Adverbs of time

Adverbs of timeIt was nice seeing you yesterday night.

Do you notice anything off with this statement?

Instead of ‘yesterday night’, we say ‚last night‘ or ‚yesterday evening‘ – ‚last night‘ is used more often than ‚yesterday evening‘, which can sound a little formal. Below are some tips on using adverbs of time.

Grammar point – adverbs of time

Adverbs of time tell us when something happened, as well as for how long and how often. 

Some common adverbs that tells us when something happened:

A point in time – now, then, yesterday, last night/week/month/year, the day before

A relationship in time – already, early, late, before, after, eventually, finally, first, last, just, yet, soon, still, since, recently, lately, formerly, previously

Adverbs that tell us for how long:

Duration – for a year, all day, long, since, for

Adverbs that tell us how often something happens:

Frequency (indefinite) – rarely, hardly, seldom, frequently, occasionally, often, generally, normally, constantly, never, ever

Frequency (definite) – hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, annually, biannually, quarterly, nightly

Position:

Adverbs that relate to a point in time or a relationship in time are usually placed at the end of a clause. However, placing them at the beginning places more emphasis on them.

Examples:

  • I saw my mother yesterday.
  • I do my taxes quarterly.
  • Last week I heard the strangest thing.

Adverbs of duration are usually placed at the end of a sentence or sometimes in the middle.

Examples:

  • I can read for hours without getting tired.
  • I’m not staying very long.
  • I haven’t seen him since 2016.
  • I have been working here for ten years.

Adverbs of frequency are usually placed before the main verb but after auxiliary (helping) verbs – this is the mid position.

Examples:

  • I often go running in the morning.
  • I rarely speak to her anymore.
  • She is usually not this quiet.

Many, but not all, adverbs of frequency can go at the beginning or end of a clause.  Ever, never and always do not go at the beginning. Sometimes, usually, often and occasionally can go at the beginning.

Examples:

  • Sometimes I like to go for long walks in the woods.
  • I watch TV for hours sometimes.
  • I check my emails hourly.
  • Usually we visit my grandmother on Sundays.
  • I never knew it could get so cold here. (NOT:  Never I knew…)
  • She is always on time.

Adverbs of frequency meaning ’not very often‘ have a negative meaning and therefore are not used with ’not‘ in a sentence. They are usually in the mid position or at the beginning with an inverted subject and verb for a formal sentence. In this case, if there is no modal or auxiliary verb, we add ‚do‘.

Examples:

  • I rarely go to the gym anymore. (NOT:  I don’t rarely go…)
  • Rarely are things as good as they seem./Rarely do things get so bad.
  • He was hardly ever late./Hardly ever was he late.
  • Seldom is he late.