Learn how to talk about how often something happens, and do the exercises to practise it.

Level: beginner

The commonest adverbials of frequency are:

always never normally
rarely seldom sometimes
occasionally often usually

We usually put these one-word adverbials of frequency in front of the main verb:

We often spend Christmas with friends.
I have never enjoyed myself so much.

but they usually come after the verb be:

He was always tired in the evening.
We are never late for work.

Sometimes these adverbials have an intensifier or mitigator:

He is very rarely late for work.
We nearly always spend Christmas with friends.

We use the adverbial a lot to mean often or frequently. It comes at the end of the clause:

We go to the cinema a lot.

We can also use a lot with another time adverbial:

We go to the cinema a lot at the weekend.

We use much/a lot with a negative to mean not often:

We don't go out much/a lot. (= We don't go out often.)

How often 1

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We often use phrases with every as adverbials of frequency. We use every with words like minute, hour, day, week, month and year:

There is a big celebration every year.
We have a meeting twice every week.
I usually go home once every two months.
There is a leap year every four years.

We also use every with days of the week and months of the year:

We have a meeting every Monday.
We go on holiday every August.

We use the phrase every other:

We will email you every other day. (= on alternate days)
We go to see my mother every other week. (= in alternate weeks)

We use phrases with once, twice, three times, four times, etc. and a period of time:

I go swimming twice a week.
I see my old school friends four or five times a year.

How often 2

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We use how often and ever to ask questions about frequency. how often comes at the beginning of the clause:

How often do you go to the cinema?
How often have you been here?

ever comes before the main verb:

Do you ever go to the cinema at the weekend?
Have you ever been there?

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Submitted by rafa_0702_ on Fri, 21/10/2022 - 12:15

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For: She’s always loved that band. I need to create a question which answer is: always.

Is it correct to say: How long has she love that band? Can I also say: How often has deje loved that band?
Thanks in advance, Rafa

Submitted by DaBour V on Mon, 26/09/2022 - 23:37

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Hey
I want to know if this question is correct by using "usually" in it
"How often do they usually eat?"
The answer is: I usually eat 3 times per day.

Hello DaBour V,

I wouldn't say it's incorrect, but I wouldn't recommend it because it's redundant. 'how often' already includes the idea of frequency and so it's odd to include another word referring to frequency (such as 'usually').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Brianchen55688 on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 05:50

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Hello sir,

Could you help me understand how often “have you ”.

What’s the difference between how often do you and how often have you?

Does these two sentences mean the same ?
> How often have you come here?
> How often do you come here?

And does these two sentences mean the same?
> How often have you gone to the film last year?
> How often did you go to the film last year?

I look forward to your answers

Brian

Hi Brianchen55688,

No, the first pair of questions mean different things. In the first one ("have you" - present perfect), the time is "until now" or "recently". So, it's asking about the person's actions in that particular time period. The second question is more general. The present simple describes general facts - these are understood as unchanging, no matter whether in the past, present or future. So, it assumes that the person has a general behaviour ("coming here") that is true at all times. It seems like it's asking about a place that the person goes to regularly (school or work, for example), including the idea that they may continue to go there in the future. In comparison, the first question seems like it's asking about a place that the person comes to occasionally, not regularly (a tourist on holiday or a visitor somewhere, for example). 

In the second pair of questions, the present perfect is not normally used together with named points in time ("last year"), so only the second question is correct.

I hope that helps to understand it!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by g-ssan on Fri, 22/07/2022 - 09:11

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Hello sir,
Can we consider every time is an adverbial of time ?Strangely you don’t mention it .

Hi g-ssan,

Yes, we can! It may need a bit more detail to complete the idea, e.g. "There is a big celebration every time my brother comes home", or "We have a meeting every time the general manager visits our office."

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by g-ssan on Thu, 21/07/2022 - 20:59

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Hello sir ,

Another question please .

In first practice the intensifier came after adverbial of time sometime in this sentence as young boy ,my father was sometime extremely ill . I ask is that normal ?
thank you teacher for your patient and humility .

Hi g-ssan,

Yes, that's right, because "extremely" describes "ill" (not "sometimes"), so it is positioned just before "ill".

It's also possible to say "... was extremely ill sometimes". 

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by g-ssan on Thu, 21/07/2022 - 20:34

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Hello sir ,

can i know is there a huge difference if we said ?
At the weekend
In the weekend
on the weekend .

Hi g-ssan,

"At" and "on" are both correct, if you are talking about the weekend coming up or weekends in general. "At" is generally used in British English and "on" is generally used in American English. 

"In" is less commonly used, unless you are talking about a specific weekend in the past, e.g. "The weather was great in the weekend before the new year."

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Sun, 22/05/2022 - 17:24

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Hi
Is it incorrect to use "in" in the following examples?
"I see my old school friends four or five times (in) a year"

Hi Faii,

No, grammatically it's fine! But it's a bit less commonly used to express frequency.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team