When I say the "n" in "now" - the tip of my tongue touches touches the roof of my mouth

When I say the " n" in "counsel", the tip of the tongue doesnt touch the roof of the mouth or between my teeth.

Is it normal? What is the difference between these two n's?

  • 3
    You're mispronouncing "counsel".
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 11, 2017 at 11:43
  • What do you mean by 'roof'. So you mean the soft palate? Or the alveolar ridge? Or what exactly? N is classified as a dental consonant, because the tip of the tongue is against the (upper) teeth when pronunced. I would say if the tip of your tongue is against the "roof" of your mouth, that's an unusual method of pronouncing N. Oct 11, 2017 at 11:43
  • 2
    Which dialect/accent of English do you use, or wish to use? There's quite a wide range of tip-of-tongue placements for 'n' among dialects. For example, in some parts of England the tip would be against the upper teeth, and in parts of Ireland, against the lower teeth. Also, some accents have the back/mid tongue against the hard palate, some don't. Oct 11, 2017 at 11:54
  • 1
    @Clare [n] is dental in many languages, but for most native English speakers (not all, though), it is usually alveolar. Oct 11, 2017 at 11:55
  • 2
    ... as an aside, there's nothing phonemic about the various ways of pronouncing 'n', so it won't affect communication at all. Even no-tongue-involved sounds like Polish ą and ę sound like they have an 'n' at the end to English speakers! Oct 11, 2017 at 12:01

1 Answer 1


English speakers sometimes nasalize vowels that precede a nasal consonant. In some cases, speakers don't fully pronounce the nasal consonant, especially when the following phoneme (after the nasal consonant) shares the place of articulation, as do /n/ and /s/ (both alveolar).

Here's a great article on this, and the most relevant quotes from it. http://dialectblog.com/2012/02/06/nasal-vowels/

Nasal vowels are used in English as well, albeit in a much more run-of-the-mill way. They occur before nasal consonants, as in ‘man,’ ‘can‘t,’ or ‘then.’

There are some situations, even in more mainstream accents of English, where nasal vowels can entirely supercede an /n/ or /m/. For example, many people pronounced the word ‘can’t’ without really fully articulating the /n/, and the word ’embalm’ without the /m/. These are rather mundane observations, though. Because the following consonant in each word is in the same place of articulation as the preceding nasal, most of us barely notice the difference between ‘can’t’ with a full-on /n/ and ‘can’t’ with only a nasal vowel.

And per your question on if it's normal, I do the same thing you're asking about (not fully pronouncing the /n/) and I am a native US English speaker, so although normal is relative – it's normal to me!

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