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I wonder if the "g" in the -ing forms is pronounced. When I hear it it seems as if it's not pronounced sometimes or just slightly, though sometimes I've been told that I should pronounce "g" for example in "meeting" just to avoid saying "mitten".

So how should I pronounce "-ing"?

Sometimes -ing is written in an informal way as -in' such as:

taking

takin'

Is the letter "g" in each case pronounced differently?

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7  
If your pronunciation of "meeting" sounds like "mitten" without the "g" I think you've got far more important things to worry about than whether you enunciate the letter "g". –  FumbleFingers Feb 29 '12 at 18:32
3  
Info on sociolinguistic aspects of g-dropping. Pronunciation-wise, there's actually no 'g' to drop. –  Mitch Feb 29 '12 at 19:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The 'g' in -ing is never pronounced. What is pronounced is the velar nasal consonant represented in IPA as [ŋ]. In some dialects, this is replaced by the alveolar nasal consonant represented in IPA as [n]. This is the phonetics that the -in' ending represents.

The difference between [ŋg] and just [ŋ] can be heard in the difference between the words finger and singer.

You should never use a [g] in meeting. Use [ŋ] (which is usually represented in English spelling as 'ng') and not [n], [ŋg], or [ng].

The local dialect in several regions of the U.S., and apparently in parts of Britain as well, uses [ɪn] rather than [ɪŋ] for the suffix -ing. This is sometimes spelled -in'. The people speaking these dialects can pronounce the consonant [ŋ] just fine; for example, singin' would be pronounced [sɪŋɪn]. For more information on this, see this dialect blog posting.

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1  
Great answer on what -ng really is, but doesn't really address how -in' is a rendering of the pronunciation of specific dialects and why/when a single speaker might actually use one or the other. –  NickC Feb 29 '12 at 18:52
    
@NickC: I believe it's nothin' more than phonetic laziness or sloppiness. The "-in" sound is simply easier to enunciate than the "-ing" sound. So, when we speak more carelessly and less eloquently, the "-ing" sound inadvertantly morphs into the easier "-in". At least, that's been my observation. –  J.R. Feb 29 '12 at 21:19
    
@J.R.: If 'ng' is so difficult, why did anybody ever start pronouncing it that way in the first place? –  Mitch Feb 29 '12 at 21:41
    
@J.R.: Phonetic arguments based on “ease” don’t generally hold water. –  Jon Purdy Feb 29 '12 at 21:42
    
When you see a verb written with the informal -in', instead of the more proper -ing, that usually alludes to a more informal way of pronouncing the word. In literature, that's often used to connote sloppy, careless, or uneducated speech, e.g., "They's a time of change, an' when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an' bearin' an' dyin' is two pieces of the same thing" (Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath). Just sayin'... –  J.R. Feb 29 '12 at 22:47

You never skip the 'g' in 'ing' within writing unless it is informal, however you are not required to skip the g in informal text. If you were to be typing an e-mail to your boss, for example, saying "I'm comin' in tomorrow" would be inappropriate. If you were speaking to a friend, unprofessionally, it would be perfectly okay to do such a thing.

When speaking, it usually comes natural to skip the 'g' in 'ing' regardless of setting or who your are with. To be quite honest, here in the south, skipping the 'g' is so common that it is simply part of a southern dialect.

I'm fairly certain there are no set rules on this sort of accenting; it's more about whether or not you are speaking loosely (about friends and family) or more strictly (teachers, superiors)

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Using an apostrophe in place of a "g" is an informal colloquiallism. It is usually found inside a quotation, suggesting the speaker did not use much care when enunciating. Specifically, it's used to indicate the verb was spoken such that the final "g" was omitted: "We were walkin' to the store, not botherin' nobody, when, all of a sudden, out o' nowhere, this guy starts a-hollerin' at us for no good reason!"

(It's similar to using o' in place of "of " - as found in the preceding example).

Sometimes it's also used in song titles, when the singer doesn't carefully enunciate the final "g" in an "-ing" verb (a la "Takin' Care of Business" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'").

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The velar nasal ng lost the final g in English around the end of the 16th century. The phenomenon is called ng-coalescence. From Wikipedia:

As a result of Ng-coalescence, Middle English [sɪŋɡ] sing came to be pronounced [sɪŋ]. As well as in word-final position, Ng-coalescence was applied also in cases where a verb ending in -ng was followed by a vowel-initial suffix, so singing and singer also underwent the change.
Otherwise, word-internal -ng- did not undergo coalescence and the pronunciation [ŋg] was retained, as in finger and angle...
Some accents, however, do not show the full effects of Ng-coalescence...

However, in Romanian (a language I know) the g at the end is pronounced such as in the words: luɲg. Not all ng are ɲg such as kreangə , ungʲ . 1
Notes: 1) ŋ may appear or not in various languages. In some languages it cannot appear in the front position (e.g. English) or in the final position. In some languages it can appear in all positions.
See World Atlas of Languages.
2) ŋ can be seen as a phoneme or as an allophone of n before g or k
3) k remains next to ŋ in nk: tæɲk (English), taɲk, , mɨɲkare (Romanian)

ELU related question

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Essentially you’re saying that English final [ŋ] is returning to [n] because there is no [g] phone there anymore to make [n] into [ŋ]. –  Jon Purdy Feb 29 '12 at 21:44
    
@Jon Purdy , no that is something different (g-dropping). What I wrote about is that [ŋg] becomes just [ŋ]. These two are different . –  Theta30 Feb 29 '12 at 21:56
    
Okay, but the question is about the word-final phenomenon. –  Jon Purdy Feb 29 '12 at 23:56
    
@Jon Purdy word-final phenomenon? One of the questions is quite general "So how should I pronounce "-ing"?". The OP is not sure how it should be pronounced. –  Theta30 Mar 1 '12 at 1:00

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