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English Grammar Notes: Adverb Of Frequency

We use some adverbs to describe how frequently we do an activity.

These are called adverbs of frequency and include:

Frequency Adverb of Frequency Example Sentence
100% always always go to bed before 11 p.m.
90% usually usually have cereal for breakfast.
80% normally / generally normally go to the gym.
70% often* / frequently often surf the internet.
50% sometimes sometimes forget my wife’s birthday.
30% occasionally occasionally eat junk food.
10% seldom seldom read the newspaper.
5% hardly ever / rarely hardly ever drink alcohol.
0% never never swim in the sea.

* Some people pronounce the ‘T’ in often but many others do not.

These are also known as Adverbs of INDEFINITE frequency as the exact frequency is not defined.

The Position of the Adverb in a Sentence

An adverb of frequency goes before a main verb (except with To Be).

Subject + adverb + main verb
always remember to do my homework.
He normally gets good marks in exams.

 

An adverb of frequency goes after the verb To Be.

Subject + to be + adverb
They are never pleased to see me.
She isn’t usually bad tempered.

 

When we use an auxiliary verb (have, will, must, might, could, would, can, etc.), the adverb is placed between the auxiliary and the main verb. This is also true for to be.

Subject + auxiliary + adverb + main verb
She can sometimes beat me in a race.
would hardly ever be unkind to someone.
They might never see each other again.
They could occasionally be heard laughing.

 

We can also use the following adverbs at the start of a sentence:

Usually, normally, often, frequently, sometimes, occasionally

  • Occasionally, I like to eat Thai food.

BUT we cannot use the following at the beginning of a sentence:

Always, seldom, rarely, hardly, ever, never.

 

We use hardly ever and never with positive, not negative verbs:

  • She hardly ever comes to my parties.
  • They never say ‘thank you’.

We use ever in questions and negative statements:

  • Have you ever been to New Zealand?
  • I haven’t ever been to Switzerland. (The same as ‘I have never been Switzerland’).

Adverbs of Definite Frequency

We can also use the following expressions when we want to be more specific about the frequency:

  • every day
  • once a month
  • twice a year
  • four times a day
  • every other week
  • daily
  • monthly

These are also known as Adverbs of DEFINITE frequency as the exact frequency is specified.

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