What are adverbs?
An adverb is a word that modifies a verb (action). The adverb gives more information about the action.
Jane is walking (Without an adverb)
Jane is walking quickly. (With the adverb “quickly“)
“quickly” modifies the verb “walk”.
“quickly” gives us more information about the action. In this instance, it is telling us the degree of speed at which Jane is walking.
What are adverbs of frequency?
An adverb of frequency is an adverb of time. It describes the frequency of an action, in other words if something happens many times in a given period of time or few times.
Mark plays tennis. (Without an adverb)
Mark sometimes plays tennis. (With the adverb “sometimes“)
“sometimes” is an adverb of frequency.
There are 2 types of adverb of frequency in English:
- Adverbs of indefinite frequency
- Adverbs of definite frequency
Adverbs of indefinite frequency
Adverbs of indefinite frequency give a general indication of the frequency. In the table below, they are listed in increasing order of their frequency (%)
The absolute values of the percentages are not important. It is the relative values that are important. The last ones in the list (seldom, rarely, hardly ever and never) have negative meanings.
|Level of frequency||adverb||Example|
|Maximum 100%||always||I always play cards|
|90%||frequently||I frequently play cards|
|80%||usually||I usually play cards|
|70%||often||I often play cards|
|50%||sometimes||I sometimes play cards|
|40%||occasionally||I occasionally play cards|
|20%||seldom||I seldom play cards|
|10%||rarely, hardly ever||I rarely play cards|
|Minimum 0%||never||I never play cards|
Position of adverbs of indefinite frequency
All of the adverbs of indefinite frequency can go before the main verb.
I always play football.
Jane seldom drinks alcohol.
Mark never eats chocolate.
If there is an auxiliary verb, the adverb goes after the auxiliary verb and before the main verb.
I have never met the Queen.
Mark had never been to London.
If the main verb is the verb “to be”, the adverb of indefinite frequency is after the verb “to be”.
Mark is often late.
“Occasionally”, “sometimes”, “often”, “frequently” and “usually” can also go at the beginning or end of a sentence.
Sometimes I play football.
Mark watches television occasionally.
“Rarely” can go at the end of a sentence (often with “very”).
We go to London very rarely.
Adverbs of definite frequency
Adverbs of definite frequency describe the exact frequency of an action. There are 4 broad types:
number + “times” + “a” + period of time
I play football three times a month.
I go to school five times a week.
If the number of times is one, then we say “once” (not “one time”)
I wash my car once a month.
If the number of times is two, then we say “twice” (not “two times”)
I go to London twice a year.
“every” + period of time
Jane calls her mother every day.
Mark goes to the beach every weekend.
(The period of time is in the singular form.)
Periods of time:
“on” + day of the week
Andrew watches football on Saturdays.
My parents go to the cinema on Wednesdays.
(The day of the week is in the plural form and starts with a capital letter.)
Days of the week in English:
The final type are:
(Notice that they all end in “ly“)
These adverbs go at the end of the sentence, after the verb and after the object if there is an object.
Mark calls his wife daily.
My boss pays me monthly.
Asking a question about frequency
We use the following structure:
“how often” + question form of verb
“how often?” means “at what frequency?”
How often do you play football?
How often does Mark wash his car?
When you lived in London, how often did it rain?
How often will you write to me?