English Grammar: Definite Adverbs of Frequency

English Grammar: Definite Adverbs of Frequency

How often do you study English? Daily? Weekly? Once a month? In this English grammar lesson, you’ll learn how to express exactly how often something happens. You probably already know words like ‘often’, ‘sometimes’, and ‘always’ – those are indefinite adverbs of frequency, meaning they don’t tell you exactly how often something happens. When we use DEFINITE adverbs of frequency, we express exactly how many times something happens in a time period. We use expressions like ‘once a week’, ‘monthly’, and ‘annually’. In this lesson, I’ll tell teach you the grammar and vocabulary of definite adverbs of frequency. By the end of this lesson, you’ll be able to understand and use these helpful adverbs in your spoken and written English.


Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo. Yeah, baby. Hi. James from engVid. There’s nothing I like more on a weekly basis than having my white wine with my yellow scarf around my neck. It’s an interesting magazine. Got a director, Coppala, but I just don’t see anybody who looks like me in this magazine, it’s kind of funny.

Anyway, we got a lesson to do and that’s what you’re here for. I want to teach you about adverbs of frequency. And you’re going to say: “James, I know adverbs of frequency. You’ve taught it, other people have.” And I’m: “Yes I have, but not quite like this.” You know, and it’s good to revisit some things annually anyway. Right? [Laughs] I just used one.

Let’s go to the board and take a look. All right. So, once a year, James speaks slowly. I’m going to introduce to you two different types of adverbs of frequency. Okay? Actually, yeah, two and then two small columns. Number one, there’s the… The one you’re used to: “always”, “usually”, “frequently”, “never”, and even how it breaks down. “Always” is 100%, “never” is 0%, and then in between we have stages of “often” is 70. You’ve seen this a million times, and you’re probably pretty good at it. Right? You have to use it with the present tense verbs, yada, yada, yada, and it tells you how often something happens. These are the indefinite adverbs of frequency. What did you say? Indefinite, where did that come from?

Well, today we’re going to learn about the definite adverbs of frequency because we’ll either know the definite time or the number that something occurs. Ready? Let’s go to the board. We started with a joke: “Once a year, James talks slowly.” Well, you know it happens once a year. The problem with saying “rarely” or “occasionally”, you know 5%, but not exactly. What does that mean in a month or a week? “One time” tells you exactly what it is. Right? All right.

So, one of the first things we have is: “Once”, “twice” or “three times a week”. You could say: “I go to the gym three times a week.” I know… I don’t maybe know the exact days, but I know exactly it’s three times. It’s better than saying “regularly”, or in this case, “usually go” or “often go” because that doesn’t tell me what the number is. It just says it’s repeated a lot of times enough that it’s sometimes. Okay? What does that mean, really, exactly? Nothing, really. But “three times” tells me something, especially if I want to get muscle, I need to go at least three times. Not: “I go sometimes.” It’s like: “Okay.” Don’t expect anything. All right? So, when we use the: “once”, “twice”, or “three times”, we tell you how many times it’s repeated within a timeframe. Sometimes we say “once” or “twice”, we can say: “one time a week”, “two times a week”. Personally, I like “twice”, I don’t know why but I do. That’s between you and I. But a lot of times people say: “twice” or “two times”, and that’s okay. It tells you how often to repeat it. All right? So we’ve talked about it. And if you will look carefully, and I want you to notice we talk about the number, then we have an article. The article makes it general. When we know in English: “a” is a general article that says generally speaking, versus “the”, and a week, so in any week. Because it’s a general week, it means in every or any week, this is how many times I repeat it. Cool? Yeah, you didn’t know that. That little thing there has a meaning, and you just learned how to use it in another frame. Right?

Now, let’s talk about the actual time periods. This is how many times I repeat it by number, but let’s talk about time periods. And the time periods are simple. You already know them. Hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Except here, what we’re going to use instead of years… And there is a word called “yearly”, but it’s really not used that much by most people. Instead, you hear “annually”. Right? And I’m going to give you a couple of examples. Like, if you say… Well… I know I’m going to hear it from you, but we… You can say this and it’s grammatically correct, but no, a lot of Canadians, and British people, and Americans don’t walk around saying: “I go three times weekly to the gym.”