imagine that you were asked a question but you did not hear it. You asked to repeat the question but without words, with the closed mouth. It would be something like “Ehmm?” or when you make a pause in a conversation: “Now I want to tell you something important, hmm, what was it... I forgot... hmm...”

So, now you need to pronounce this “moo” sound but not briefly, make it sound longer and, while doing this, open your mouth. That is the basis.

Remember that there is no sound [n] at the end of the French [ɛ̃]!

Exercise 1. Pronounce contrasting the sound [ɛ] with the nasal [ɛ̃]:

[ɛ — ɛ̃], [mɛ — mɛ̃], [tɛ — tɛ̃], [vɛ — vɛ̃], [ʃɛ — ʃɛ̃], [lɛ — lɛ̃], [dɛ — dɛ̃], [rɛ — rɛ̃], [sɛ — sɛ̃], [kɛ — kɛ̃].

Exercise 2. Read the words trying to memorize them:

vin [vɛ̃] m — wine
fin [fɛ̃] f — end
faim [fɛ̃] f — hunger
matin [matɛ̃] m — morning
le matin [ləmatɛ̃] — in the morning
magasin [magazɛ̃] m — shop, store
jardin [ʒardɛ̃] m — garden
médecin [medsɛ̃] m — doctor

train [trɛ̃] m — train
pain [pɛ̃] m — bread
vingt [vɛ̃] — twenty (the letter g is not pronounced here as an exception; and the letter t is not pronounced because it is at the end)
demain [dəmɛ̃] — tomorrow
écrivain [ekrivɛ̃] m — writer
peintre [pɛ̃:tr] m — painter

If the sound [ɛ̃] at the end of a word appears before a vowel of the next word,
then the sound [n] or [m] appears between [ɛ̃] and the vowel, depending on what is written together with the sound [ɛ̃]. For example:

le train [lətrɛ̃] — the train
arrive [ari:v] — arrives
le train arrive [lətrɛ̃nari:v] — the train arrives

une faim [ynfɛ̃] — a hunger
affreuse [afrø:z] — awful
une faim affreuse [ynfɛ̃mafrø:z] — an awful hunger

This phenomenon is called Liaison.

Exercise 3. Read and do not forget about the additional sound [n] in highlighted positions:

ce magasin est...
le jardin est...


le médecin aime...
ce vin est...


As it turns out, sometimes the positions of liaisons are marked wrong in this self-study course. That is why I am giving you the latest rules about the phenomenon in this picture (source):

Exercise 4. Fill in the blanks choosing the words on the right to complete the sentences. Read the sentences and do not forget about additional sounds [n] or [m] after [ɛ̃] if necessary:

1. Le train arrive  
très cher
chaque matin
ce travail
2. Ce magasin est
3. Le jardin est
4. Le médecin aime
5. Ce vin est
6. La faim est
The letter combination ien at the end of a syllable is pronounced as [jɛ̃].
The letter combination ienn is pronounced as [jɛn] in any position, i. e. with the clear sound [ɛ].

Exercise 5. Read horizontally comparing how the words sound and trying to memorize them:

Parisien [parizjɛ̃] m — Parisian, BUT: Parisienne [parizjɛn] f — Parisian
Lucien [lysjɛ̃] — Lucian (male name), Lucienne [lysjɛn] — Lucienne (female name)
chrétien [kretjɛ̃] m — Christian, chrétienne [kretjɛn] f — Christian
italien [italjɛ̃] m — Italian, italienne [italjɛn] f — Italian

Sound [œ̃]

French sound Similar English sound French letters and letter combinations Notes

nasal vowel [œ̃]


The letter combinations un, um are pronounced as [œ̃] either if they are at the end of a syllable or if they are followed by a consonant letter.

The sound [œ̃] is the next French nasal vowel sound that you are going to learn. Now that you already know the “key” to the nasal vowels (see the description of the nasal sound [ɛ̃] at the beginning of the lesson), it is not going to be hard to do. So, start “to moo with the open mouth”, then, without stopping, pronounce the sound [œ] that you already know. This gives you the nasal [œ̃].

Exercise 6. Read:

[œ — œ̃], [lœ — lœ̃], [dœ — dœ̃], [kœ — kœ̃], [fœ — fœ̃], [bœ — bœ̃], [œ̃ — lœ̃ — dœ̃ — kœ̃ — fœ̃].

Exercise 7. Read and memorize the words:

brun [brœ̃] m, brune [bryn] f — brown parfum [parfœ̃] m — perfume, scent
chacun [ʃakœ̃] m — each, everyone lundi [lœ̃di] m — (on) Monday
The masculine indefinite article in singular form un is pronounced
according to the general rule, that is [œ̃],
for example: un livre [œ̃li:vr] — a book.
If the sound [œ̃] at the end of a word appears before a vowel of the next word,
then the additional sound [n] or [m] appear between [œ̃] and the next vowel —
depending on what is written in the word together with the sound [œ̃]. For example:
un écrivain [œ̃nekrivɛ̃] — a writer
un hymne [œ̃nimn] — a hymn
chacun a peur [ʃakœ̃napœ:r] — everyone is afraid
le parfum est cher [ləparfœ̃mɛʃɛ:r] — the perfume is expensive

Exercise 8. Now let’s see how well you remember the gender of some words that you should have already learned. Read adding the masculine indefinite article un or the feminine indefinite article une before every word:

1. Parisienne
2. chaise
3. musée
4. Parisien
5. image
6. peintre
7. rue

8. revue
9. magasin
10. table
11. médecin
12. nuage
13. écrivain
14. étage

Clé Clé

Exercise 9. Read and translate using a dictionary if necessary:

Lucien arrive lundi.

Lucienne aime ce parfum.

Chacun veut visiter Paris.

Le médecin travaille chaque matin.

Le verre est plein.

Nana aime les peintres italiens.

Une revue chrétienne est sur la table.