Adverbs of frequency

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:

  • Adverbs of frequencyalways
  • 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 time Always
Less than 100% but more than 50% of the time Often, usually, frequently, generally
Around 50% of the time Sometimes
Less than 50% but more than 10% of the time Occasionally, seldom
Less than 10% but more than 0% of the time Hardly ever, rarely
0% of the time Never


Definite adverbs of frequency

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.

Other rules for using adverbs of frequency

Rule 1: Some adverbs can be used at the beginning or end of a sentence. Adverbs used in this position are: occasionally, sometimes, usually, normally, often

  • Sometimes John is late.  / John is late sometimes.
  • Normally he gets to work by car. / He gets to work by car normally.

Rule 2: However, other adverbs are NOT used to begin a sentence. Adverbs NOT used in this position are: always, rarely, seldom, hardly ever, never.

  • Hardly ever John is late.
  • Always he walks to work.

Rule 3: Some adverbs that are about very low frequency are not used in negative sentences. These adverbs are rarely, seldom or never.

  • He seldom visits his friends.
  • He doesn’t seldom visit his friends.

Rule 4: Definite adverbs of frequency do not go in the middle of a sentence – only the beginning or the end. When the adverb of frequency is at the beginning of sentence, it is often followed by a comma.

  • Twice a year, they go on holiday.
  • They go on holiday twice a year.
  • They twice a year go on holiday.


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