Adverbs of Frequency

Published on: 02/05/2018 By

Adverbs are an important part of a language because they express how an action (a verb) is done. When we want to describe how often the action is done, we need to use adverbs of frequency. But how do they differ and where should you put them in the sentence? Read on to find out.

What are Adverbs of Frequency?

An adverb of frequency describes how often an action happens. There are six main adverbs of frequency that we use in English: always, usually (or normally), often, sometimes, rarely, and never. They differ in the level of frequency, as you can see below.

We can also use ‘seldom’ as an alternative to ‘rarely’, but it is not very common in modern English.

The Position of Adverbs of Frequency

As you can see in the table above, the most common position for adverbs of frequency is between the subject and the verb. Here are some other examples:

  • Sara always goes out on Saturday evenings.
  • Her boyfriend usually picks her up and they drive into the city centre.
  • They often meet friends and have a drink together.
  • In the winter they sometimes go to the cinema.
  • They rarely go in the summer because they prefer to stay outside.
  • They never get home before midnight.

The exception to this rule is the verb ‘to be’. With sentences using the verb ‘to be’, the adverb of frequency comes after the verb. For example:

  • There are always lots of people in the city centre on Saturday nights.
  • It’s often difficult to find a place to park.
  • But our friends are never on time so it doesn’t matter if we’re late.

As is often the case in English, there are variations to this rule. For example, it’s possible to put the adverbs ‘sometimes’ and ‘usually’ at the beginning of a sentence:

  • Sometimes she does her homework with friends.
  • Usually they study on their own.

But it’s easier to follow the rule of putting all adverbs of frequency between the subject and verb. Just remember the verb ‘to be’ is different and put the adverb after it.

The Question Form

To make questions about frequency, we normally use ‘How often…?’. For example:

  • How often do you watch films?
  • How often does he play tennis?
  • How often do the trains arrive late?

But it’s also possible to ask questions simply with an adverb of frequency. For example:

  • Do you often come here?
  • Does she always work so hard?
  • Do they ever pay on time? (‘ever’ instead of ‘never’ for questions)

Adverbs of Frequency with Modal Verbs and Auxiliary Verbs

If there is a modal verb in the sentence, we put the adverb of frequency after it and before the main verb. For example:

  • You must always try your best.
  • We can usually find a seat on our train.
  • They should never be rude to customers.  

The same rule applies for an auxiliary verb – the adverb of frequency goes between the auxiliary verb and the main verb. For example:

  • I have never visited Turkey.
  • He’s always taking things from my desk. It’s really annoying.
  • You had rarely arrived late at work until yesterday.


Now you’ve seen how adverbs of frequency work, put them to practice by answering these questions using adverbs of frequency:

  1. What do you usually do on Saturday nights?
  2. How often do you see your best friend?
  3. Do you ever go to the theatre?
  4. How often do you play sport or go to the gym?
  5. Do you ever watch films or TV programmes in English?
  6. What time do you usually go to bed?
  7. How often do you eat at a restaurant?
  8. Are you sometimes late for work or school?



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Mary Milne avatar

Mary Milne

Author of this post

Mary Milne has worked for Wall Street English for 20 years. After studying at the University of Bristol and subsequently doing a CELTA course, she began her career in teaching. Over the years she has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in ESL and has worked as an Online Community Manager, and author for Wall Street English International and Pearson, writing informative educational content. She dedicates most of her free time to music, playing in a band and singing in a choir.

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