French Frequency Words: Your Complete Guide to Adverbs of Frequency

Have you ever taken a survey?

Depending on the type of survey, you may have been asked how often you do something. You were probably given choices such as “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often” and “always,” which are all adverbs of frequency.

Learning some basic French frequency words will help you be more precise and descriptive when using the language.

In this post, I’ll introduce you to the most common French adverbs of frequency in order from least often (jamais, never) to most often (toujours, always).


What Are Adverbs of Frequency?

The good news: “adverb of frequency” is one of those grammatical terms that actually sounds a bit more dramatic and intimidating than the concept itself.

In case you need a refresher, an adverb in French, just like in English, is a word that describes a verb, adjective or other adverb. Consider this basic English example: “I walked briskly to the grocery store.”

“Briskly” is an adverb because it modifies the verb “walked.” It describes the manner in which you walked.

Recall that French adverbs generally precede the verb, as in Il a lentement marché au supermarché.  (He walked to the grocery store slowly.)

Adverbs of frequency are a specific type of adverb. They answer the question of how often something was done, whether it is “never,” “sometimes,” “always,” etc.

I’ll give you the French equivalents for these adverbs of frequency and several more in this article.

6 Essential Adverbs of Frequency

1. Jamais  (Never)

Jamais is most often used in the context of a sentence such as:

Je ne dis jamais de gros mots. (I never say bad words.)

Ne and jamais form a unit, just like ne… pas.  The difference is that, while ne… pas simply means “not,” ne… jamais  takes it a step further and means “never.” Recall that the conjugated verb goes in between.

Similar negative constructions in French include:

Ne… personne (no one, nobody) → Tu n’aides personne !  (You are helping no one!)

Ne… rien (nothing, not anything) → Il est allé au centre commercial, mais il n’a rien acheté.  (He went to the mall, but he bought nothing/he didn’t buy anything.)

Ne… nulle part (nowhere, not anywhere) → J’ai cherché le livre, mais je ne pouvais le trouver nulle part.  (I searched for the book, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.)

Jamais may also be used by itself as an exclamation:

Vous me mentez ? (Are you lying to me?)

Jamais ! (Never!)

2. Rarement  (Rarely)

This one is pretty simple. It’s less strong than jamais, but communicates that you do something very sparingly—it’s certainly not a normal thing for you to do. A basic example:

Il fait rarement des erreurs. (He rarely makes mistakes.)

3. Quelquefois  (Sometimes)

Quelquefois has the same meaning as “sometimes” in English, which you can remember simply by breaking down the word:

Quelque (some) + fois (times) → quelquefois (sometimes)

Parfois is a synonym and may be used interchangeably with quelquefois.

Quelquefois/Parfoison prend de la glace après les cours. (Sometimes, we get ice cream after class.)

To be more specific about how often you do something, you may combine fois (times), a number and a unit of time. You can think of it like this:

Action + Number + Fois (times) + Par (literally, “by”) + Unit of time

Here is an example:

Je nage + deux + fois + par + semaine → Je nage deux fois par semaine.  (I swim twice a week.)

This next example is similar but does not contain par or a unit of time, because the time frame we are talking about is the subject’s whole lifetime.

Elle a voyagé en Europe trois fois. (She has traveled in Europe three times.)

4. Souvent  (Often)

Ah, another one that should be quite simple for you to understand if you come from an English-speaking background.

Souvent means “often.” It refers to something you do more than “sometimes,” but not all the time.

Elles vont souvent au théâtre. (They go to the theater often.)

5. D’habitude  (Usually)

This one is not difficult to remember. Just think of the word “habit.”

Put simply, d’habitude describes something you do on a regular basis, like your work schedule or your morning routine.

D’habitude, je travaille les après-midi. (Usually, I work in the afternoons.)

Furthermore, d’habitude has several synonyms, so you can easily keep variety in your French! Some include:

Je me lève habituellement à six heures quarante. (I usually get up at six forty.)

6. Toujours  (Always)

Another simple one: “always,” something you do all the time or whenever you can.

Ils arrivent toujours à l’heure. (They always arrive on time.)

Toujours comes from a combination of the word tout (all, every) and the word jours (days).

You may use a similar pattern to make your description more specific:

Tous (m.) or Toutes (f.) + les + period of time

You might specify a day of the week, as in tous les dimanches (every Sunday). Or use a more generic period of time like toutes les semaines  (every week).

Here is an example in context:

Tu dois te brosser les dents tous les matins. (You must brush your teeth every morning.)

How to Practice Adverbs of Frequency

You’ve probably realized by now that it’s hard to master a new French concept on the first try. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of discipline to learn a language. But it can be done!

One simple exercise you can use to specifically practice adverbs of frequency is to give yourself a survey.

Not all surveys are annoying. This one can be very helpful. You can tell, in French, how often you do the following activities. If you want to be extra creative, you can add your own as well.

If you’re a visual learner, try reinforcing adverbs of frequency with this helpful video from Learn French with Pascal. It contains some of the words we have covered—review is always good, and it can be beneficial to hear, not only read, an explanation.

Hearing these French frequency words used in context is another useful way to understand how they are used. For example, you could listen out for adverbs of frequency while watching French TV shows or listening to French music, or you could try a language learning program like FluentU.

FluentU uses authentic French videos—like inspiring talks and movie trailers—to teach you the language in context. The videos are accompanied by interactive subtitles that you can hover over to quickly find a word’s meaning or click on to find a definition, pronunciation, example sentences and more. With FluentU’s contextual dictionary, you could try searching for some of these frequency words to find example sentences and videos so you can see how they are used by native speakers.

french-adverbs-of-frequencyFlashcards can also be a fun way to practice adverbs of frequency. Check out this Quizlet set that covers adverbs of time, which are closely related to adverbs of frequency. Adverbs of time are words such as “tomorrow,” “now” and “before.”


If you still need to review adverbs in general, this tutorial and quiz is a great resource.


Now that you’ve learned the most common French adverbs of frequency, you can speak more precisely about how often you do certain things!

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