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Is "of" always supposed to be pronounced with the v sound (like "ov")? Or does it depend on the region (e.g. US, UK) or maybe on the word that follows the preposition?

For example, how would you pronounce the title of this question?

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“Is "of" always supposed to be pronounced with the v sound?” Of course. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 28 '10 at 12:22
@Tsuyoshi, why "of course"? –  b.roth Oct 28 '10 at 13:26
The word “of” in the phrase “of course” is usually pronounced with the /f/ sound. That is, my previous comment was meant to be a joke. :( –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 28 '10 at 13:35
@Tsuyoshi - I have never ever heard 'of course' pronounced with /f/. Are you talking about 'off course'? –  Colin Fine Oct 28 '10 at 14:18
Sometimes the v sound is omitted completely ... lotsa luck –  GEdgar Mar 6 '13 at 15:08

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In English (well, OK, UK, US, Australian and NZ English, at least, but I suspect all English), "of" is pronounced with the 'v' sound, as "ov". This helps to distinguish it from "off", a separate word (meaning "not on"), pronounced with the 'f' sound.

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Hence the crime against humanity that is "should of". –  RegDwigнt Oct 28 '10 at 8:54
@RegDwight, do you mean the misspelling that is derived from how people pronounce "should have"? –  b.roth Oct 28 '10 at 9:18
@gkrogers: I agree that the [v] sound is used in all these dialects of English, but I don't agree that the reason is to distinguish it from off. Of and off have different vowel sounds in addition to their consonants being different, so the [v] or [f] wouldn't make a difference. But even if this weren't the case, homophony is common even among high-frequency words. Take two/too/to or they're/their/there, for example. I think it is just pronounced that way "because it is", and it is spelled that way because it used to be pronounced with an [f] sound at one time. –  Kosmonaut Oct 28 '10 at 13:10
@Kosmonaut: yes, you're right - that's not the reason, per se. I should've just said "This helpfully distinguishes it from..." –  gkrogers Oct 28 '10 at 16:26
Ah, I see! You're referring to US pronunciation; I'm referring to British English, or "RP". The OED has the pronunciation of 'of' as "ɒv" and of 'off' as "ɒf". –  gkrogers Oct 29 '10 at 22:02

According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, the strong form is pronounced as [ɒv] (British) / [ʌv] (US), whereas the weak form is pronounced as [əv]. The informal short form, sometimes written as o', is pronounced as [ə]. There is no mentioning of any exceptions, suggesting that the of in "of course" (cf. other answers and comments) is pronounced in the same way (not with f). Audio files can be found here. The dictionary points out that "of" is a rare exception of a word where f is pronounced like v.

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Wow ... I never realized the strong form was pronounced differently in England. Of course, you almost never hear the strong form. –  Peter Shor Aug 17 at 16:28
Yeah, me neither. I’d love to find some audio clips of actual speech wherein this is demonstrated. –  tchrist Aug 17 at 16:38
@tchrist: I would use the stressed form about half the time in “What’re you thinking of?” [… θɪŋkɪŋ ʌv] (depending on prosody) and all the time in “Pronunciation of ‘of’” [… əv ʌv]. –  Jon Purdy Aug 17 at 21:15

The word of is often pronounced weakly, and the /v/ sound at the end of of is sometimes pronounced as [f]. The phrase “of course” is a typical example. I think that the /v/ in the word of is often pronounced as [f] before an unvoiced consonant.

Honestly speaking, this came as a surprise to me. As a foreign speaker, I learned the following “rule” at school: the word of in the phrase of course is pronounced with the “f” sound. (A similar “rule” is that the word have in have to is pronounced with the “f” sound.) Learning it as a rule had given me a (wrong) impression that English speakers are aware of it. However, while looking for a material to back up this “rule,” I learned that this is merely a variation of the actual sound of the same phoneme /v/.

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Ah, I see. I remember coming across a suggestion that voiced consonants in English are generally only half voiced, and the major difference is fortis/lenis rather than voice. –  Colin Fine Oct 28 '10 at 14:42
Actually I think you are right about the /f/ sound in /of course/. If I say it slowly I put the /v/ in there, but in the course of a sentence I do say a soft /f/; /fc/ must be easier on the lips than /vc/. –  Jared Updike Nov 1 '10 at 22:37
I tried saying it at a more normal speed and still ended up with "A horse is a horse, ov course, ov course." And now I have a different problem: english.stackexchange.com/questions/810 –  J.T. Grimes Nov 2 '10 at 1:03
Tsuyoshi Ito, that is a surprise. Maybe because it's not a “rule” but a variation in how different people pronounce that particular, letter f. It's always amusing to learn of things in the language that non-native speakers have assumed or have been led to believe are strict rules, followed religiously, when in reality, they are not. –  Tristan r Aug 17 at 18:16
The normal will be a /v/ for both of and have, but /v/ in front of certain voiceless consonants will devoice to /f/ in moderately fast speech (at least in many dialects). –  guifa Aug 17 at 21:11

It depends. Formally it's always "ov." But it can be shortened to "a", like if you say someone is a "piece a shit", or "cream a the crop."

Some following words lend themselves better to shortening. For example, saying "I've heard a him" is less common (for me anyway) than "I've heard ov him."

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In my dialect, we'd be most likely to shorten this to "I've heard've 'im" [ɑɪv hɝd ə vəm]. So, the [h] in him is dropped (which is regularly done with him and her), leaving no need to drop the [v] from of. –  Kosmonaut Oct 28 '10 at 14:34
@ Claudiu Or "cream o' the crop" or "ring a ring o' roses". @Kosmonaut But hopefully never written "heard've". Just "I've heard of 'im". –  Lisa Sep 20 '11 at 2:40
The apostrophe in o'clock is of similar origin. –  TRiG Jun 26 '12 at 22:48

protected by RegDwigнt Mar 6 '13 at 15:19

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