Reine, renne, rêne, Rennes, rein, Reims, règne, Rouen.

Reine, renne, rêne, Rennes, rein, Reims, règne, Rouen.

renn, renn, renn, renn, raa, raass, RENyuh, rooAH. Click below to hear this.*

Queen, reindeer, rein, Rennes, kidney, Reims, reign, Rouen.

I really wanted to turn all of these words into a single tonguetwister for you, but my imagination failed me. And what are they all doing lumped together like that anyway?

The theme today is homonyms, and words that look as if they should be but aren’t.

So rule #1 to keep in mind is that the letter n followed by a silent (unaccented) e at the end of a word means that there is no nasal sound. You pronounce the vowel as an open vowel (similar to a short vowel in English). An open vowel in a closed syllable. The n is like a gate at the end of the syllable, closing it off.

So la reine, le renne, la rêne, and the city Rennes are all pronounced exactly the same way. Gender and context will help you decide what your friends are talking about.

Rule #2 is that a vowel (or vowel combination) followed by the letter n or m is pronounced nasally. That means that there is no final m or n sound. That letter is just a marker for the nasal vowel. Some other languages, such as Portuguese, use a different cue, an accent mark for example. French uses a letter instead. Since the letter has another use as well (as a consonant), that can cause confusion for beginners.

That second rule does not preclude consonant sounds after the nasal vowel. The city Reims gets its final s pronounced. Banque, franche, tente, are examples: no n sound anywhere.

I tossed in the last two words just because they were feeling lonely. Le règne is pronounced luh RENyuh, and means reign (which comes from the French word…but you guessed that, didn’t you?). And the city of Rouen is rooAH. Actually, it’s even more like rwAH, in a single syllable.

Now that we have that all cleared up (we do, don’t we?), I’m waiting for someone to make up a tonguetwister. Use at least four of today’s words. Ready? Go!

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:



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