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  • Writer's pictureSpeaking Brazilian


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In this lesson, we are going to talk about nasal vowels in Portuguese, and I'm going to give you several tips to help you pronounce nasal sounds correctly.

--> As this is a pronunciation lesson, it is important that you watch the video and repeat the examples out loud for practice.

What are nasal and oral vowels?

Oral vowels are pronounced with air passing through the mouth only.

These are the oral vowels we use in Portuguese:

  • A – É – Ê – I – Ó – Ô – U

Nasal vowels are pronounced with air passing through the mouth and nose at the same time.

These are the nasal vowels we use in Portuguese:

  • Ã/AN/AM

  • EN/EM

  • IN/IM

  • Õ/ON/OM

  • UN/UM

How to know if a vowel is nasal or not?

In Portuguese, vowels are nasalized when followed by the letters N or M or when they have the graphic sign called “til”(tilde), which is the sign that has the shape of a snake: / ˜/. Only the vowels A and O take the tilde.

Vowels nasalized by the letters M or N:


  • Antes (Before)

  • Setembro (September)

  • Jardim (Garden)

  • Onde (Where)

  • Comum (Common)

  • Manga (Mango)

  • Desenho (Drawing)

  • Vizinho (Neighbor)

  • Sonho (Dream)

  • Unha (Nail)

What are Nasal Diphthongs?

A diphthong is a sound formed by combining two vowels in the same syllable. In the Portuguese language, nasal diphthongs are formed by a nasal vowel with strong pronunciation and an oral vowel with weak pronunciation.

These are the most used nasal diphthongs:

  • ÃO, ÃE, ÕE, AM, EM, ÃI, UI

Let's see some examples in words:

  • Pão (Bread)

  • Mãe (Mother)

  • Lições (Lessons)

  • Falam (They speak)

  • Bem (Well)

  • Cãimbra (Cramp)

  • Muito (Much)

Note that words ending with the letters AM or EM, although not spelled with two vowels, are pronounced as diphthongs.

The diphthong AM is pronounced as AUM (ão), and the diphthong EM is pronounced as EIN. The letter M is not pronounced.

Let's see some examples:

  • Cem (One hundred)

  • Comem (They eat)

  • Ontem (Yesterday)

  • Falam (They speak)

  • Estudam (They study)

  • Trabalham (They work)

ÃO or AM?

The pronunciation of the nasal diphthongs ÃO (with a tilde) and AM (with an M) is exactly the same.

However, the stressed syllable of words with the diphthong ÃO is usually the last (oxytone words), while the stressed syllable of words ending in AM is the second to last (paroxytone words).

For example:

  • Eles trabalharam (passado) - Eles trabalharão (futuro)/ They worked (past tense) - They will work (future tense)

  • Eles estudaram (passado) - Eles estudarão (futuro) /They studied (past tense) - They will study (future tense)

  • Eles comeram (passado) - Eles comerão (futuro) /They ate (past tense) - They will eat (future tense)

  • Eles assistiram (passado) - Eles assistirão (futuro) / They watched (past tense) - They will watch (future tense)

The nasal vowel Ã:

The vowel A is the only one nasalized with the tilde individually, usually at the end of words.

Let's see some examples:

  • Manhã (Morning)

  • (Fan)

  • Hortelã (Mint)

  • (Frog)

  • Avelã (Hazelnut)

  • Maçã (Apple)

  • (Wool)

That's it! I hope you enjoyed this lesson!

You'll find more Portuguese lessons at the bottom of this page.

Até a próxima!

Speaking Brazilian School Team


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