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Adverbs of frequency

We use adverbs of frequency to say how frequently we do an activity. For example, common adverbs of frequency are: never, sometimes, always, often, seldom, rarely, regularly, normally, often etc. Most importantly, the adverb of frequency always goes after the subject and before the ordinary verb.

However, when using auxiliary or modal auxiliary verbs such as to be, to do, can, may, should, etc. the frequency adverb goes after the auxiliary verb, not before it.

Adverbs of frequency go BEFORE ordinary verbs

Normal or ordinary verbs are verbs that are not auxiliary verbs. Here, the ordinary verbs are goes, clean and annoys.

  • He often goes to the supermarket on Wednesdays.
  • They usually clean our house.
  • She constantly annoys me.

Adverbs of frequency go AFTER auxiliary verbs

To be, to have, to do, can, could, must, might, need to, ought to, may, should, shall, will and would, are all auxiliary 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.
  • 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 etc.

  • 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 that 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.

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