Pronunciation exercises: "of" vs "off"

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ov /əv/


off /ɒf/

Many students believe the words "of" and "off" are pronounced the same. However "of" ends in /v/ and "off" ends in /f/.

Received Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

In Received Pronunciation both words have the same vowel: "of" is /ɒv/ and "off" is /ɒf/. But "of" has a weak form, /əv/, which is much more common.

As in most cases, to go from a strong form to a weak form the vowel is replaced by /ə/.

General American[edit | edit source]

In General American the strong form of "of" is (probably)[1] derived from the weak form. That’s why its strong form is /ʌv/.

The word "off" is pronounced /ɔːf/ with the same vowel as many other words such as "cloth" and "long". See Phoneme /ɔː/ in General American.

Summary[edit | edit source]

weak form
strong form
Received Pronunciation /əv/ /ɒv/ /ɒf/
General American /əv/ /ʌv/ /ɔːf/

Arrows indicate the direction of the derivation.

Homophones[edit | edit source]

The weak forms of "of" and "have" are the same: /əv/.

The words /ˈkʊd əv/ are correctly spelled "could’ve", but a confused writer may spell *"could of" because the pronunciation is the same. The same happens with other contractions such as "should’ve", "would’ve", etc.

/v/ devoicing[edit | edit source]

  • “of course” can be pronounced /əv kɔːrs/ or /əf kɔːrs/

Informal spelling[edit | edit source]

Most dictionaries have helluva /ˈheləvə/ meaning "hell of a".[2][3] Urban Dictionary also has sonova /ˈsʌnəvə/ meaning son of a.[4]

Sometimes "of" is pronounced /ə/ and spelled "a" as in "lotsa"[5] (lots of) or "kinda" [6] (kind of).

References[edit | edit source]

  1. John Wells’s phonetic blog, STRUT and commA, 13 July 2010.
  2. Oxford Learners Dictionaries, helluva
  3. Unabridged. Random House, Inc., helluva
  4. Urban Dictionary, sonova
  5. Oxford Learners Dictionaries, lotta
  6. Oxford Learners Dictionaries, kinda