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Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something happens/is the case, happened/was the case, will happen/will be the case, etc.

There are lots of them. Here are some examples:

always

constantly habitually chiefly predominantly typically continuously

usually normally mostly generally commonly largely regularly

often frequently

repeatedly

sometimes occasionally sporadically intermittently spasmodically

rarely infrequently seldom

never

Once you have studied adverbs of frequency, try this adverbs of frequency quiz to test your knowledge of correct usage of the rules you learn below.

Where do they come in the sentence?

1. If the sentence has one verb in it (e.g. no auxiliary verb) we usually put the adverb in the middle of the sentence, i.e. after the subject and before the verb:

Position A

subject

adverb

verb

predicate

Tom

usually

goes

to work by car.

2. The adverb usually comes after the verb "be":

Position B

subject

verb

adverb

predicate

Tom

Anne

is

isn't

often

usually

late.

late.

This is not the case if we put the adverb at the beginning or end of the sentence for emphasis.

This rule also does not apply to short answers:

Speaker A: Is she usually on time?

Speaker A: Tell her not to be late.

Speaker A: Yes, she usually is.

Speaker B: She never is.

The rule is broken in other cases too, e.g.

Speaker A: What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at school?

Speaker B

I

normally

am

at school at this time,

but my teacher is ill.

Speaker A: You're late again!

Speaker B:

I

usually

am

late on Mondays because the traffic is so bad.

Speaker A: Tom is late again!

Speaker B:

Tom

usually

is

late!

I

never

was

any good at maths.

3. If the sentence has more than one verb in it (e.g. auxiliary verb) we usually put the adverb after the first part of the verb:

Position C

subject

verb 1

adverb

verb 2

predicate

I

Anne

The children

can

doesn't

have

never

usually

often

remember

smoke.

complained

his name.

about the state of the school toilets.

Exception:

In sentences with "have to" the adverb is in position A:

subject

adverb

verb 1

verb 2

predicate

We

often

have to

wait

for the bus.

4. For emphasis we can put the adverb at the beginning or end of the sentence.

At the end is unusual - we usually only put it there when we have forgotten to put it in earlier.

Position D

adverb

subject

verb 1

predicate

Sometimes

we

go

to school by bus.

Position E

subject

verb 1

predicate

adverb

We

go

to school by bus

- sometimes.

Exceptions:

"Always" can't go at the beginning or end of the sentence.

"Never", "seldom", "rarely" can't go at the end of a sentence. They only go at the beginning of a sentence in "polemic statements". Then they have to be followed by the word order for questions:

Never

has

there

been

a better time to overcome our differences!

Rarely

do

we

have

an opportunity like this to…

Seldom

had

the orchestra

given

a worse performance.

5. When using adverbs of frequency in the question form, put the adverb before the main verb.

Position F

Auxiliary verb

subject

Adverb

verb 1

predicate

Do

you

often

go

to the cinema?

Exceptions:

"Never", "seldom", "rarely" and other adverbs of frequency with a negative sense are not usually used in the question form.

6. When using adverbs of frequency in the negative form, put the adverb before the main verb.

Position G

subject

Auxiliary verb

Adverb

verb 1

predicate

They

don't

often

go

to the cinema.

Exceptions:

"Never", "seldom", "rarely" and other adverbs of frequency with a negative sense are not usually used in the negative form.

Many thanks to Claire Capellen for contributing this valuable resource!

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