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Few years back, one of our English teachers told that,

In India, we [typically] pronounce "of" as "of" or "off". But the real pronunciation is "ov".

When I try to listen the same in Google dictionary, it indeed sounds like "ov" :-). But I am not sure, if I am listening it correctly.

Since my native language is not English, can someone suggest what is the right pronunciation?
If it's really "ov" then it would be interesting to know, why is it so?

It has also been mentioned that this word has different vowels according to its environment. Is this true?

  • @Cascabel, from the comment of "marcell", I realised that the way I wrote may create the confusion. The teacher's saying is just a backdrop of the Qn. I would really like to know, how to pronounce "of". If it's really "ov", then it will be interesting to know why so? – iammilind Jul 21 '17 at 11:38
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    If you wish to discuss pronunciation on an international forum the International Phonetic Alphabet is really indispensable; this may help. – TimLymington Jul 21 '17 at 11:46
  • The right pronounciation is in dictionary and it is (ŭv, ŏv; əv when unstressed) thefreedictionary.com/OF merriam-webster.com/dictionary/of – Drossel Jul 21 '17 at 12:08
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    If of doesn't rhyme with love and dove, I've been pronouncing it wrong for my entire speaking life. – Davo Jul 21 '17 at 13:07
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    @Davo: For a number of British English speakers, the word "of" when stressed rhymes with the second syllable of "improv". But the pronunciation you mention is common among American English speakers. – sumelic Jul 21 '17 at 18:55
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British English

The word of has a strong form, /ɒv/. This has the same vowel we hear in the word lot, /lɒt/. This form of the word ends with a 'v' sound.

We use the strong form of of when it is stressed and also when it occurs with out a following complement. So in the phrase What are you thinking of?, there is no noun phrase following the word of, and we will hear the strong form used.

However, when the word of is not stressed and does have a following complement (usually a noun phrase), native speakers will use a weak form of the word. In such a case, the word might be realised as any of the following:

  • əv
  • v
  • ə

So the phrase lots of people may be realised as any of the following:

  • lɒts əv pi:pl
  • lɒts v pi:pl
  • lɒts ə pi:pl

American Englishes

In some varieties of American English, the strong form of the word of uses the vowel /ʌ/. This is the vowel we find in the word strut. Some dictionaries give both pronunciations /ʌv/ and /ɑv/


I've used a British English transcription here, but nothing much hinges on that.

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    Not so sure of course is really that relevant as an exceptional thing. I can quite easily produce lots of people with an [f] as well, as well as of course with a [v]. It’s simply a matter of the /v/ optionally assimilating to a following unvoiced consonant. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 21 '17 at 12:42
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Ah, but can you pronounce of course with a /v/ ? ;) – Araucaria Jul 21 '17 at 12:47
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    As opposed to with an /f/ or a [v]? I’m not sure (mostly because I can’t figure out if there’d ever be any difference)! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 21 '17 at 13:24
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    I'm not sure that anyone actually ever says /ɑv/ with their FATHER vowel there, but certainly there are American dialects (especially in the Northeast) that have a rounded vowel on the stressed version, but I don't know that they distinguish the CLOTH vowel from the THOUGHT vowel. For me, those are both /ɔ/ (I have a CLOTH–THOUGHT merger to /ɔ/ and a COT–FATHER merger to /ɑ/ but not a COT–CAUGHT merger of /ɑ/ and /ɔ/) so I couldn't tell you whether for example Pittsburgers were "really" saying one or another of /ɒv/ or /ɔv/. I know no minimal pair between /ɒ/ and /ɔ/ either. – tchrist Jul 23 '17 at 22:59
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The English word pronounced /of/ is the noun oaf, a pejorative term for a stupid, uncultured, or clumsy person.

The English preposition of is pronounced /ʌv/, /əv/, or /ə/ depending on where it’s used.

The first of those is the least common because that is a stressed vowel but the word is almost never stressed the way it might be in a spoken list of actual words like to, from, of, about. This gives it the same sound as heard in the words love, dove, glove, where those all start with consonants but end with the strong pronunciation of of: /lʌv/, /dʌv/, /glʌv/.

The second of those with the unstressed schwa is the most common. Use /əv/ in most situations.

Nonetheless the third is hardly rare. It naturally occurs in all but the very most precise and deliberate of elocutions. Most spoken instances of of are actually this lone /ə/. If you were playing cards and someone mentioned that they had a six of clubs, that would come out just like the clock-time six o’clock is pronounced, save for the /lʌbz/ part at the end of the card. It’s common in any XXX of the ZZZ type of construction as well as in a lot of XXX or in a bunch of XXX ones. You’re left with nothing but a weak and barely distinguishable /ə/; hence the eye-dialect spelling of lotta sometimes seen in phrases like “a whole lotta love”

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    @tchrist I think what Curiousdanni is getting at is probably that of doesn't have a STRUT vowel in Aussie English. – Araucaria Jul 21 '17 at 13:48
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    Note that ODO also gives /ɒv/ as the stressed pronunciation of of (and /əv/ as the unstressed one). I’m fairly certain BrE and AuE agree here, though of course the actual realisations of /ɒ/ and /ə/ vary somewhat. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 21 '17 at 14:16
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    @tchrist It's just a schwa (unrounded) when unstressed in BE. Not sure about AUSE though. – Araucaria Jul 21 '17 at 14:58
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    @curiousdannii In EngEng "of" rhymes with "love" or at least it did in the 1860s for poet A. C. Swinburne: "For the Gods we know not of, who give us our daily breath, / We know they are cruel as love or life, and lovely as death. [. . .] Time and the Gods are at strife: ye dwell in the midst thereof, / Draining a little life from the barren breasts of love." – bof Jul 23 '17 at 22:55
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    @ChrisH Yeah, maybe it was poetic. ACS also rhymed river with never: "From too much love of living, / From hope and fear set free, / We thank with brief thanksgiving / Whatever gods may be / That no life lives forever; / That dead men rise up never; / That even the weariest river / Winds somewhere safe to sea." – bof Jul 24 '17 at 7:10

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