Where to put 'do not' in sentence where is an adverbs of frequency.


What is difference between sentences below? I mean using of negative don't. At school we have always learnt to use the negative don't before adverbs of frequency. I'm learning British English. I would like to know more about it, the second chance.

I don't often watch TV.

I often don't watch TV.

Thanks for helps.

Ľubomír Masarovič

Posted 2017-02-28T07:46:00.520

Reputation: 867



The difference is in what is the usual as opposed to special.

When you say

I don't often watch TV.

The meaning is that you watch TV rarely. You might watch it once a week or so maybe. Also it is probably more common to say this as, "I don't watch TV often." So the usual state is you don't watch TV, but sometimes you do. So the exception here is that you watch TV.

I often don't watch TV.

Can be parsed as "It is quite common that I don't watch TV." In other words here the usual state is you watch TV but often you don't. Again as an example you might not watch TV 3 days in a week and watch it the rest. Here the exception is that you don't watch TV.

As an addendum with regards to what you learned. Both of the sentences are grammatically correct, they just have a somewhat different meaning.


Posted 2017-02-28T07:46:00.520

Reputation: 1 679


Frequency adverbs like "often", "rarely", "never" , etc. can technically come before or after, and sometimes split, the verb phrase. However, as you've been taught, the better of your two choices would be placing the adverb after the negative verb: "I don't often watch TV" (or better yet, "I don't watch TV very often").

If this was an affirmative statement, you would be just as likely to see the frequency adverb placed before or after the verb. Either of these phrases would be correct:

I often watch TV.


I watch TV often.

The basic rule you've been taught is a good one to follow, although it's by no means a hard-and-fast one. There are exceptions, but there's almost always a better way to restructure the sentence in those cases using a positive verb:

I rarely don't watch TV for a week (correct, but there are better ways to say it).


I rarely go a week without watching TV. (adverb first + affirmative verb, a better choice)


I do not often go a week without watching TV. (adverb second + negative verb, also a better choice)

You can read more about frequency adverb placement here and here.


Posted 2017-02-28T07:46:00.520

Reputation: 970

Dear @MaDGab Is this example I rarely don't watch TV for a week. correct? Rarely and don't in one sentence? I think it isn't correct. Why is negative don't before 'rarely'? I just ask. – Ľubomír Masarovič – 2017-02-28T08:36:52.870

@ĽubomírMasarovič "I rarely don't watch TV for a week." is absolutely fine. You can't switch the order around here though "I don't rarely watch TV for a week." is possibly dialectal, but ungrammatical for a standard speaker IMO. – DRF – 2017-02-28T08:49:26.317

@ĽubomírMasarovič Yes, it's correct. (not sure exactly how helpful it is in the context of the OP's original Q though - even though I upvoted) – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2017-02-28T08:50:21.057

@Araucaria any clue if "I don't rarely watch..." is ok in some dialect? I feel I've heard this sort of inversion but can't place it. – DRF – 2017-02-28T08:58:41.563

1@ĽubomírMasarovič It's a bit of a contrived example, only the sort of thing you'd hear in informal speech when someone hasn't thought their sentence through properly. It's technically correct but there are much less clumsy ways of saying it, like listed below. Think of it as "I rarely (don't watch TV for a week)", that is "not watching TV for a week" is the thing you do rarely. – Muzer – 2017-02-28T09:47:27.937

@Muzer I have read this article link. There is one important sentence - We use them without not. That is the reason why I am a bit confused when I see in one sentence not and rarely together.

– Ľubomír Masarovič – 2017-02-28T11:12:53.810

@ĽubomírMasarovič In some languages you would always use such sentences with "not" and they would mean the same as "he rarely watches TV for a week". In English you don't generally use them with "not", but you CAN technically still use "not" to negate the meaning, and you'll probably be understood - but it sounds clumsy and as I said, isn't the sort of thing you would plan to say. So as another example, "I rarely eat dinner" would mean that you don't eat dinner often, but "I rarely don't eat dinner" while sounding clumsy is a valid way of saying "I usually eat dinner, but not always". – Muzer – 2017-02-28T11:20:16.643