Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

English pronunciation word often

Do you ever hear the word “often” being pronounced differently by native speakers in English?

Does it ever feel as if there are some words that are said in two different ways?

If you feel like there are words that you simply aren’t sure of how to pronounce in English, you are not alone.

Today we’re going to look at words that can have more than one correct pronunciation.

You will also find that sometimes even natives have different ways, and practicing using these in conversation can help you tremendously.


Today we got a great question about pronunciation of some specific words.


Hi Lindsay and Michelle,

This is Duncan from Taiwan. Thank you guys for having such a great podcast, and I listen to it every night before I go to sleep. I love it so much!!!

I have two questions about pronunciation as indicated below:

The first one is “OFTEN.” I have noticed many times that Lindsay pronounces it “of-t-en,”with a clear T sound. We usually pronounce “o-fen” with a silent T sound though. So I would like to know which way sounds more correct or native.

The second one is “CHICAGO.” One of my English teachers, a Canadian, taught me that it should be pronounced “sh-i-cago,” . I’m confused though because I’ve heard  some Westerns also pronounce it as “ch-i-cago.” Likewise, I’d like to know which one is more correct or native.

Thank you so much. Love you guys!!! :p

Sincerely yours,



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Pronunciation Can Be Tricky Sometimes

It can help to listen to the way in which natives pronounce something.

Even that can be tricky though because there can be different dialects.

There are instances where two different ways may both be correct.

When we look at “often”, we check the dictionary and find that it is correct to use the “T” in pronouncing the word.

When we look at “Chicago”, there tends to be only one true way to say it.

This is different than the “often” example because you would really only pronounce this as “shi-ka-go”.


Some Words Are Arguable In Terms of The Way You Pronounce Them

It’s not just “often” or “Chicago” that people have trouble pronouncing.

You will find that there are plenty of words within the English language that can be difficult to master.

You want to listen to how natives pronounce them, but even that can be deceiving sometimes.

There are some words that definitely make the list in terms of being arguable in how you can correctly pronounce them.

Here are a few to highlight which can usually be said correctly in more than one way.


  • Caramel: In the East you tend to hear this with 3 syllables, while in the rest of the country you usually hear it with only two syllables
  • Crayon: Some parts of the country may say this as one syllable, while others may put an extra syllable in there for the “y”
  • Y’all: You will often hear people in the north say “you guys”, while in the South saying “ya’all” is inclusive of everyone and frequently used
  • Pajamas: Most people say this quickly with as little syllables as possible, though some may put in a different dialect or with an additional syllable
  • Soda or Pop: This is a heavily debated word across the country. In the Midwest you might hear people say pop, while on the East coast or South you might hear soda
  • Syrup: The way that this is pronounced often depends upon the dialect and the part of the country that the speaker is from


Think It Through If You Feel Uncertain

It’s no wonder that these words and others like it can often be confusing.

When in doubt, take a minute and ask yourself some important questions.

Making mistakes or feeling uncertain is completely normal.

If you aren’t quite sure though, here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Will this get in the way of connection? If not, try to hear what others say and go with that, but don’t stress about it too much because there may be more than one right way of pronouncing it. 
  2. Is it an easily confused word? If yes, others are probably saying it in both ways. Even natives have trouble sometimes with these common words.
  3. Should I ask someone? Don’t be uncomfortable to bring this up with the person you are talking to. Most people enjoy talking about different ways to pronounce words.
  4. Who is the audience? A job interview? A friend? If it’s in a professional setting then learning in advance can be helpful. If it’s in a casual conversation with a friend though, you can relax and know that it will be okay.



There are many words within the English language that can be tough to pronounce.

Don’t feel bad if you’re unsure or if you feel like you don’t know which way to pronounce something.

Practice saying these words and take cues from natives around you.

There is often more than one correct way to say something, and it helps to remember that.

Practice using these words. This can be a great way to make connections and build confidence in your vocabulary.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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