How often do you call your mother? Sit down to study? Floss?
To answer any of these dreaded questions, you will need to dip into the parts of speech jar and pull out a few adverbs of frequency.
With these nifty words, you can say that you visit your mother often, study frequently and floss regularly (or at least, we hope so!).
But how can you do this in Spanish?
Luckily, Spanish adverbs of frequency are fairly easy to use. You just have to remember a few adverb placement rules and learn a handful of new words and you will always have the right word on hand!
What Is an Adverb?
By definition, adverbs are invariable words that modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. This is very important to remember since adverbs never modify nouns (you cannot say rápidamente libro — quickly book, but you can say levantarse rápidamente — to get up quickly).
There are different groups of adverbs and each of them answers different specific questions. For instance:
- Adverbs of place answer the question “where?” (for example: aquí — here, allí — there, cerca — close/near).
- Adverbs of time answer the question “when?” (for example: hoy — today, ayer — yesterday, mañana — tomorrow).
- Adverbs of frequency answer the question “how often?” (for example: siempre — always, nunca — never, a veces — sometimes).
In this post, we will be focusing on the last group: adverbs of frequency.
What Is a Spanish Adverb of Frequency?
Simply put, adverbs of frequency allow us to talk about how often an action is done.
If you run every day, you will need to use one adverb of frequency, whereas if you never run, you will have to choose a different adverb. The bare structure of the sentence remains the same, but the meaning changes drastically. That is how powerful adverbs can be:
Corro a diario. (I run every day.)
No corro nunca. (I never run.)
If you take a closer look at the last two Spanish examples, you might conclude that adverbs always go at the end of the sentence, but that is not true. Before getting to know Spanish adverbs of frequency, let’s have a look at the position of Spanish adverbs in general.
Where to Place Spanish Adverbs
There is a general rule that says Spanish adverbs always go either before or after the word they modify. This rule gives us examples like these:
Antonio come mucho. (Antonio eats a lot.)
María es muy guapa. (María is very pretty.)
Corres demasiado rápido. (You are running too fast.)
It would be so beautiful if this ended here. However, things are not always as nice as they seem, and there are a couple of additional facts you should know.
In short, the position of an adverb in a sentence depends on the type of word it is modifying. But even in this case, there can be exceptions to the rule, so let’s have a look at all the different possibilities we can find in Spanish:
1. Adverbs modifying verbs
If an adverb is modifying a verb, it will normally follow that verb:
Te quiero mucho. (I love you so much.)
Juana estudia sistemáticamente. (Juana studies systematically.)
Me parece que has engordado un poco. (I think you have put on a little weight.)
However, you can place the adverb right before the verb if you want to add emphasis:
Demasiado lento hablas. (You speak too slow. Lit. “Too slow you speak”)
Mucho has engordado tú. (You have put on a lot of weight. Lit. “A lot have put on weight you”)
Allí está mi coche. (My car is there. Lit. “There is my car”)
Finally, there is a key difference between English and Spanish with regard to perfect tenses. While English allows you to add adverbs between “to have” and the past participle, Spanish does not:
No he comido nunca gambas. (I have never eaten shrimp.)
Mi hermano ya ha llegado. (My brother has already arrived.)
2. Adverbs modifying adjectives
The rule with adjectives is pretty easy: Always place the adverb in front of the adjective. Have a look at some examples:
Tu hijo es muy alto. (You son is very tall.)
Estás algo pálido. (You are somewhat pale.)
Esta rosa es demasiado cara. (This rose is too expensive.)
However, you will see quite often that adverbs can appear after the adjective. This happens because the adverb modifies the whole sentence (as you will see later on), not just the adjective:
Estás algo pálido hoy. (You are somewhat pale today.)
In the example above, “today” cannot modify “pale.” “Today pale” does not make any sense. Here is another example:
Estamos muy cansados esta tarde. (We are very tired this afternoon.)
3. Adverbs modifying adverbs
Yes! Adverbs can modify adverbs, too! Once again, the rule for this is very simple: the adverb doing the modifying should always be placed before the modified one:
Juan come muy rápido. (Juan eats very fast.)
Just like in English, saying “fast very” would not make sense. Here are two more examples:
Esta máquina trabaja bastante despacio. (This machine works pretty slowly.)
Este chico lee fantásticamente bien. (This guy reads fantastically well.)
4. Adverbs modifying whole sentences
If an adverb is modifying a whole sentence—like the majority of frequency adverbs do—it can be placed at the beginning or at the end of that sentence. You decide where to place it, depending on whether you want the sentence to emphasize the action or the time when it took/is taking/will take place.
Iremos al cine mañana. (We will go to the cinema tomorrow.)
Since the sentence above places the action of going to the cinema first, that action is more important than the time when it will happen. To shift the emphasis to the time of the action instead, place it first:
Mañana iremos al cine. (Tomorrow we will go to the cinema.)
Here is the concept in action once again:
Me rompí la pierna el año pasado. (I broke my leg last year.)
