Headbloom Blog

Why we don’t pronounce the “t” in “often”
Many students ask me if they should pronounce the “t” in the middle of the word “often.” The short answer is to pronounce it like “off-n” (not saying the “t” sound).

When -en or -le is added to certain English words, the “t” becomes silent for ease in pronunciation.

The question arises because non-natives occasionally hear native speakers say “off—ten” (either in person or on broadcasts). This pronunciation is a hypercorrection by speakers who originally learned it correctly as children but became linguistically unsure after hearing another person pronounce the “t” sound. Everyone is afraid of making a mistake in public, after all.

The “t” used to be pronounced hundreds of years ago, but it has been long dropped in the pronunciation. Saying the “t” is incorrect in modern English.

image

Here is a list to help you see the connections between words ending with “t” and ones that have the “t” silenced in the middle. At the bottom, I have added the meanings of some words that may be unfamiliar to you.

image

Now that you’ve learned these 20 examples, go forth and proudly omit the “t” in “often” whenever you say it! If an American tries to correct you, give them this article. That should soften their criticism.

Source: Etymonline (http://www.etymonline.com)

image image
(all photos: Fotolia)

Unfamiliar words

  • oft = old-fashioned form for “often”
  • list = Old English: hearing
  • Christ = Greek: anointed one
  • christen = to give someone a church name
  • glist = mica: a shiny, flaky mineral
  • glisten = to sparkle
  • fast = meaning “tight” or “fixed”
  • fasten = to connect tightly
  • haste = noun meaning “hurry”
  • hasten = to hurry
  • chaste = meaning “pure” or “virtuous”
  • chasten = to restrain, subdue
  • wrest = to pull or twist
  • whist = Old English: make a hissing sound
  • cast = unrelated meaning: to throw
  • joust = to challenge for position
  • jostle = to knock against
  • nestle = to get comfy in a space, snuggle
  • bristle = to show anger
  • bustle = to be active
  • thistle = prickly plant with purple flower
  • apostle = a messenger or follower
  • hustle = to move quickly, hurry
  • trestle = a crossbar or support for a bridge



Alan Headbloom