Adverbs of Frequency

 

Adverbs such as always, sometimes, never, and usually are adverbs of frequency because they describe how frequently the action occurs.

The position of the adverb within the sentence is important and is governed by some rules.  So many errors occur around the placement of adverbs of frequency in the wrong place within the sentence.

Please read below.

After you complete the activities, you can check your answers.

   

The Position of an Adverb of Frequency

 

Adverbs of frequency rarely are placed at the beginning of a sentence. The factors to determine where the adverb is placed have to do with:

  • whether or not the main verb has a helping verb (auxiliary)

  • the main verb is an action verb or a be verb

  • whether the main verb is positive or negative

 

Positive Main Verb Consists of One Word

 

When the main verb is a positive action verb and consists of one word, place the adverb right before the main verb.

  • I never talk with my father.
               MV

When the main verb is a positive be verb and consists of one word, place the adverb right after the main verb.

  • When we were younger, he was always busy at work.

Positive Main Verb Consists of  Two or More Words

When the Main Verb Is Positive and Consists of More Than One Word

When the main verb is a positive verb and consists of more than one word, place the adverb right after the first helping verb.

  1. One Helping Verb       I will usually tell them how I feel.

  2. Two Helping Verbs      I could never have done this without his help.

  3. Three Helping Verbs   She should never have been told.

  

The Main Verb Is Negative

When the Main Verb is Negative

When the main verb is a negative verb:

Place the adverb of frequency immediately after the negative word.

  • Children do not always need the best things.

  • Children don't always need the best things.

  • He was not always a good father to me.

  • He wasn't always a good father to me.

  

Using "never" and "ever"

When the Adverb of Frequency is "Never"

When the main verb is negative and the speaker wants to use the adverb "never", :

  •  use a negative verb but use the adverb "ever"  *

  • Use a positive verb and the adverb "never"

  Problem:  He didn't never listen to me.
  Solution:  1) He never listened to me.
                  2) He didn't ever
listen to me.*
 

  Problem:  They aren't never the first people to arrive but they're always the last to leave.  Solution:  They are never the first people to arrive but they're always the last to leave.                 They aren't ever* the first people to arrive but they're always the last to leave.  

* Much more informal. Do not use this structure in formal writing or speech.

Using Adverbs of Frequency in the Beginning of a Sentence

Exceptions to the Above Rules

It is possible to place the adverbs sometimes and usually in the beginning of a sentence.

  • Sometimes people would listen in to our telephone conversations.

  • People would sometimes listen in to our telephone conversations.

Strong Emphasis and Negative Adverbs of Frequency

Adding Strong Emphasis to

A writer or speaker often wants to strongly emphasize the negative frequency (or the infrequency) of an action or state of being.  In such cases, he can change the word order to achieve this goal.  Join us in our next lesson where we  discuss emphasizing the negative: never, rarely, seldom, etc.

 

Next...

In our next lesson...

In our next lesson, we discuss:
 negative adverbs of frequency.

And now, from the ESL Help Desk, thanks for dropping by this week, and remember to email us your questions about English grammar by leaving us a comment on our blog.

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