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Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of Frequency

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Adverbs of Frequency

 
Hello! In this lesson, we will learn how to use the adverbs of frequency. These words tell us how often events take place or how often people do things. We will introduce the words with approximations of the percentage of time each word represents, but these percentages are just approximations to give an idea of their meaning. As usual, with language, we must take into consideration the context in which the words are used. Is the meaning supposed to be sarcastic? Is the meaning supposed to be technical?  Our life experience is a better teacher of the meanings of these words than a list of percentages, but these percentages will give us a start in understanding the usages of the adverbs of frequency.
The two words at opposite ends of the frequency range are "always" and "never".  The adverb "always" means 100% of the time. The adverb "never" means 0% of the time. However, when these adverbs are used sarcastically or with a great deal of emotion, they in fact do not mean what they seem to mean. Let us look at some examples.
"The earth always goes around the sun.". which means (translate: the earth always goes around the sun.)  For the purposes of this lesson, this sentence is true 100% of the time.
Take a look at the next sentence, which Jennifer might say to David:   
"You always lose your keys.". Is the sentence actually true? Does David really lose his keys 100% of the time? Probably not. Yet it is a grammatical sentence, and it is a sentence which is probably spoken in households all over the English-speaking world many times each day, because from Jennifer's point of view, and from the point of view of many people all over the world, someone loses keys all the time. So even though the word "always" technically means 100% of the time, as language speakers, we know that it is used to mean a lot of the time, or what seems like a lot of the time.
Let us look at this sentence:
"New babies never speak English.". Similar to the previous sentence, this sentence is true about a 100% of the time. But take a look at the next sentence, in which the adverb "never" is used in a sentence that David might say to Jennifer:
"You never put gas in the car." Is this sentence actually true? Does Jennifer really never put gas in the car? She probably sometimes puts gas in the car, but it probably seems like never to David. So, we must bring our experience to these usages and give these adverbs the same latitude in English that we give time expressions in our own language.
Following is a list of adverbs of frequency that are used and English and the approximate percentage of time which they represent. The one-and-two-word adverbs of frequency are usually placed between the subject and the verb or after the verb "to be". The long phrases usually go at the end of the sentence. 
 
Always                         100%
All the time              100%
Almost always              95-99%
Usually                         90-99%
Frequently               90-99%
A lot                        75-95%
Most of the time   75-95%
Often, very often    70-90%
Sometimes              40-60%
Not usually, usually not  15-30%
Occasionally                15-20%
Not very often                15-20%
Once in a awhile   15%             
Seldom                         10-15%             
Very seldom               10%
Rarely                        5%
Very rarely              4-5%
Hardly ever              3-4%
Almost never              1-2%
Never                        0%   
 
Now that we see the approximate meaning of these adverbs of frequency, let us listen at the dialog.
 
Jennifer:  You always lose your keys!
David:  That is true. I lose my keys very often.
Jennifer:  I hardly ever lose my keys.
David. That's right. You almost never lose your keys. Why?
Jennifer: I always remember to put them in the same place.
David: I seldom remember!  -- I remember once in awhile.
Jennifer:  I know. I almost always remember!
David:  I am happy you always remember.
Jennifer: Yes. I almost always remember my keys AND I usually remember your keys!
 
Jennifer starts by telling David "You always lose your keys!". This probably an exaggeration. She could also have said "You lose your keys all the time!",  "You lose your keys a lot!",or "You almost always lose your keys!".  
David says "That is true. I lose my keys very often.". He could have said "That is true, I lose my keys a lot.", "I lose my keys very frequently.", or he could have modified these phrases by saying "I lose my keys quite a lot.", or "I lose my keys an awful lot." or "I lose my keys a lot of the time.".
Jennifer says "I hardly ever lose my keys.". She could have said "I almost never lose my keys.", "I rarely lose my keys.", "I very seldom lose my keys.", "I very rarely lose my keys.". She could have said "I only lose my keys once in a awhile." or "I only lose my keys occasionally.". The word "only" makes the occurrence seem less habitual. It seems easier to put the long word "occasionally" at the end of the sentence when it is used with the word "only", however we could also say "I only occasionally lose my keys." and it sounds fine. 
David says "That's right. You almost never lose your keys. Why?". He could have said "You rarely lose your keys." or "You very rarely lose your keys." or "You hardly ever lose your keys." or "You only lose your keys once in a awhile." or "You only lose your keys occasionally." or "You only occasionally lose your keys.".   
Jennifer says "I always remember to put them in the same place.". She could have said "I put them in the same place all the time.". We see that the phrase "all the time" comes at the end of the sentence. We could not squeeze that long phrase between the subject and verb. It must go at the end of the sentence.
David says "I seldom remember! I remember once in awhile.". He could have said "I hardly ever remember! I only remember once in awhile." or "I usually do not remember. I almost always forget.". We see that we can use the opposite verb, such as "forget" as the opposite of "remember", with the opposite of the adverb of the frequency, such "always" as the opposite for "never", and have almost the same meaning. Thus, "I always remember." is almost the same as "I never forget.".     
Jennifer says "I know. I almost always remember.". She could have said "I almost never forget." or "I hardly ever forget." "I only forget once in awhile." or "I usually remember.".    
David says "I am happy you always remember.". He could have said "I am happy you remember all the time." or "I am happy you never forget.".
Jennifer says "Yes. I almost always remember my keys AND I usually remember your keys!". She could have said "I almost never forget my keys and I hardly ever forget your keys!" or "I usually remember my keys and I frequently remember your keys!".
Now that you have learned the various permutations of adverbs, listen to the dialog again. As you listen, think of the possible alternate ways the dialog could go.
Jennifer:  You always lose your keys!
David:  That is true. I lose my keys very often.
Jennifer:  I hardly ever lose my keys.
David. That's right. You almost never lose your keys. Why?
Jennifer: I always remember to put them in the same place.
David: I seldom remember!  -- I remember once in awhile.
Jennifer:  I know. I almost always remember!
David:  I am happy you always remember.
Jennifer: Yes. I almost always remember my keys AND I usually remember your keys!
 
Outstanding! Now you know how to use many adverbs which will add much more information to your sentences in English. "Speak English very often!"