El año pasado me rompí la pierna. (Last year I broke my leg.)
Now that you know where to place Spanish adverbs and have gotten started with a few frequency adverbs, let’s embark on a journey that will explain a bunch of them in detail.
Enjoy the ride!
16 Spanish Adverbs of Frequency You’ll Always Remember
Adverbs of frequency allow us to talk about how often we do certain things. As with English, Spanish has a very juicy set of adverbs of frequency that can fill all our language needs. The following is by no means a complete list, but it is at least comprehensive enough to equip you with the adverbs you need to start producing better Spanish.
Although some of the following words and expressions can mean slightly different things for each of us, I have tried to create a list that goes from “always” to “never.”
As always, I have also included many examples so you can see the words in action. For even more practice and to see these words and many more in use by real Spanish speakers, head over to FluentU and give a few of the authentic videos a watch.
1. Siempre (Always, Every Time)
This is one of those easy words to remember. I bet you already know it.
As with almost every adverb of frequency, siempre can be added either at the beginning or at the end of the sentence but it can also appear right before the verb.
Siempre tengo hambre. (I am always hungry.)
El color amarillo me ha gustado siempre. (I have always liked the color yellow.)
Siempre que tenemos que viajar, María se pone nerviosa. (Every time we have to travel, María gets nervous.)
2. Casi Siempre (Almost Always)
This one deserves its own entry because there is a slight difference between siempre and casi siempre. While siempre always happens without exceptions, casi siempre describes something that is very close to always but once in a blue moon it may not happen.
Casi siempre duermo en el sofá. (I almost always sleep on the sofa.)
Juan está enfadado casi siempre. (Juan is almost always angry.)
Casi siempre llegamos a casa al mismo tiempo. (We almost always arrive home at the same time.)
3. Constantemente (Constantly)
It might happen less often than casi siempre, but the fact remains that using constantemente in Spanish means something happens very close to “always.”
Just as in English, constantemente has an inherent sense of repetition. It can even be used to complain about something repeating itself too much.
Estamos peleando constantemente. (We are constantly arguing.)
Estaba tan nervioso que no podía parar de mirar por la ventana constantemente. (I was so nervous I could not stop looking through the window constantly.)
Constantemente repites lo mismo una y otra vez. (You constantly repeat the same over and over again.)
4. Frecuentemente, Con Frecuencia (Frequently)
Frecuentemente and con frecuencia both mean the same and they could not be left out of a list covering adverbs of frequency.
Frequency is relative for each speaker, but we can agree that if we do something frequently, we do it more often than not.
Escucho música con frequencia. (I listen to music frequently.)
Frecuentemente vamos de paseo por el bosque. (We frequently go for a walk in the woods.)
Lo veo por aquí frecuentemente. (I see him around frequently.)
5. A Menudo (Often)
A menudo is an expression Spanish native speakers use very a menudo. It gives a sense of frequency and repetition without being as formal as frecuentemente, so you will hear it a lot in the streets of any Spanish-speaking country.
Veo la tele a menudo. (I watch TV often.)
A menudo salgo a correr. (I often go for a run.)
Me gusta beber agua a menudo. (I like drinking water often.)
Just as English has “very often,” Spanish has muy a menudo which, as you may have guessed, emphasizes the frequency of the action.
Me visto de negro muy a menudo. (I dress in black very often.)
Mi hermana viene a visitarme muy a menudo. (My sister comes visit me very often.)
Solía montar en bicicleta muy a menudo. (He used to ride a bike very often.)
6. Mucho/Muchas Veces (Often, a Lot, Many Times)
Once again, these expressions are very subjective and their real meaning depends on the user. What for me can be plenty of times, for my brother can be just a few times.
So remember that even though mucho and muchas veces do indeed indicate high frequency, just how high-frequency something is depends on the person talking/writing.
Viajo mucho a España. (I travel to Spain a lot.)
He leído este libro muchas veces. (I have read this book many times.)
Muchas veces olvido apagar la luz. (Many times I forget to switch the lights off.)
7. A Diario (Daily, Every Day)
If you do something a diario, it can be considered a routine. It is normal to see this expression used with everyday actions like eating, taking care of our hygiene and going to school or work.
Me ducho a diario. (I take a shower daily.)
Voy a la escuela a diario. (I go to school every day.)
A diario desayunamos a las siete. (We eat breakfast every day at seven.)
8. Cada (Every) + Time Expression
Whether you do something every day, week, month or year, the fact that you do it repeatedly can also make that action a routine. When you use cada together with a period of time, you certainly are talking about things that you do repeatedly.
Tómate la pastilla cada ocho horas. (Take the pill every eight hours.)
Vamos a Argentina cada verano. (We travel to Argentina every summer.)
Almuerzo en ese restaurante cada domingo. (I have lunch at that restaurant every Sunday.)
9. Diariamente (Daily), Semanalmente (Weekly), Mensualmente (Monthly), Anualmente (Annually)
This set of adverbs mean the same as their cada counterparts. You can use the form you prefer, but as a native speaker I can tell you that we tend to avoid -mente adjectives when possible.
