Guide to Adverbs of Frequency in Japanese

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Guide to Adverbs of Frequency in Japanese'

Anna Baffa Volpe

7 min reading time

Adverbs tell us when, how, why or where the action occurs. They modify a verb, a noun, an adjective, another adverb or a complete sentence. They can also provide us with information on the manner, quantity, frequency, time and place.

Adverbs of frequency gives us information about the time. They specify when or how often some action happens. There are many adverbs in this category in Japanese. In this post we are going to learn some of them, how they work, and when to use them.


How to form an adverb from an adjective

Adjectives in い

For adjectives ending in "i" or "ii" the い is omitted and く is added:

(たの)しい
(たの)
(たの)
(みじか)しい
(みじか)
(みじか)
()
()
()

Adjectival use:

(たの)しい(ひと)

A pleasant person

Adjective in い + noun

Adverbial use:

(たの)しく(なは)

Speak pleasantly

Adverb + verb

Adjectives in な

For the adjectives in "na" instead replace the particle な with に (ni):

(しず)かな
(しず)
(しず)
(ゆう)(かん)
(ゆう)(かん)
(ゆう)(かん)
(かん)(たん)
(かん)(たん)
(かん)(たん)

Adjectival use:

(しず)かな()(しょ)

A quiet place

Adjective in “na” + noun

Adverbial use:

(しず)かに(はな)

Speak calmly

Adverb + verb

There are also many adverbs that do not derive from adjectives. Those must be studied and learned in their original form.

Adverbs of time

If we take the following series that expresses the week (しゅう):

  • (こん)(しゅう) this week
  • (せん)(しゅう) last week
  • 先々(せんせん)(しゅう) two weeks ago
  • (らい)(しゅう) next week
  • ()(らい)(しゅう) in two weeks

We can add:

  • The prefix (まい) which means every, all
  • The terms that indicate the time: day, week, month, year, times

These 2 together for a new adverb of frequency:

  • (まい)(にち) every day
  • (まい)(しゅう) every week
  • (まい)(つき) every month
  • (まい)(とし) every year
  • (まい)(かい) every time
  • (まい)(あさ) every morning
  • (まい)(ばん) every night

These adverbs are usually placed at the beginning of the sentence:

(まい)(あさ)(はや)()きる。

I wake up early every morning.

In this sentence we have two adverbs: (まい)(あさ) and (はや)く (soon) which derives from the adjective in い (はや)い.

Frequency adverbs

The series with (まい) anticipates the type of adverbs defined by frequency; these adverbs describe how often we do or do not perform a certain action.

The adverb can often be found in several forms:

  • よく
  • しょっちゅう
  • たびたび
あの(ひと)はしょっちゅうツイートしている。

That person often posts on Twitter.

(わたし)はよく()(しょ)(かん)(べん)(きょう)する。

I often study in the library.

いつも - Always

いつも refers to an action that is always carried out, with constancy and continuity.

学校(がっこう)(あと)、いつもスポーツする。

I always do sports after class.

普通 and 普段 - Usually

An action that is carried out in general, generally or usually, is expressed with the adverbs ()(つう) or ()(だん), which are often accompanied by the particle は.

()(つう)(ある)いて学校(がっこう)()く。

I usually walk to school.

()(だん)学校(がっこう)(あと)(なに)をしているの。

What do you usually do after class?

時々 - Sometimes

時々(ときどき) is used if the actions we perform are not so frequent, actions that we perform sometimes, which we happen to perform, but not with a certain frequency.

時々(ときどき)(りょう)()(つく)る。

I cook sometimes.

I'm probably out all day, studying outside, working outside the home and dining outside, but sometimes I cook at home

たまに - Once in a while

As I proceed, the frequency with which I perform an action decreases and therefore it happens that I occasionally, once in a while, do something, with the adverb たまに.

たまにコンサートに()く。

Once in a while he goes to a concert.

あまり combined with the negative form of a verb translates not much and refers to an action that for various reasons we do not happen to perform, except on a few occasions. It also indicates something that we do not like very much:

(ぎゅう)(にゅう)があまり()きではない。

I don't like milk very much.

スポーツをあまりしない。

I don't do much sport.

めったに - Rarely

When you use めったに it is very rare that you perform the action. It is not excluded that you do that thing, but it is really really rare:

めったに(おこ)らない。

It almost never happens that I get angry.

決して and 絶対 - Never

If we reduce to zero the chances of an action being performed, we find the adverb (けっ)して combined with the negative form of the verb.

The expression (けっ)して is mainly found in a written rather than colloquial form.
(けっ)して(わす)れない。

I'll never forget it.

We can also find the form 絶対(ぜったい), always in conjunction with a verb in the negative form:

絶対(ぜったい)()(こく)()()ない。

I absolutely can't be late.

In this last example we find the potential form expressed with the verb ()()る in the negative.

The sense of the sentence is that the chances of me being late are zero; it could be an important meeting or an exam which I cannot miss.


In this post we learn some adverbs of frequency in Japanese: from the most frequency (いつも, always) to the least frequent ((けっ)して, never).

Of course there are many more adverbs in this category. You can subscribe to our newsletter here below to stay always up to date and never miss a new update 👇

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