Adverbs of Frequency

 

Adverbs describe a verb, and adjective or another adverb. And they’re very important in language because they often help identify or express key information that reveals  a speaker’s meaning. In this article, we’re taking a closer look at a specific type of adverb called Adverbs of Frequency.

 

What do Adverbs of Frequency describe?

Adverbs of Frequency describe how often a verb, or action, happens. There are six key adverbs we use in English to indicate how frequently an action happens. They are: never, rarely, sometimes, often, usually (or normally), and always.

Think of the list—in this order—as increasing in frequency, and you can identify the difference with these percentages.

Adverb of Frequency Frequency Percentage
Never 0%
Rarely 20%
Sometimes 50%
Often 70%
Usually (or normally) 80%
Always 100%

Learning Adverbs of Frequency

To fully understand these adverbs, let’s look at their position in a sentence and some other uses.

Subject + Adverb of Frequency + Verb

Most often, you’ll see an adverb of frequency between a subject and a verb.

  • He never said anything about the broken copier.
  • Those two rarely go outside anymore since they started college.
  • We would sometimes walk towards the bridge when we wanted to talk longer.
  • The dog often wanders into the kitchen hoping for a treat.
  • She usually drops her kids off for school around 8 a.m.
  • They always go to the cafe for breakfast on Sunday mornings.

After a ‘be verb’

However, there is an exception. It happens when the adverb of frequency follows a ‘be verb.’ In that situation, the adverb follows the verb. As in:

  • Adverbs of Frequency are often placed after a noun, but sometimes they follow a ‘be verb.’
  • They are never on time.
  • He is rarely late.
  • She is usually on her daily run around this time.

At the beginning of a sentence

Last, it isn’t uncommon to see ‘sometimes’ and ‘usually’ at the beginning of a sentence. Here are some examples:

  • Usually they go for a run as a group on Saturday mornings.
  • Sometimes the cat likes to hide in the closet.

As part of a question

The most common question using an adverb of frequency is ‘how often?’ As in:

  • How often do you go to the gym?
  • How often does she go to visit her parents?
  • How often does he restock the refrigerator?

However, there are also questions using an adverb of frequency that follow the typical pattern of subject + adverb + verb

  • Do you always lock the door when you get home?
  • Does she usually come home so early

Using a Modal Verb with an Adverb of Frequency

Sometimes adverbs of frequency are used with modal verbs. In that situation, place the adverb between the modal and the verb.

  • We must always be on guard.
  • You can usually find a good seat at the movies if you show up 30 minutes early.
  • They should never go that way.

Auxiliary Verbs and Adverbs of Frequency

Last, you can use the same position when using an adverb of frequency with an auxiliary verb.

  • I have never been to New York City.
  • The duck is always following my brother.
  • She had rarely seen anyone that tall outside of Sweden.

Conclusion

With these guidelines, you can start to understand the different ways—and levels of frequency—we use these adverbs in English. 

If you’d like to practice using them by speaking with other English learners, why not try SpeakUp by Magoosh? Our platform offers speaking time and feedback from native speakers to check your pronunciation.

You can read blogs all day, but putting your knowledge into use is the only way to remember it forever. There are no lectures or theories, at SpeakUp we just practice speaking and provide solid feedback.

Jake Pool

Jake Pool

After working in the restaurant industry for over a decade, Jake left to pursue his career as a writer and ESL teacher. He now creates content that informs, inspires, and educates ESL students on a wide range of topics. Jake also records audio for his articles to help students with pronunciation and comprehension.
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