I've been trying to grasp how ん sounds when placed after a vowel. Apparently the vowel becomes nasalized (and extended?) but does it get rid of the n sound completely then?

If so wouldn't ほん have its n sound taken off as well? But from what recordings I've been listening to I swear the ん is making a n sound.

  • 13
    "how ん sounds when placed after a vowel" > When is ん NOT placed after a vowel?
    – chocolate
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 8:32
  • Any help? wiki Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 23:39
  • You called it n noise, then ん noise, then N noise. I'm assuming you didn't intend to make a difference and edited it, but feel free to clarify.
    – blutorange
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 7:24
  • 2
    I can't help but recall the explanation I read many years ago on the (now-defunct) KanjiSITE: "Then, finally, there's n (which, if you were to pronounce it on its own, sounds like not "enn" but "uhnh" - think non-commital grunt, like you're a guy watching the FA Cup or the Superbowl and you think your girlfriend might just have said something to you from the kitchen)."
    – GoBusto
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 11:54
  • 4
    Possible duplicate of Does Japanese have a silent ん? Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 3:43

3 Answers 3


The situation you describe (nasalization + lengthening + ん deletion, [Ṽː]) only really happens when ん is followed by another vowel, to distinguish it from [V.nV] situations. Otherwise, your intuition/ears are correct, and ん does not disappear.

Some examples:

範囲(はんい) → /hɑ̃ːi/

ハニー → /ha.niː/

雰囲気(ふんいき) → /fũːiki/

国(くに)→ /ku.ni/

本意(ほんい)→ /hõːi/

本人(ほんにん)→ /hon.nin/


It depends on what comes after the ん, as well as the speaker, their gender, and the regional dialect.

In many cases it is like a straight English "n" sound, such as in そんな, パンダ, パンですよ, etc. (As well as "ng" before が, ぎ, ぐ, げ, or ご, just as in English: シンガー for instance)

In the case of ん ending a sentence or utterance, it will often take on the so-called nasalized "n" sound where your tongue reaches toward the spot behind your upper teeth but doesn't make firm contact (especially in Tokyo dialect) or sometimes just the English "n" sound (and some female speakers will even give it an "m"-like sound).


EDITED to add pronunciation clarification.

The ん sounds makes a heavy nn sound, so ほん would definitely sound like honn. Any time a ん appears the nn sound is emphasised.

For example.

  • お盆{おぼん} - oboNN - Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of one's ancestors
  • そんなに - soNnani - so much, like that, so, etc.
  • どんな - doNna - what, what kind of etc.
  • 変{へん} - hen - Strange, odd, weird
    • not as strongly pronounced "n", pronounced similar to the female chicken.
  • うん - uNN - yes
  • うんん - uNNNN - no *The difference here can be ambiguous when spoken by some people but is generally pronounced by an elongated nn sound somewhat similar to a long hmmm sound in English.


ん is pronounced by sticking your tongue on the bridge between your teeth and the roof of your mouth similar to the way you pronounce the English n.

It doesn't usually get an ng sound (of which is usually transcribed to a ngu sound - something which ん would not produce without a following ぐ). Although I have described it in some instances as a double n (as one would normally input it into a computer) it makes a sound similar to two English n sounds together.

As you asked in your question, an ん after a vowel does not remove the n "noise" and the recordings you are listening to, probably are making a pronounced "nn" sound.

  • 3
    But no-one knows what an "nn" sound is! Japanese-written input systems usually require the sequence 'nn' to generate a ん ("syllabic n"), but this has no basis in linguistics or other transcription systems. It might be more helpful to say that ん is more like "ng", since it is formed at the back of the mouth, unlike 'n' which is formed with the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth. Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 4:58
  • ん isn't always /ŋ/, though, is it? Sure, it is before a /g/, but not in final position after a vowel (for example). お盆 isn't pronounced /oboŋ/.
    – Kyle
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 7:08
  • I merely answered if the n sound gets removed completely. I feel it is not a ng sound for the reason you state, the ん is actually produced at the front of the mouth like an n sound rather than at the back of the mouth like an ng sound. I don't mind adding it in to the answer. When you said "this has no basis in linguistics" I would again disagree arguing that it makes a sound similar to a double n sound from English. Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 7:09
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    It's not clear what you mean by "a double n sound from English". The only double /n/ sound I can think of off the top of my head is in pen knife. @Kyle But [ŋ] isn't a phoneme in Japanese, so you should write it in square brackets. Anyway, I think there's a lot of information someone could put in a competing answer, so I hope the OP unchecks this one and waits to see if anyone else would like to contribute.
    – user1478
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 7:51
  • 2
    @TheWanderingCoder When it comes to phonology, hearing can be deceptive... (one of the reasons why ventriloquism works). The actual place of articulation really does change in this case depending upon the phoneme that follows. There will always be some variation though in region, gender, age group, class, etc.
    – Sudachi
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 7:40

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