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The Spanish “N” has three distinct sounds which are determined by the letter that follows the “N” in a word. Two of these sounds commonly appear in English in much the same way. The third one also appears in English, but is less common. The sound of the Spanish “N” should not be confused with the sound of the Spanish “Ñ”, which is a separate letter of the alphabet and will be explained in the next lesson.
1. The most common sound for the Spanish “N” is similar to the English “N” found in words such as “nice” and “dance.” For Spanish speakers, however, the sound is formed with the tongue a bit further forward, at the top of the teeth rather than on the ridge between the teeth and the roof of the mouth. You can hear this “N” in Spanish words such as “nadie” (no one) and “nueve” (nine).
2. When the Spanish “N” is followed by an “F”, “B”, P”, “V” and in some regions “M”, it adopts an “M” sound. This happens even when the letters are located in two different words, for example: “un periódico” (a newspaper) is pronounced “umperiódico”. This sometimes also happens in English. For example, the word “input” is often pronounced more like “imput” with an “M” sound after the “I” instead of an “N” sound.
3. A third Spanish “N” sound occurs when the “N” is followed by a “K” or “G” sound (note that the “K” sound can be spelled “QU” or “C”, when the “C” is not followed by an “I” or an “E”). The “N” sound in these instances is much the same as in English when the “N” is followed by the same sounds, such as with the words “single” or “sink”. The “N” sound comes from the back of the mouth without the tongue touching the front of the mouth. The “N” sounds in the English and Spanish words for “bank” are very similar: “bank” and “banco”.
I will now give you some examples of Spanish words featuring the “N” and I would like you to repeat each word after me paying attention to the three different “N” sounds. If you would like to see the meaning of any words you are unsure of please see the lesson notes.
First let’s practice the first and most common “N” sound:

Listen and repeat:

Nada: nothing
Mano: hand
Once: eleven
Noria: waterwheel, ferris wheel
Hermano: brother
Nena: baby girl
Lana: wool

Next, let´s practice the second “N” sound which occurs when the “N” is followed by an “F”, “B”, P”, “V” or “M”:

Listen and repeat:

Enfado: anger
Enviar: to send
Enfermo: ill, sick
Inviable: unviable
Conferencia: conference
Envidia: envy
Sinvergüenza: swine, scoundrel, rogue

Finally, let´s practice the “N” sound which occurs when the “N” is followed by a “K” or “G” sound:

Listen and repeat:

Nunca: never
Banco: bank, bench
Conga: conga
Tengo: I have
Engullir: to bolt down, to gobble up
Engordar: to put on weight

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