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Oftentimes

The adverb oftentimes is an unnecessary variant of often. While using it is not an error, exactly, the word always bears replacement with the shorter word. The same can be said of the less common ofttimes.

Oftentimes is most common in the U.S. and Canada. We can’t explain this, but it does seem to be a trend; the word occurs more frequently in U.S. sources than it did even a decade ago—though occurrence of the word is still nowhere near its 19th-century peak. For instance, in a large number of American news stories from the year 2010, often appeared about 200 times for every instance of oftentimes, whereas the ratio was closer to 500:1 in 2000. In British publications, in contrast, oftentimes appears about once for every 4,000 instances of often—or essentially not at all.

Of course, often is just a longer way of saying oft (which goes back to Old English, predating often by many centuries), but no one uses that form. English can be strange.   


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Example

While oftentimes isn’t wrong, it could give way to the shorter often in cases like these:

Oftentimes, these business ventures net them more than their paychecks from the screen or stage. [Forbes]

A supermajority, typically of two-thirds of shareholders, is oftentimes required to approve a merger or acquisition. [National Post]

The crowd was quite animated, oftentimes cheering and oftentimes yelling out in disgust. [Captain Jack for President, John Jones]

But oftentimes, he has to acknowledge that his life is governed by a double standard. [AV Club]

Oftentimes they lack the resources to hire additional staff to help tackle necessary tasks. [Newsday]

Positive rap, like political rap, is oftentimes not as commercial as gangsta or materialistic rap. [Rap Therapy, Don Elligan]

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Comments

  1. John Rice-Whetton says:

    One of my lecturers here at university in Australian uses “oftentimes” very often, and until I looked it up online I wasn’t even aware it was a word. I thought perhaps, since he isn’t a native Anglophone, that he was just making up words drawing a parallel to a phrase like “many times”.

  2. Toad Tryouts says:

    I disagree that “oftentimes is an unnecessary variant of often” – whilst admitting that I am going to find it hard to explain :)

    Consider “Oftentimes I worked in the mines”. You could hardly write “Often I worked in the mines” which, as well as sounding wrong to the ear, does not convey the sense of working “on and off”. The tag “times” is there for a purpose.  

    • ZeitTrash says:

      TT, you’re exactly right. I disagree with Grammarist on this topic.

      • You wouldn’t word it like that though. You would say this:

        “I worked in the mines very often”

        “Oftentimes” is a classic case of unnecessary additional words to sentences to make the user sound more important and intelligent. Let me tell you, it doesn’t work. It makes you sound silly.

        • ZeitTrash says:

          Sounds like you’re the one with some kind of psychological issue.

        • Skitshin says:

          You’re retarded.

        • Mrs Whatsit says:

          “Oftentimes I worked in the mines” is a far more graceful and fluent sentence than “I worked in the mines very often.” “Very” is itself an unnecessary intensifier that should ordinarily be left out as the extra verbiage is weakening (what’s the difference, if any, between “often” and “very often”? If you really mean “more often than just often,” then why not say “frequently” and get it done in one word?)

          Anyway, I wasn’t sure myself that “oftentimes” is a word, which is why I came here. But I like it. In the right context, it has a softening feel and a nice rhythm and I say, if it’s not wrong and it works in the sentence, use it.

          • mistermuleboy says:

            The notion that “Oftentimes I worked in the mines” is equal or superior to “I worked in the mines very often” isn’t a stretch.

            The notion that either of those two abominations is equal or superior to “I often worked in the mines” is laughable. . . .

            “Oftentimes” is abominable. I urge its users to backreverse their thinking.

            [before asking: yes, it’s a joke]

          • mark_ffrench says:

            I find both those suggestions weird, what’s wrong with… “I often worked in the mines” ??

          • mistermuleboy says:

            Nothing. *That’s* the winner !

          • Michael Ferrel says:

            I agree with your opinion on the use of “very,” but “I worked in the mines often” doesn’t sound less graceful or fluent at all.

    • teymoor sadri says:

      You are right,that’s the music of the sentense that rules,and not the grammar.” Often i worked in the mines ” does not convey the sense of working, as you’ve mentioned, and is not melodious. One feels somthing is missing !

    • Michael Ferrel says:

      Sounds fine to the ear, and both “often” and “oftentimes,” having the same meaning, clearly show that it’s many [separate] times. Neither word would ever imply a single period or few instances.
      I find no reason to use “oftentimes,” “ofttimes,” or even “often.” The shift from “oft” to “often” seems arbitrary in the first place, although of course many changes in language are.

  3. Camo Star says:

    I think its helpful in an argument because it gives you an extra syllable to form your thoughts and delay your opponent.

  4. The sole reason I am here ( as UK English speaker) is that I have only come across this adverb as a result of working with a US organisation, based in Maryland where this word is very frequently used. I’ve worked with other US companies for may years and I have rarely heard it used. My assumption was that it was part of their organisational vocabulary. My only other observation is that people in the organisation are frequently delivering addresses and there is a trend to make it a pacy delivery. ‘Oftentimes’ as a 3 syllable word can flow better than often.

  5. It doesn’t bother me to hear this, but I don’t like reading “oftentimes” in formal writing. In my research area, I think it can often be replaced with frequently or occasionally. Consider the examples below. I “occasionally worked in the mines” seems to convey what was intended.

  6. Kevy Wevy says:

    Often times, during this period of time, we chose to eat a fine dinner, it was not unlike what we had done not so infrequently in the not so distant past , with one anothers not insignificant others.

  7. Oftentimes is tautologous in my opinion… the word “often” inherently describes a frequency in time. Why then qualify it as a word relating to time by sticking the word time on the end of it….

    It would be like saying “dailytimes” or “weeklytimes”….

  8. Richard Smart says:

    Initially I agreed that oftentimes was unnecessary. Probably stems from the fact I’m English and will have a natural distaste for anything that seems to contradict common use in England. However I wonder whether ‘often’ implies for a significant total period of time over a long continuous period of time whereas ‘oftentimes’ implies the same plus the condition that it involves a relatively higher frequency of changing state. For example: if I worked in the mines for 40 hours over a 48 hour period as a continuous 40 hour stretch I would say “I often worked in the mine” but not “I oftentimes worked in the mine”. However if I worked for 40 separate hour long stints separated by 12 minute breaks then ‘oftentimes’ WOULD be appropriate but ‘often’ would not? That said if time is quantised into units of Plancktime then its kind of makes the discussion even more complex….

  9. Terrye Newkirk says:

    Are we all agreed, at least, that the T in often is silent? Cf. soft, soften.

  10. Alexander Sanchez-Lopez says:

    Oftentimes I wonder if the use of oftentimes is correct. Often I find conflicting statements that go one way or the other. Oftentimes language experts disagree with each other. When will we ever reach general agreement or when will we agree often as to the use of oftentimes versus just often. Often I wonder. Oftentimes I ponder this. lol ~Alex

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