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Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of frequency tell how often somebody is, feels or does something. The most common ones are:

always almost always usually often sometimes occasionally seldom (rarely) almost never never

(relative frequency) (100%) (99%) (80%) (60%) (40%) (30%) (20%) (1%) (0%)

(The above numbers are only used to give a general, relative idea of "how often.") In general, adverbs of frequency go before most verbs, but after auxiliary verbs.

normal verbs
He usually takes his son to the park on Sundays. I sometimes eat with my sister. She never comes on time. We almost never take lunch to work with us.

auxiliary verbs
He is usually at the park with his son. I was sometimes angry with my sister when I was young. She will never be on time. We have almost always seen her on the weekends. The verbs have, has and had are auxiliary verbs only when used with past participles: I have always played baseball on Saturday afternoons. She has never been to France. We had always spoken Spanish before we moved to England. The verbs have, has and had are normal verbs when not used with past participles: I always have trouble with my math homework. She never has fun at the beach. We always had to clean the house after we had a party. [ESLprof.com/handouts/Info/adverbsoffrequency.doc Page 1 of 3]

The verbs do, does, and did are auxiliary verbs only when used in questions or negatives: Did you finish the project on time? He didn't like the dinner, so he didn't eat it. In other cases, do, does and did are normal verbs: He never does his homework for that class. I always did the dishes when I was young. They sometimes do their office work at home. In questions, the adverb of frequency goes after the subject: Did you always do the dishes when you were younger? Is he often absent from class? Are you usually on time for work? The adverb ever is used in questions to mean "at any time" in your life: Will she ever finish this paper? Has he ever been to France? Can you ever forgive me for what I've done to you? Do you ever go to scary movies, or only romantic ones?

The adverbs sometimes, often and usually can also be used as the beginning of a sentence. Sometimes[,] I was angry with my sister when I was young. Often, I eat with my sister. Usually, I'm at the park with my son. (You don't have to put a comma after sometimes, but you may.) Normally, the other adverbs do not sound correct at the beginning of a normal sentence. Wrong Right Wrong Right Wrong Right *Seldom I go to church. *Always he eats alone. I seldom go to church. He always eats alone. *Never I eat meat. I never eat meat. *Always she's in church. She's always in church.


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If the auxiliary is negative, the adverb of frequency might go before or after it (and sometimes in either position). Each case is different and must be learned from examples. okay okay not okay okay okay okay okay not okay We usually don't take our dog with us to the store. We don't usually take our dog with us to the store. *We always can't understand him. (Say, "We can never understand him.") We can't always understand him. We often can't understand the teacher. We can't often understand the teacher. He isn't always on time for class. *He always isn't on time for class. (Say, "He's never on time for class.")

(When in doubt, it is probably safer putting the adverb after the negative auxiliary verb.) Some other adverbs follow the same position rules as the adverbs of frequency. The most common ones are probably most likely (=probably) all both also He probably found that in the garbage. She most likely speaks fluent Spanish. They all enjoyed themselves at the game. We both know the president. She sings, and she also dances. I am probably not going to be on time tomorrow. He will most likely take the train to Boston. You must all come on time for class every day. They can both cook. She's a singer, and she's also a dancer. The words all and both can also be part of a subject: OR OR All of the students came today. (All the students came today.) The students all came today. Both of my parents are dead. (Both my parents are dead. My parents are both dead.


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