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Adverbs of frequency

We use adverbs of frequency to say how frequently we do an activity. Common adverbs of frequency are: never, sometimes, always, often, seldom, rarely, regularly, normally, often etc.

Adverbs of frequency go AFTER the subject and BEFORE ordinary verbs

Subject = red; adverb = pink; ordinary verb = blue
  • He often goes to the supermarket on Wednesday.
  • They usually clean our house.
  • She constantly annoys me.

Adverbs of frequency go AFTER auxiliary verbs

(Be, have, do, can, could, must, might, need to, ought to, may, should, shall, will and would) and BEFORE ordinary verbs. 

  • He doesn’t often like to do the dishes.
  • She may sometimes come to class when she feels like it.
  • Harry should frequently work on his thesis.
  • I would usually call my elders when I was younger.
  • Sophie will seldom act normally at the football match.
  • I need to regularly check my oil.
  • She is seldom tired.
  • He is never sick of class.
  • They were occasionally coming to my house.

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These adverbs of frequency can be put at the beginning of the sentence to put more emphasis on the adverb itself: occasionally, often, frequently, sometimes, normally, usually 

  • Often, we eat out on Mondays.
  • Sometimes, I buy a chocolate cake to treat myself.
  • Normally they are pretty nice to us.

The following adverbs CANNOT be put at the beginning of the sentence: never, ever, rarely, always, seldom and hardly 

Therefore, it is incorrect to use the following order: 

  • Always I go to school.    
  • Seldom I buy chicken.    ✖
  • Rarely, we go to the cinema.   ✖

In English, adverbs can be used with ‘auxiliary inversion’

Auxiliary inversion puts emphasis on the adverb by inserting the adverb at the beginning of the sentence, which then precedes an auxiliary followed by the subject. Notice in the following examples the order is ‘adverb + auxiliary + subject‘: 

  • Seldom, do I go to the centre of town, it’s too noisy for my liking.
  • Never, have I seen such a good example.
  • Rarely, must you leave early.
  • Hardly, had we finished the cleaning when my mum arrived.

Auxiliary Inversion is considered quite formal, but it is indeed used frequently.

Essential English Grammar – A Friendly Approach

Lesson #28: Adverbs of frequency

We use adverbs of frequency to express how frequently we or objects do something. The adverb always goes after the subject and before the ordinary verb. When using auxiliary or modal auxiliary verbs (be, do, can, may, should, etc.), the adverb goes after the auxiliary verb, not before it.

Context

  • Do you often1 go cycling?
  • Yes, I always2 go cycling. I love cycling, and it’s scientifically proven to be beneficial to your personal well-being and fitness.
  • Interesting, I don’t normally3 cycle,4 but my wife, Susan, frequently5 takes her bike to the mountains to go cycling. She never wears a helmet though, which I think is very dangerous.
  • Yeah, that’s a pity. She should really wear a helmet because it’s very unsafe6, especially when cars are constantly7 passing you.
  • I agree. I guess for some people, wearing a helmet is just a pain. Anyway, I’ll catch8 you later.
  • OK, then. Bye.

Analysis

  1. Do you often go: the adverb is often, so it goes after the auxiliary verb do, and before the ordinary verb go.
  2. I always go: go is an ordinary verb so the adverb of frequency always goes before it.
  3.  I don’t normally cycle: normally is the adverb of frequency so it goes after the auxiliary verb do and before the ordinary verb cycle.
  4. The comma (,) is used before the conjunction, but to represent the pause when speaking.
  5. Frequently: this adverb goes before the ordinary verb takes.
  6. Unsafe: the negative prefix un makes the adjective safe negative.
  7. Are constantly passing: the adverb of frequency constantly goes before the ordinary verb passing and after the auxiliary verb are (from be).
  8. To catch someone later: simply means to see someone at another time.

See also:

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