Adverbs of Frequency – Chinese Adverbs

FREQUENCY in Chinese - How to Express How Often

There are 6 types of adverbs and this post will focus on adverbs of frequency.

In our tagging system of The Mandarin Blueprint Method Foundation Course, we refer to adverbs as “How Does What,” because that’s how they function. Adverbs tell you how an individual action takes place. We divide the sentences that contain adverbs into the following categories:

1. Deny 否定 (fǒudìng) – An adverb that denies or negates the action also called a negative adverb

2. How Often 频率 (pínlǜ) – An adverb that shows the frequency of action also called adverb of frequency 

3. In What Range 范围 (fànwéi) – An adverb that specifies the range of action or also called scope adverb

4. Time 时间 (shíjiān) – An adverb that adds context to the amount of time that relates to action can also be named adverb of time

5. To What Degree 程度 (chéngdù) – An adverb that specifies the degree of action or adverb of degree

6. Tone of Voice 语气 (yǔqì) – An adverb that influences the tone of voice surrounding the action can also be called adverb of mood or modal adverb

The Chinese word for “adverb” is 副词 fùcí, which translates to “‘auxiliary’ or ‘subsidiary’ word.” Considering that you can’t use adverbs alone and must attach them to action, “subsidiary” is an apt description.

Adverbs of Frequency – 频率 (pínlǜ)

Some adverbs explain the frequency of an action. Do you “always,” “sometimes,” or “often” do something? These are called adverbs of frequency or 频率 (pínlǜ). Let’s check out some examples:

Sentence 1:

我常常想起来她说过的话。 – Level 14
Wǒ chángcháng xiǎngqilái tā shuōguo de huà
I often think of what she said.

When you need to emphasize that a particular action (e.g., 想起来 ‘to think of’) happens ‘often’ or ‘frequently,’ you can use 常常 (chángcháng) before the action. 常 (cháng) means ‘ordinary’ or ‘common,’ so ‘double ordinary’ 常常 (chángcháng) is something that happens often.

Sentence 2 with Adverbs of Frequency:

你总是吃米饭。-OR- 你老是吃米饭。 – Level 13
Nǐ zǒngshì chī mǐfàn -OR- Nǐ lǎoshi chī mǐfàn
You always eat rice.

Many of the sentences in Level 13 use the adverb 总是 (zǒngshì) before an action to indicate that it ‘always’ happens. You don’t just eat rice; you always eat rice. Bear in mind that this can be literally true (e.g., New Year’s Day is always January 1st) or a rhetorical device (e.g., “You always take me for granted!”)

Note: Another word you can use for “Always” is 老是 (lǎoshi), but it’s unlike 总是 (zǒngshì), because it implies a negative connotation. 你老是吃米饭 would imply that the speaker thinks it’s a bad thing that you always eat rice.

Sentence 3 & 4:

我想点面包,还想点啤酒。- Level 14 
Wǒ xiǎng diǎn miànbāo, hái xiǎng diǎn píjiǔ
I would like to order bread and also beer.

下午我想吃面包,也想吃鱼。- Level 15 
Xiàwǔ wǒ xiǎng chī miànbāo, yě xiǎng chī yú
I want to eat bread in the afternoon, and I also want to eat fish.

These two sentences use the adverbs 还 (hái) & 也 (yě), respectively, to express that the speaker ‘also’ wants something in a sequence. You could say “我想点面包和啤酒” (‘I want to order bread and beer’), but by saying it this way, there’s an implication that the speaker has some reason to emphasize that it’s also the second item. 

For example, in the first sentence, the speaker wants to make a clear distinction between their food and drink order. In the second sentence, perhaps the speaker is trying to express that, typically, bread would be enough, but in this case, they also want to eat fish.

Sentence 5 with Adverbs of Frequency:

我想再吃一个这种面包。- Level 17
Wǒ xiǎng zài chī yīge zhè zhǒng miànbāo
I’d like to eat one piece of this type of bread again.

再 (zài) before an action communicates that you’ve done it before, and you want to do it again. While English usually places “again” at the end of the sentence, Chinese stays consistent by placing the adverb before the action. 

Note: 再 (zài) refers to something happening again in the present or future, not the past.                                   

Sentence 6:

我经常交朋友。- Level 20
Wǒ jīngcháng jiāo péngyǒu
I often make friends. 

经常 (jīngcháng) and 常常 (chángcháng) are interchangeable as adverbs. Sometimes 经常 (jīngcháng) can be used in adjective form, but we’ll save that for another article. By the way, the negative for both 经常 (jīngcháng) and 常常 (chángcháng) is 不常 (bùcháng). Replace the “经”(jīng) with “不”(bù) to make the above sentence “I don’t often make friends.”

Sentence 7:

写得不完美,我又写了一次。- Level 21
Xiě de bù wánměi, wǒ yòu xǐe le yī cì
It’s not written perfectly, I wrote it again.

Chinese makes a distinction between things that happened again and things that will happen again. In the above sentence, the re-writing is already complete. Compare these sentences to help clarify the distinctions:

我写了一次:I wrote it once.
我又写了一次:I wrote it again.
我再写一次:I will write it again.

Other adverbs of frequency you’ll see as you move through our course:

Adverbs Indicating Low Frequency:

从不 cóngbù – never
从来不 cóngláibù – never
很少 hěn shǎo – seldom

Adverbs Indicating Medium Frequency:

偶尔 ǒu’ěr – occasionally
有时(候) yǒushíhòu – sometimes
通常 tōngcháng – generally, ordinarily, as a rule
往往 wǎngwǎng – often, frequently
平时 píngshí – ordinarily
平常 píngcháng – usually, ordinarily, generally

时时 shíshí – often, constantly
不时 bùshí – from time to time
时常 shícháng – often, frequently

Adverbs Indicating High Frequency:

一直 yìzhí – continuously, always
老是 lǎoshi – always, all the time (negative)
始终 shǐzhōng – from start to finish
一向 yíxiàng – consistently, all along
向来 xiànglái – always, all along
从来 cónglái – from the past till the present, always, at all times, all along
频繁 pínfán – frequent, often
一连 yìlián – in a row, in succession, running
接连 jiēlián – on end, in a row, in succession

连连 liánlián – repeatedly, again and again
历来 lìlái – all through the ages
屡屡 lǚlǚ – time and again, repeatedly
屡次 lǚcì – time and again, repeatedly
频频 pínpín – again and again