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2.16: The Consonant Sound [n]

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    Spelling [n]

    There are six different ways of spelling [n], but the two most common are <n> and <nn>.

    Double consonants such as <nn> can be caused by twinning or assimilation or simple addition. Sometimes twinning can cause an <nn>: fan + n + ing = fanning. Sometimes assimilation can cause an <nn>: a+ n + nounce = announce, and co+ n + nect = connect. And simple addition can cause an <nn> when an element that starts with <n> is added to another element that ends with <n>: un + named = unnamed, and stubborn + ness = stubbornness.


    Sometimes [n] is spelled <n> as in the word balance.

    Sometimes [n] is spelled <nn> as in the word announce.


    1. Underline the letters that spell [n] in the following words.
          & \text{balance} && \text{nuisance} && \text{candidate} && \text{conclusion}\\
          & \text{immense} && \text{columnist} && \text{immunity} && \text{dictionary}\\
          & \text{efficient} && \text{judgement} && \text{solemnity} && \text{coupon}\\
          & \text{economics} && \text{bundle} && \text{nourishment} && \text{island}\\
          & \text{nonalcoholic} && \text{enormous} && \text{diamonds} && \text{underexposed}
    2. How is [n] spelled in all of these words? ______. Usually [n] is spelled this way - about nine times out of ten, in fact!

      All of the following words contain an <nn> that is caused by one of the three things described above. Analyze each word enough to show where the two <n>s come from. Then in the ‘Cause’ column write the cause for the <nn> in each word - “Twinning,” “Assimilation,” or “Simple Addition.”

      Words = Analysis Cause
      3. announce a+ n + nounce Assimilation
      4. connect =  
      5. innocent =  
      6. tinny =  
      7. unnourishing =  
      8. nonnuclear =  
      9. skinny =  
      10. unnecessary =  
      11. nonnative =  
      12. innumerable =  
      13. beginner =  
      14. commonness =  
      15. annihilate =  
      16. unnodding =  
      17. annex =  
      18. annul =  
      19. nonnoble =  
      20. suddenness =  
      21. connive =  
      22. beginning =  
      23. cannot =  
      24. stubbornness =  
      25. sunniest =  
      26. twinned =  

      27. So far you have examined two different ways to spell [n]: _____ and _____. The sound [n] is spelled these two ways about ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

    Show Answer
    1. \begin{align*}
          &  bala \underline{n}ce  &&   \underline{n}uisa \underline{n}ce  &&  ca \underline{n}didate  &&  co \underline{n}clusio \underline{n} \\
          &  imme \underline{n}se  &&  colum \underline{n}ist  &&  immu \underline{n}ity  &&  dictio \underline{n}ary \\
          &  efficie \underline{n}t  &&  judgeme \underline{n}t  &&  solem \underline{n}ity  &&  coupo \underline{n} \\
          &  eco \underline{n}omics  &&  bu \underline{n}dle  &&   \underline{n}ourishme \underline{n}t  &&  isla \underline{n}d \\
          &   \underline{n}onalcoholic  &&  e \underline{n}ormous  &&  diamo \underline{n}ds  &&  u \underline{n}derexposed 
    2. How is [n] spelled in all of these words? <n> . Usually [n] is spelled this way – about nine times out of ten, in fact!

      Words = Analysis Cause
      3. announce ad + n + nounce Assimilation
      4. connect com + n + nect Assimilation
      5. innocent in + nocent Simple addition
      6. tinny tin + n + y Twinning
      7. unnourishing un + nourishing Simple addition
      8. nonnuclear non + nuclear Simple addition
      9. skinny skin + n + y Twinning
      10. unnecessary un + necessary Simple addition
      11. nonnative non + native Simple addition
      12. innumerable in + numerable Simple addition
      13. beginner begin + n + er Twinning
      14. commonness common + ness Simple addition
      15. annihilate ad + n + nihilate Assimilation
      16. unnodding un + nodding Simple addition
      17. annex ad + n + nex Assimilation
      18. annul ad + n + nul Assimilation
      19. nonnoble non + noble Simple addition
      20. suddenness sudden + ness Simple addition
      21. connive com + n + nive Assimilation
      22. beginning begin + n + ing Twinning
      23. cannot can + not Simple addition
      24. stubbornness stubborn + ness Simple addition
      25. sunniest sun + n + y + i + est Twinning
      26. twinned twinned Twinning

      27. So far you have examined two different ways to spell [n]: <n> and <nn>.

    Explore More

    The other four ways to spell [n] are: <gn>, <kn>, <pn>, and <mn>. Examples are as follows:

    Sometimes [n] is spelled <gn> as in the word sign.

    Sometimes [n] is spelled <kn> as in the word knew.

    Sometimes [n] is spelled <pn> as in the word pneumonia.

    Sometimes [n] is spelled <mn> as in the word mnemonic.

    Spelling <nn> and the VCC Pattern

    Two of the ways to spell [n] are <n> and <nn>. Remember: The sound [n] is spelled one of these two ways about ninety-nine times out of every one hundred.

    The <nn> spelling occurs for many reasons: assimilation, twinning, simple addition, or VCC.


    Word Reason for <nn>
    innocently Simple Addition
    beginner Twinning
    tennis VCC
    annihilation Assimilation


    Read over the list carefully. Starting with the vowel right in front of the <nn> in each one, mark the VCC pattern.

    [n] Spelled <gn>

    The sound [n] is also spelled <gn> in the word reign, as in “The king reigned for fifty years.” Reign comes from the Latin word regnum, which meant “the power of a king” and in which the <g> was pronounced.

    But [n] is also spelled <gn> in sovereign and foreign, which come from the Latin words superanus and foranus, with no <g>s. So why are there <g>s in sovereign and foreign? Long ago people decided that sovereign and foreign must have come from the word reign. So they changed the spelling to make the three words look more alike.


    There are several English words in which [n] is spelled <gn>. Many of them come from the Latin word signum, which meant “mark, sign.”

    [n] Spelled <kn>

    The most common words with [n] spelled <kn> have know as their base.


    Here is another little group of <kn> words, all dealing with the knees:

    2.16: The Consonant Sound [n] is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by CK-12 Foundation via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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