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GRAMMAR: Adverbs of frequency

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something happens. They often talk about routines, so are very often used with the present simple. There are two types of adverbs of frequency – those that talk about an indefinite time and those that talk about a definite time. Here are some simple examples of indefinite adverbs of frequency:

  • always
  • never
  • sometimes
  • often
  • occasionally

Use this table to help you choose suitable adverbs to describe how often you are thinking of (NOTE: the percentages in this table are approximate to illustrate the level of each adverb).

100% of the timeAlways
Less than 100% but more than 50% of the timeOften, usually, frequently, generally
Around 50% of the timeSometimes
Less than 50% but more than 10% of the timeOccasionally, seldom
Less than 10% but more than 0% of the timeHardly ever, rarely
0% of the timeNever

The examples above are called indefinite adverbs of frequency – they talk about a percentage of frequency. There are also definite adverbs of frequency that talk about specific amounts of time. Here are some examples:

hourly, daily, weekly
once, twice, three times
every minute, once an hour, a few times a year
monthly, quarterly, annually

The position of adverbs of frequency

The position of the adverb depends on other words in the sentence.

Position 1: After the ‘be’ verb (subject + TO BE + adverb)

  • John is always late.
  • Teachers are occasionally wrong.

Position 2: Before the main verb is there is no  ‘be’ verb (subjectadverb + main verb)

  • John always drives to work.
  • Teachers occasionally give students too much homework.

Position 3:  With an auxiliary verb (have, will, must etc), the adverb is put between the auxiliary and the main verb. (subjectauxiliary + adverb + main verb)

  • John might never work again – he won the lottery!
  • Teachers can sometimes give students too much homework.
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