If there’s one thing students learning English know, it’s that the position of words within a sentence is important. Getting this wrong is often an immediate giveaway that the person speaking isn’t a native speaker. Sometimes it’s just hard to know where the words go!

In this blog entry we’ll be looking at a certain category of words and their position in a sentence- adverbs. In English, we can use the term “adverbs of frequency” when we refer to the words we use to say how often we do something, or how often something happens. Words like ‘always,’ ‘never,’ ‘often,’ ‘sometimes,’ and ‘rarely’ are examples of adverbs of frequency. When it comes to positioning these words in a sentence, it’s very easy to make a mistake.

Download Exercise

A general rule is that if the sentence contains auxiliary verbs, the adverb goes after the first one. For example, we have the following example with the auxiliary verb ‘have’:

~ I have never been to Canada.

As we can see in the sentence above, the adverb (‘never’) goes after the auxiliary verb. We can also take a look at an example that has more than one auxiliary verb:

~ John has always been doing that.

In this case, we see a sentence with an example of the Present Perfect Continuous, a verb tense with more than one auxiliary verb (‘have’ and ‘been’). Just like we mentioned before, the adverb goes after the first auxiliary verb.

If the sentence is negative, then we put the adverb after the negative word. Let’s see a couple examples:

~ I won’t always take his advice.
~ She doesn’t often visit her home town.

There are some other adverbs in English that take the same position in a sentence as adverbs of frequency. Some examples are ‘still,’ ‘also’ and ‘even.’ Here are some examples of these adverbs in a sentence:

~ I can play the piano and I can also play the guitar.
~ I should still be able to help you tomorrow.

If there are no auxiliary verbs in the sentence, the adverb goes before the verb. For example:

~ He never goes to the theatre.
~ I even like escargot!

Use what you’ve learned here to practice with the exercise below!

A. Edstrom

Download Exercise