72: Using /n/ instead of /ŋ/ (the 'ng' sound) in -ing ending

-ing: substituting the n sound for the ng sound.


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 72nd episode.

This is another podcast taken directly from a forum question. Neva, from China asked when an n sound can be substituted for an ng sound when linking into a vowel sound. The answer doesn't actually have all that much to do with linking. This substitution can take place no matter what sound, if any, follows it, as long as it is part of an -ing ending.

I want to talk a bit, first, about the differences and similarities between the n sound and ng sound. Both of these sounds are nasal sounds, meaning the air comes out our nose while pronouncing these sounds. It seems strange, but it is true. You cannot hold your nose shut and create a nasal sound at the same time. It just won't work.

The n sound occurs by blocking the air from leaving the mouth at the front of the mouth, using the tip of the tongue and placing it against the tooth ridge (that's the bony area right behind the upper front teeth), and blocking air from leaving along the sides with the sides of your tongue.

The ng sound is produced by blocking all the air from leaving the mouth with the back of the tongue. The back of the tongue touches the top, back of the mouth in about the same place as a g sound does, only the ng sound holds it there, forcing the air to com out our nose.

Listen to both sounds. I'll say an n sound, then an ng sound, (n sound, ng sound, n sound, ng sound). Could you hear the difference? (n sound, ng sound)

Now let's get back to Neva's question about when an n sound can be used in place of an ng sound. I also need to mention that this in an informal way of pronouncing these sounds, although in some dialects of English, it is more common than not.

Neva used the following examples in her forum question:


sing a song
nothing impossible
wrong idea
thinking of
missing actor


She really did provide the perfect examples for allowing me to explain the answer to her question. If you want the most accurate answers from the forums, providing good examples is the best way to get them.

I could easily divide her examples into the phrases that couldn't substitute an n sound for the ng sound, and those that could.

The two examples that must remain an ng ending, even in informal speech were, sing a song and wrong idea. I can't change the ends of those words to an n sound.

The other three examples, which were, nothing impossible, thinking of, and missing actor, could be spoken more informally by changing the ng sound to an n sound. They would then be pronounced as, nothin' impossible, thinkin' of, and missin' actor.

The difference between the examples that could substitute the sound and those that couldn't was the -ing ending. It doesn't matter if the -ing, often used as the present participle form of the word, is being used as a verb or an adjective, or sometimes if it just happens to end in -ing, like the word nothing does. It can also have the substitution.

If you are reading a novel, and you see that the author has written a word that should end in -ing as in' as in "What're you thinkin' about," t-h-i-n-k-i-n-', the author is showing how that person is speaking, and it means that the speaker is using informal speech, or is using a certain dialect.

Like I said before, this can occur anywhere in a sentence, no matter which sound follows the -ing, or even if it is the final word of the sentence.

Let's practice.

I'll say Neva's three examples that can have the substitution, first the more formal way, then the more informal way. I'll leave time for you to repeat both after me.


nothing impossible, nothin' impossible
thinking of, thinkin' of
missing actor, missin' actor


And that's all there is to it! If you decide to add this to your own speech, please don't overuse it. More importantly, I would suggest not using it in emails to people you don't know personally. I get a lot of emails from people who use very informal speech in its written format. I don't know you, and you don't know me, so keep it formal until we do know each other and have at least shared a few correspondences. Informal online discussions can go either way. Some are very informal, some aren't. For me, it's a level of professionalism.

If you have a question you'd like an answer to, you can also go to the forums at www.pronuncian.com/forums and post it there. I'll get to it just as soon as I have a chance!

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That's all for today. Thanks for listening everyone.

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