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I heard people saying "Of-fen" as well as "Of-ton". Till now I have been using the first one but few days ago I had an interviewer who pronounced often "Of-Ton" while interviewing.

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"Often" could be pronounced a variety of different ways depending on the speaker's native dialect, how tired or lazy they are, and so on. Could you clarify a bit what you are interested in? – user1579 May 27 '11 at 13:38
Often I have pronounced often as of-fun but was I right all this while. Should I start pronouncing it as Of-Ton or people will still be able to get me when I pronounce it as Of-fun. ;) – Vral May 27 '11 at 13:43
People will still understand you. That's self-evident, they always have so far from what you say. Different dialects pronounce it [ɒfən], [ɒftən] or even [ɒfʔn], and all the shades in between. – user1579 May 27 '11 at 13:57
If you were William S. Gilbert, you presumably pronounced often exactly the same way as you did orphan, which I'm sure doesn't have a /t/ in it. – Peter Shor May 27 '11 at 14:20
@Rhodri, i doubt that anyone actually has a /t/ in often as an unlearned pronunciation. Where the /t/ exists it seems to be a spelling pronunciation, a form of hypercorrection. – JSBձոգչ May 27 '11 at 14:33

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The 't' used to be pronounced, but then was lost, but the pronunciation with a 't' is slowly coming back (because of the spelling).

Dictionaries will provide the 't' pronunciation as a variant. Note that 'soften' is always pronounced without the 't' currently.

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It'd be weird to put a hard consonant sound in the word soften. ♪ – Grace Note May 27 '11 at 13:44
This sounds interesting. I never ever thought that I have been pronouncing Soften often as Sof-tun. – Vral May 27 '11 at 13:47
I think it's more that the 't' in "soften" mutated into a very soft glottal. – user1579 May 27 '11 at 13:59
I don't think it has been lost in BE - I would say 't' is the normal British pronounciation – mgb May 27 '11 at 15:30
@Martin: I hear AmE speakers say both. And an AmE dictionary confirms that the without 't' is standard, and that with 't' is a common accepted variant. – Mitch May 27 '11 at 15:55

The pronunciation with the 't' is a hypercorrection. Although the 't' was long ago pronounced, it has been silent for centuries and is only recently making a comeback because people assume that not pronouncing the 't' is erroneous. It makes sense that it would be silent, by analogy to similar words that lose their 't' sound when -(e)n is added ('soft'/'soften', 'list'/'listen', 'fast'/'fasten', 'haste'/'hasten', and of course, 'oft'/'often').

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Could you please provide a source (such as a dictionary entry) confirming that these pronunciations without the t are regarded as standard? – Theodore Broda Jun 21 '14 at 5:34
@TheodoreBroda any dictionary will give the 't-less' pronunciation for all of these as standard. – Mitch Dec 6 '14 at 13:50

The true answer to this question is perhaps best explained by The Ballad of Shameless Enjambent, a cautionary tale here reproduced by kind permission of its author:

From far and wide, they’ve come to list-
        en, watch, and judge her plea.
Beneath the lights her skin aglist-
        en drips and drabbles free.
Before she speaks she stops to moist-
        en lips all cracked and dry;
Refreshed for now, she lifts her voice
        and pleading asks them, “Why?”
She tells them just how much, how oft-
        en all well-spoken men
That certain t’s they oft would soft-
        en up, and how and when.
This once a trait of working class
        infects its rulers too,
Who know no better than to fast-
        en t’s where once taboo.
The scholars gasp, that she should chast-
        en men of such renown.
They rise as one and move to hast-
        en towards her dressing down.
But wait! she cries, there’s more to this
        and other matters yet.
Too late! they rage, and quick she’s christ-
        ened fraudulent coquette.

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Majoring in languages and linguistics in college, I had one linguistics professor who was exceptionally adamant that often should not be pronounced with the t. That was a spelling pronunciation that had begun in the first quarter of the 20th century when greater access to schooling and literacy became available to children and adults. Often should be pronounced to rhyme with soften, this professor taught, as the two words had come through the language to modern times sharing the same etymological history — and we don’t pronounce the t in soften.

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Exactly right, alas. – tchrist Dec 6 '14 at 3:48

The nuns taught it without pronouncing the t. These nuns would emphasize their teaching with sharp and painful raps to our knuckles with a ruler. I would hate to think that all those bruised knuckles were for naught!

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