The remaining 18 letters of the 30 main letters are the consonants which can be classified into three types based in their strength of pronounciations:

வல்லினம்valliṉam — strong character
மெல்லினம்melliṉam — soft character
இடையினம்iṭaiyiṉam — middle character

Let's go through each of the characters if these categories:


க்k is the typical k-sound like in the English word "to cook"

ச்c is a sound like the tch in patch. Another example would be the ch in the word chai

However, you will only use this pronounciation for the consonant itself and for syllables of this row that directly follow the consonant. In all other cases the sound is a regular s.

Let look at a small example: பச்சை (green) will be pronounced paccai using tch, but in பசைpacai (glue) the c will be pronounced as an s.

ட் is the same sound as you know from English words like dollar

த்t — This consonant is similar to the th in English. However, it is pronounced in a stronger way. Put your tounge in a position like you would do when saying "that", but then say "tat" instead.

ப்p is the again a sound that you already know from English. Sounds exactly like the p in words like to keep or cap.

ற் as a consonant is pronounced differently than in combination with a vowel. The consonant itself sounds like a t but all the syllable of this row sound like the Spanish rolled r.


கற்கkaṟka — to learn
அறைaṟai — room


ங் is the first letter of the soft characters. Its pronunciation is pretty similar to the ng sound in the word thing or English. But while the consonant is easily pronounced, the syllables of this row are a bit more difficult.

I would describe it as the sound of the ngi in singing in a few English accents. To have a better explanation on how to pronounce this sound properly, have a look at the meaning of velar nasal.

ஞ்ñ sounds like the ñ you might know from Spanish. In English it is similar to the ny in the word canyon. The consonant itself can also be pronouned as nch as in punch.

ண் and ன் are the second most difficult sounds in Tamil. Both represent the character n you know from English, but while ன் with a single curl sounds like the regular English n like in night, ண் is a stronger version.

For ன் like for the n in night, your tongue starts behind your teeth, but for ண் you roll your tongue backwards (similar to the rolling r).


Make sure that you get the difference between those two characters. A different sound can lead to an entirely different word.

For example

மனம்maṉam means "mind" while
மணம்maṇam is translated as "bad smell".

To make the sound a bit more complex, the syllables of ந்n do sound like n as well, like the n of ன். But there is an easy rule to decide which of the two characters you use when:

Except for the consonant itself, ந்n the entire row can never appear within a word (unless it is a compound word that be seen as multiple words). At the same time ன் can never appear at the beginning of a word.

And yes, ண் can not appear in at the beginning of a word neither.

After all the complexity the consonant ம்m is the last sound of the soft consonants. It sounds exactly like the English sound m like in mom or moon.


The first consonant ய்y of the middle characters sounds the same as the vowel i. In all the other cases you pronounce it as the English y like in yes, you or yummy.

The letter ர்r is another interesting one. In the list of the strong consonants we had ற். Well, ர்r is the opposite to it. As a single consonant ர்r sounds like a rolled r. In all other cases it sounds like a t.

For example, in பார்க்கpārkka (to see) the is pronounced as a r, but in மரம்maram (tree) it is pronounced as a t

The character வ்v is the same as the English pendant. It is pronounced as the v in the word visa.

The last three consonants are the most difficult one for those who only speak Germanic or Romanance languages. Why?

Because in Tamil ல்l, ள் and ழ் are just three different sounds of l. But let's go through each of them.

ல்l is the same l sound that you know from English, like in the word list.

ள் is the retroflex version of the l. Similar to ண் and ன், the sound of is ள் is the stronger version of ல்l and can be reached by rolling your tongue backwards.

The French word belle sounds pretty similar to that retroflex l. The English word hall in some dialects also sounds pretty close to ள்.

The third sound ழ் is the most difficult one since it is a unique sound in Tamil (and Malayalam which is a language pretty close to Tamil). The sound is similar to the retroflex approximat, but not exact the same.

I suggest that you just pronounce it the same as the retroflex ள் in the beginning. The more words you learn and the more you get in touch with the spoken Tamil, you will start hearing and using the different sounds.


As for the two different sounds of n, be also careful about the l sounds since each of them can lead to a different meaning.

ஒலிoli means sound,
ஒளிoḷi means light and
ஒழிoḻi is the imperative form of to hide

Grantha characters

In addition to the regular consonants, there are also a few letters taken over from the Grantha script.

They were added to be able to pronounce a few sounds that did exist in Sanskrit, but not in Tamil. Normally you won't need them, but I'm adding them to make sure that you are not too surprised when seeing them.