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Is it correct to say "I very seldom do something"?

It sounds strange to me.

How to emphasize "seldom" or "rarely"?

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  • "I very seldom do something" sounds perfectly normal to this US English speaker, except maybe for the fact that we say "rarely" more often than "seldom". Very is a perfectly correct way to emphasize it.
    – stangdon
    Nov 4, 2016 at 15:04
  • Very rarely and very seldom are both idiomatic (in BrE) and the former is the more common.
    – Mick
    Nov 4, 2016 at 15:04
  • What @Mick, stangdon said - per this NGram, rarely has become more common everywhere in recent decades, but this relatively recent usage switch is far more marked in AmE, Nov 4, 2016 at 16:07
  • "I seldom do" sounds more natural; accentuating it seems redundant. Jan 23, 2019 at 3:47
  • @Mick I (UK NW) find 'very seldom' jarring. Google 2-grams show the ratio of current tokens for 'very seldom' to 'very rarely' to be about 1 : 4 in 'BrE'. Dec 1, 2022 at 14:49

3 Answers 3

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I think the right answer is to say:

I hardly ever do something

It looks more clearer and formal, the only thing I am not sure enough about is you want to emphasize that would be not academically correct, you may say for example I do hardly ever, for example, waste my time watching TV and so on.

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  • This is a good comment, but doesn't actually address the question. Dec 1, 2022 at 14:44
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Your sentences are fine, but if you want variety there are many expressions that are synonymous with "seldom" which you can swap in. Some are idiomatic, and they all represent varying degrees of frequency.

He rarely plays football

He plays football, but only once in a while

She likes to play piano once in a blue moon

She occasionally plays the piano

They don't go to the movies very often

They go to the movies every now and then

I hardly ever speak Japanese these days

I speak Japanese these days, but only on and off.

My roommate scarcely ever washes the dishes

My roommate washes the dishes from time to time

He visits only very infrequently

His visits are few and far between.

Then there are various other idiomatic expressions which imply infrequency, but also refer to other factors (like mood, situation, etc.)

I do it when I feel like it

I do it when the time is right

I do it when the mood hits me

I do it when the stars are aligned

And others.

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I very seldom do say things like that.

I very rarely do speak to them.

He very rarely does play football.

This is called using emphatic helping verb. It can be used in the simple past too:

They rarely did use sugar in their recipe.

I have explained the EMPHATIC usage here. For REGULAR usage, just remove the helping verb.

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  • This is incorrect. You should not be using do.
    – Mick
    Nov 4, 2016 at 15:57
  • As @Mick says, unless the specific context calls for an exception for some reason, those first three would be better as: He very rarely plays football; I very rarely speak to them; I very rarely say things like that.
    – J.R.
    Nov 4, 2016 at 15:57
  • There is such a thing as emphatic use of the verb and it could be used here. I am NOT SAYING that //He very rarely play football// is not right. I am saying that: He very rarely DOES play football is a particular USAGE called emphatic usage.
    – Lambie
    Nov 4, 2016 at 16:06
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    @Lambie: I think the only natural context for, say, He rarely does play football requires stress on does. And it's not just emphasis in the general sense - it only really works in contexts where it's effectively in refutation of a preceding assertion (or strong implication) that he plays football (with unspecified frequency, so the refutation is intended to deny that he does so often enough for this to be important). Nov 4, 2016 at 16:15
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    @Lambie: I didn't downvote, but I agree wholeheartedly with what J.R. says above. The only context in which your examples would normally occur is relatively unusual (if not contrived), so it wouldn't normally be helpful to learners. And it would be potentially counterproductive if they just assumed the "emphasis" simply applied to the statement itself, rather than refutation of some preceding or implicit assertion. Nov 4, 2016 at 17:22

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