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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
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
@JSBձոգչ There’s actually a rule about -t- suppression in compounds here, but I can’t find it right now. In the meantime, The Ballad of Shameless Enjambment addresses this very issue. :) –  tchrist May 14 '13 at 2:36

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 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 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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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 at 5:34

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 reading 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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