Mai dire mai…
Never say never…
Especially when it comes to learning Italian adverbs of frequency.
I mean, without adverbs of frequency, you literally can’t ever say “never.”
If you hadn’t already guessed, “never” is an adverb of frequency, just like “always” or “sometimes.” These words indicate how often something happens.
These are some of the most common words in any language, and the good news is, they’re also are a piece of cake to learn.
We’ll show you the most useful Italian adverbs of frequency and how to use them like a native speaker would.
Keep this list of Italian adverbs of frequency close at hand, and you’ll always be ready to speak Italian, even if the opportunity hardly ever arises.
What Are Italian Adverbs of Frequency?
As hinted above, adverbs of frequency describe how often something happens without expressing a specific time. A good way to keep this in mind is to remember that the word “frequently” is, itself, an adverb of frequency.
Does it tell you how often something happens? Yes. Does it tell you precisely when? No, it doesn’t.
Other adverbs of frequency in English include: always, sometimes, never, hardly ever, often, usually, normally, rarely, regularly, seldom, generally, etc.
Later in this post you’ll see that there are numerous equivalent Italian adverbs of frequency. But first, let’s look at the grammar behind how adverbs of frequency are used in Italian vs. what you may be familiar with in English.
How Are Adverbs of Frequency Different in Italian and English?
Blah blah blah… yes, we know, grammar is boring. But this little tidbit is more like a language hack that’ll help you unlock Italian adverbs of frequency.
Adverbs Go After the Verb in Italian
In English, adverbs usually go before the main verb.
I rarely visit my hometown.
One important exception is that adverbs of frequency are placed after the verb “to be.”
I am never late.
In Italian, adverbs are usually placed after the main verb.
Io vado sempre al supermercato. (I always go to the supermarket.)
Io sono sempre stanco. (I am always tired.)
Notice that this rule is the opposite of the rule in English, and that it doesn’t change for the verb essere (to be).
Certain Adverbs of Frequency Can Start a Sentence
Sometimes, adverbs of frequency can be placed at the beginning of a sentence (see what we did there?). This occurs in both English and Italian. But it only applies to some adverbs, such as sometimes, usually, generally and normally in English.
In Italian, this rule typically applies to di solito (usually) and ogni tanto (sometimes) and their synonyms, though Italian is a bit more liberal about adverb placement. When emphasizing, Italians may place other adverbs of frequency at the beginning of a sentence.
You Don’t Have to Fear Double Negatives
A big difference in adverbial use between English and Italian is that in Italian, the adverbs mai (never) and quasi mai (hardly ever) need negative phrases.
Non vado mai al supermercato. (I never go to the supermarket.)
The Italian verb “non vado” translates to “I don’t go” in English. This is difficult for us wrap our heads around because it feels like we’re saying “I don’t never go to the supermarket.” Double negatives are a no-no in English, so this can be quite the hurdle for our brains to make.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get used to.
Always, Sometimes, Never! The Most Common Italian Adverbs of Frequency (with Examples)
It’s time to jump into our complete list of adverbs of frequency in Italian. We’ll give you some great examples of how to use them, but if you need some more help on how to fit these words into the Italian language, watch authentic videos on FluentU to hear how native speakers do it. For example, in this video you’ll hear Italian adverbs of frequency used several times in natural contexts.
The best part is that you never have to worry about missing a word. FluentU provides clickable captions, vocabulary lists, flashcards and fun quizzes to help you actively learn while you watch. You can watch with all the learning features and explore the full video library with a free FluentU trial.
Andiamo sempre in spiaggia la domenica. (We always go to the beach on Sunday)
Marco sta sempre bene. (Marco is always well.)
Quando ero giovane, avevo sempre paura del buio. (When I was young, I was always afraid of the dark.)
Di solito (Usually)
Synonyms: solitamente, normalmente, generalmente
Di solito mi sveglio alle 7.00. (I usually wake up at 7 a.m.).
