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.

2 Answers 2


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.


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.

  • 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. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 8:36
  • @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
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 8:49
  • @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) Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 8:50
  • @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
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 8:58
  • 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
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 9:47

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