Adverb of Frequency (Grammar)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

adverbs of frequency
Always and never are both adverbs of frequency. (bgblue/Getty Images)


In English grammar, an adverb of frequency is an adverb that tells how often something occurs or did occur. Common adverbs of frequency include always, frequently, hardly ever, never, occasionally, often, rarely, regularlyscarcely, seldom, sometimes, and usually.

As in this sentence, adverbs of frequency often appear directly in front of the main verb in a sentence, although (like all adverbs) they may be placed elsewhere.

If the verb is made up of more than one word, the adverb of frequency is usually placed after the first word. With a form of the verb be as the main verb, the adverb of frequency goes after the verb.

Adverbs of frequency sometimes accompany verbs in the habitual present and the habitual past.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • On Saturdays, Roz seldom gets out of bed before noon.
  • "There are outdoor areas in city parks where chess is played daily, at least in the warmer months."
    (Ethan Moore, How to Beat Anyone at Chess. F+W Media, 2015)
  • "Joe Brooks has always been fond of me."
    (Dorothy Parker, "Here We Are." Cosmopolitan, 1931)
  • "Expecting to see Mrs. Henlein, the old lady who usually stayed with the children, he was surprised when a young girl opened the door and came out onto the lighted stoop."
    (John Cheever, "The Country Husband." The New Yorker, 1955)
  • "The bull lifted his head indolently and then lowered it again and continued to eat. Mr. Greenleaf stooped again and picked up something and threw it at him with a vicious swing."
    (Flannery O'Connor, "Greenleaf." The Kenyon Review, 1957) 
  • "I waited hours, sometimes, for my father, who taught at the high school and never went back to the farm before he had to."
    (John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs. Knopf, 1989)
  • "Sometimes I would weave these fragments into stories right away, sometimes I waited months or years."
    (Emily R. Transue, On Call: A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency. St. Martin's Griffin, 2004)
  • "The people were talking knowledgeably about the air schedule of flights from Paris. The flights were sometimes late."
    (Edward Geary Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars: An American's Mission to Southeast Asia. Fordham University Press, 1991) 
  • "I see her standing calmly on the empty street under the harplike marquee. She won't worry I'm late. Everyone is late sometimes."
    (Sam Munson, The November Criminals. Saga Press, 2015) 
  • "Many of the ones the farmer had grown up with were regularly seasick and could not swim, but they were unafraid of the water. They could not have dreamed of being anything but fishermen. The fisherman himself could swim like a seal and was never sick, and he would sooner die than be anything else."
    (Lawrence Sargent Hall, "The Ledge." The Hudson Review, 1960)
  • Word Order: Inverting a Sentence With an Adverb of Frequency
    "If you put an adverb of frequency at the beginning of a sentence for emphasis, it makes an anomalous finite* go before the subject. If you put an adverb of frequency in other positions, there is no such effect.

    "In the text below, we see the original word order with the adverbs of frequency (bold) at the beginning of the sentences. The verbs and the subjects are [in italics]. In square brackets you can see the word order as it would be with the adverbs of frequency elsewhere in the sentences. . . .
    - Never had any week passed so quickly. [A week had never passed so quickly.] . . .
    - Scarcely had she determined it, when the figure of a man on horseback drew her eyes to the window. [She had scarcely determined it . . ..] (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility)
    (George Stern, The Grammar Dictionary. R.I.C., 2000)
    * An anomalous finite is a finite verb form capable of forming the negative by adding the contracted form -n't and of expressing questions by inversion.