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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. Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 12:22
  • @Tsuyoshi, why "of course"?
    – b.roth
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 13:26
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    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. :( Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 13:35
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    @Tsuyoshi - I have never ever heard 'of course' pronounced with /f/. Are you talking about 'off course'?
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 14:18
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    Sometimes the v sound is omitted completely ... lotsa luck
    – GEdgar
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 15:08

4 Answers 4

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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
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 8:54
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    @RegDwight, do you mean the misspelling that is derived from how people pronounce "should have"?
    – b.roth
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 9:18
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    @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
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 13:10
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    @Kosmonaut: yes, you're right - that's not the reason, per se. I should've just said "This helpfully distinguishes it from..."
    – gkrogers
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 16:26
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    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
    Commented Oct 29, 2010 at 22:02
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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
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 14:42
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    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/. Commented Nov 1, 2010 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 Commented Nov 2, 2010 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
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 18:16
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    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). Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 21:11
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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
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 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
    Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 2:40
  • The apostrophe in o'clock is of similar origin.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 22:48
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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. Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 16:28
  • Yeah, me neither. I’d love to find some audio clips of actual speech wherein this is demonstrated.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 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
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 21:15

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