According to the French orthography page on Wikipedia, -om becomes ɔ̃ before a consonant (m in this case). So why is ɔ̃ not allowed? Is it because of some syllable breakdown rule that I am not aware of or is it because while m is technically a consonant, the French orthography rule doesn't treat it like one?

  • The rule doesn't apply to double m or double n, and it also doesn't seem to apply to the combination mn — consider the words hymne, amnésie, the prefix omni- (and probably a lot of other words I can't think of right now). May 22, 2021 at 22:06

2 Answers 2


This is French. Rules have exceptions. A vowel followed by N or M which is followed a different consonant or at the end of the word becomes a nasal vowel. There are a few exceptions: -mn does not lead to nasalization, the final -um (or -ums) is pronounced /ɔm/, recent imports from foreign languages are not nasalized, and probably a few more I can't think of right now.

A double consonnant does not nasalize the preceding vowel except in the few cases where it does. The only exception I can think of is when the prefix -en was added to a word beginning with n or m (in the latter case, the word is spelled emm-), with some fluctuation when en- was derived from the Latin prefix in-. Here are a few examples which are nasalized:

ennui /ɑ̃.nɥi/
enneigé /ɑ̃.nɛ.ʒe/
emmener /ɑ̃.mə.ne/
remmener /ʁɑ̃.mə.ne/

But in other words the usual rule applies (e + double consonant is pronounced with an open /ɛ/ (è sound), occasionally a closed /e/ (é sound)):

ennemi /ɛ.nə.mi/
renne /ʁɛn/
flemme /flɛm/
emmental /ɛ.mɛ̃.tal/ or /e.mɛ̃.tal/
Emmanuelle /ɛ.ma.nɥɛl/ or /e.ma.nɥɛl/

Also emm is pronounced /am/ in femme and in adverbs that end in -emment.

  • A few other ones: emmagasiner, emmailloter, emmancher, emmerder, emmitoufler, emmurer, emmener, emménager, emmêler, ennoblir
    – jlliagre
    May 23, 2021 at 14:55
  • Notice that there are regional variants. For instance in Languedoc, année is pronounced /ɑ̃.nɛ/.
    – wazoox
    May 27, 2021 at 17:02

This is the expected pronunciation, along with [co.mɑ̃.dɑ̃] and variations in the way /ɑ̃/ is realized.

Most nasal vowels directly followed by a nasal consonant (i.e. N or M) lost their nasality several centuries ago.

There are rare regional exceptions (See How is /a/ pronounced before n/m in French?) and a few other ones, as Gilles rightly pointed out in his answer.

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