Le risposte si trovano di solito sulla pagina 96. (The answers are usually found on page 96).
Prendo di solito il treno che parte da Firenze quando vado a Roma. (I usually take the train from Florence when I go to Rome.)
Non vanno spesso al teatro. (They don’t often go to the theater).
Ho mangiato spesso il gelato l’estate scorsa. (I often ate ice cream last summer.)
Fate spesso il pranzo in terrazza? (Do you often have lunch on the terrace?)
Ogni tanto (Sometimes)
Synonyms: Qualche volta, a volte
Facciamo ogni tanto la cena da Antonio. (We sometimes have dinner at Antonio’s.)
Prendo ogni tanto le vitamine. Mi fanno bene. (I sometimes take vitamins. They are good for me.)
Ogni tanto ho la voglia di mangiare il sedano. (Sometimes, I have a desire to eat celery.)
Marta viene raramente quando facciamo festa. (Marta rarely comes when we have parties.)
Bevo raramente il vino. (I rarely drink wine.)
Perché vai cosí raramente al cinema? (Why do you so rarely go to the cinema?)
Quasi mai (Hardly ever)
Non ho quasi mai la voglia di andare a letto presto. (I hardly ever feel like going to bed early.)
Mi piace dipingere, ma non lo faccio quasi mai. (I like to paint, but I hardly ever do it.)
Facciamo quasi mai le feste all’estero. (We hardly ever spend the holidays abroad.)
Non sono mai andato in Spagna. (I’ve never been to Spain.)
Non apriamo mai le finestre quando fa freddo. (We never open the windows when it’s cold out.)
Perché non fai mai i compiti di casa? (Why don’t you ever do your homework?)
Common Italian Expressions with Adverbs of Frequency
Now that you know your adverbs of frequency in Italian, why not have a little fun? The best part about learning a new language is learning the slang and the local figures of speech. There are a bunch of them that contain Italian adverbs of frequency.
Let’s take a look at a few that you can use next time you chat with your Italian friends.
If you enjoy these, there are a ton more fun expressions with Italian adverbs of frequency. Check out this list of Italian sayings and try to find some more on your own.
Non è sempre domenica. (It can’t always be Sunday.)
This is a short and sweet expression that translates more literally to, “You can’t always get what you want.”
It comes from the fact that Italy used to have a six-day work/school week, with Sunday being the only day off.
Chi troppo si fida, spesso grida. (He who trusts too much will often scream.)
This one is one to use with your gullible friends.
You know, the ones who just mailed away a check to a Nigerian prince and are waiting on their cash reward.
Mai piangere sul latte versato: si aggiunge bagnato al bagnato. (Never cry over spilled milk: you’ll make what’s wet wetter.)
This is similar to our expression in English, but has a slightly different meaning.
Ours is more like, “what’s done is done.” The Italian version elaborates and means “fretting over what you can’t change will only make things worse.”
Al cane vecchio non dire mai va’ a cuccia. (Never tell an old dog to go to bed.)
This one is a bit reminiscent of our “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but with an element of old Italian crotchetiness.
It basically means that you should never make demands of those that you should respect (mainly, the elderly).
Si cambia più spesso di pensiero che di camicia! (He changes his mind more often than his shirt!)
Here’s a fun one to describe an indecisive person or to get under the skin of your friend that always backs out at the last minute.
Italian adverbs of frequency are absolutely essential, and not just for the language. You also need them to capture the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the Italian people. In a land where trains are rarely on time, hobbling old ladies stop traffic to have a conversation and exaggeration is a national sport, no one tends to be too specific about the “whens” and “whys” of a situation.
So, the next time someone asks you, “Fai il tuo compito?” (“Do you do your homework?”), a sly “Sempre” in return will do just fine. And if someone says “Non parlerai mai abbastanza bene per flirtare con quella raggazza!” (“You’ll never speak well enough to flirt with that girl!”), just give a classic Italian wink and say, “Mai dire mai.”
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