Voy a la escuela diariamente/cada día. (I go to school daily/every day.)
Estudio español semanalmente/cada semana. (I study Spanish weekly/every week.)
Voy al cine mensualmente/cada mes. (I go to the cinema monthly/every month.)
Recibo dinero de mis padres anualmente/cada año. (I receive money from my parents annually/every year.)
10. Normalmente (Normally), Generalmente (Generally), Regularmente (Regularly), Usualmente (Usually)
I have decided to group these four adverbs together because I personally think they are among the most difficult to define exactly. How much is “usually”? Is it more or less often than “generally”?
However you define them, keep in mind that as a Spanish native speaker, I use them equally as often: almost never!
Normalmente me levanto a las seis. (I normally get up at six.)
Generalmente me levanto a las seis. (I generally get up at six.)
Regularmente me levanto a las seis. (I regularly get up at six.)
Usualmente me levanto a las seis. (I usually get up at six.)
11. Number + Vez/Veces al/a la (Number of Times a) + Period of Time
This adverbial phrase could go anywhere in this list because it all depends on how many times you do something in a specific period of time. I have decided to include it somewhere in the middle to keep it neutral.
As you can see, you have a couple of options to choose from. First, you need to give the number of times you do the action. Then, you have to choose between vez if that action is done only once and veces for two or more times. Finally, you have to add al if the following noun is masculine or a la if it is feminine.
Voy al gimnasio cinco veces a la semana. (I go to the gym five times a week.)
Como carne tres veces al mes. (I eat meat three times a month.)
Viajo a España una vez al año. (I travel to Spain once a year.)
12. A Veces (Sometimes), Ocasionalmente (Occasionally), en Ocasiones (Sometimes, Occasionally)
These three beautiful specimens have very similar meanings. It is up to you to decide what a veces, ocasionalmente or en ocasiones means to you. Subjectivity is very common among adverbs of frequency, just as long as you use them correctly:
A veces me despierto en mitad de la noche. (Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night.)
Visito a mi tío ocasionalmente. (I visit my uncle occasionally.)
En ocasiones veo muertos. (Sometimes I see dead people.)
13. De Vez en Cuando (From Time to Time)
This and the rest of the adverbs in the list from this point on will place more and more distance between the times we do certain things. This is inevitable in order to reach the word “never.”
“From time to time” can be twice a month or twice a year, depending on the speaker and context. The good news is that this adverbial phrase is used exactly like in English, so there is no need to break a sweat.
Vamos al cine de vez en cuando. (We go to the cinema from time to time.)
Solo comen pescado de vez en cuando. (They only eat fish from time to time.)
De vez en cuando viene a pedir ayuda. (From time to time he comes to ask for help.)
14. Poco/Pocas Veces (Seldom, Few Times)
You should already be used to poco meaning “little” when talking about uncountable things like money or time. Since adverbs of frequency refer to time, it should be no surprise to find the adverb in this list.
Vengo poco por aquí. (I seldom come here.)
Lo he visto muy pocas veces. (I have seen him very few times.)
Entreno muy poco. (I very seldom train.)
15. Rara Vez (Hardly Ever), Casi Nunca (Rarely, Hardly Ever), Apenas (Scarcely, Hardly Ever)
Once again, we have three adverbs with very similar meanings. They are all used to say an action is done very, very scarcely and a lot of time goes by between repetitions.
Since it would be impossible to decide the number of times that action happens in a month, a year or even a century, they have been grouped together so you can use any of them (or all of them!) when you choose to do so.
Rara vez monto en bicicleta. (I hardly ever ride a bike.)
Casi nunca me dices la verdad. (You rarely tell me the truth.)
Apenas nos vemos últimamente. (We hardly ever see each other lately.)
16. Nunca (Never), Jamás (Never, Ever), Nunca Jamás (Never Ever)
The last three adverbs in this list all mean “never,” but they have three different degrees of intensity.
Nunca literally means “never.” We use it in Spanish the exact same way as in English.
Jamás gives a little more of a sense of “I will never do that.” It is like a very emphatic nunca.
Finally, nunca jamás offers the highest degree of refusal to do something. If you use nunca jamás, you are 10,000% sure you will never, ever, ever, ever, ever do that action:
Nunca me visto de blanco. (I never dress in white.)
Jamás he tomado drogas. (I have never done drugs.)
Nunca jamás volvería con él. (I would never ever go back to him.)
And this is it for today, guys!
As you can see in this post, Spanish is as rich as English when it comes to describing the frequency with which we do certain things.
Many times, both languages make it difficult for us to give a specific, final meaning to certain adverbs because the number of times we repeat an action can be very subjective for each of us.
But that should not worry you at all! You know how to use these kinds of adverbs in English, so just apply your knowledge on their Spanish counterparts and you will be ready to go.
As the saying goes, más vale tarde que nunca (better late than never), so if you are not an adverb master yet, get to it! It will be worth it.
Stay curious and, as always, happy learning!
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