How do You Pronounce Often?

Is the T silent or not?

That’s a good question. You always ask such good questions.

The simple answer is, you can pronounce it either way. Often developed from oft, probably due to its relation to the related word seldan, which developed into seldom. Originally the T was pronounced in often, as it was pronounced in oft.

Meanwhile, around the 16th century, -en began to be added to a variety of words to make verbs, such as fasten, hasten, or soften. At first, these T‘s were pronounced, but at about the same time, the pronunciation of words with consonant clusters began to be simplified. Because all those consonants together can be cumbersome. This is evident in the silent letters in words like handkerchief, castle, handsome, and raspberry, as well as the words ending in -ten words above.

This is why the T in often also became silent. However, because it had so recently come into use, and people were still using oft, the T continued to be pronounced by some, as it is to this day. It’s still more common to pronounce the word with a silent T, and it generally sounds a little more formal to pronounce it, but you can go with either.

26 thoughts on “How do You Pronounce Often?

  1. Interesting little bit! I didn’t know the T was left out, in English class over here, our teacher always exaggerated the T to get us to pronounce it. Not sure why!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooo feeling ancient here as I pronounce the p in raspberry and the d in handsome

    I wonder if accent or region has anything to do with it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember being told that when singing, you do need the T. Sung pronunciation is slightly different to spoken because the words get elongated etc’, and some vowel phonemes end up flat and odd sounding, plus you can make space for multiple consonants.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s still the influence of Germanium, as in German they say “oft” as often, and “Selten” is for seldom! for example: in Germany, they turn the numbers as they want to say; twenty-five, they say five and twenty! and as I read the books by Charles Dickens, I mentioned that the numbers were also used those days in this form as the German still use it. Anyway, it’s always amazing to read your research and I can learn a lot. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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