I'm confused by ɛ̃, as in pain, vin, cinq, etc.

Often, and that's what I'm taught, you are told to pronounce it as the a in "and".

  • cinq (first pronunciation)

However, sometimes it is pronounced very differently in my ears. Vin is such a word.

To me, the ɛ̃ is pronounced differently in these two cases. Could someone please enlighten me on how things are?


1 Answer 1


There definitely are variants in the pronunciation of that sound. It depends on things like the age of the speaker and where they come from. I don't hear that much difference between the two examples you link, but truthfully I don't have a very good ear for differences between sounds. However, the phoneme /ɛ̃/ of French is usually realized quite a bit lower (closer to an "a" sound) than the vowel phoneme /ɛ/ (and depending on your dialect of English, possibly lower than the sound in "and" as well, so that's not a great reference point). The phonetic sound is often transcribed [æ̃], which is closest to a nasalized version of the sound in the English word "lad" or "lab".

  • That's interesting. Here is an audio file that emphasize the difference I hear. It's the word vin. Which do you think sound more correct? Or is either fine? clyp.it/lgc5ygcf
    – Mumfi
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 12:06
  • I think the first of the pair sounds better -- the second sounds a little too close to /ɑ̃/ to me. However, I am not a native speaker, so you might want some input from one of them as well. If you want to get input from more people, it might help if you de-accepted my answer; I wouldn't mind. Of course, if you're satisfied now you can leave the accept as well.
    – sumelic
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:24
  • I don't think this question is getting anymore attention. Thank you for your time.
    – Mumfi
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 16:22

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