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It's probably not right to compare two different adverbs. Often at the beginning of a sentence and before "don't" means there are occasions when I don't do something. (As in Often, I don't see her/I don't often see her here). But if I am talking about habits sentences #3 and #4 does the word order in them express that "there are occasions when I don't drink coffee? And can I use this word order if I am not talking about habits sentences 1 and 2 and if I am talking about something that often happens 5and 6?

  1. I sometimes don't see them here.

  2. Sometimes I don't see them here.

  3. I sometimes don't drink coffee.

  4. Sometimes I don't drink coffee.

  5. Sometimes I don't know what date it is.

  6. I sometimes don't know what date it is.

Or does this word order with sometimes work in specific contexts?

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    I really think this was answered in the question you already posed here: Don't occasionally/don't sometimes When you use 'don't' and 'sometimes' together, the ordering has to be right.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 4, 2022 at 10:42
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    @Astralbee, it's a different question. And while one of the people who snswered my question said 3 4 can't be used the other native speakers said they are correct. That's why I had to ask a new question about another problem with these sentences. And it's not the question about sometimes between the verbs. Jul 4, 2022 at 10:51
  • @Astralbee, in one of my previous threads I have discussed the difference between often in different positions. This new question is also the question which compares habits, things that often happen and other situations. Jul 4, 2022 at 10:53
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    This question, while related, is in my view significantly different from the linked question, and should not be closed as a duplicate. Jul 16, 2022 at 17:36
  • @DavidSiegel, thank you! Jul 18, 2022 at 6:19

2 Answers 2

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  1. I sometimes don't see them here.

  2. Sometimes I don't see them here.

  3. I sometimes don't drink coffee.

  4. Sometimes I don't drink coffee.

  5. Sometimes I don't know what date it is.

  6. I sometimes don't know what date it is.

All of these (1 thru 6) are grammatically acceptable. Each implies that the action usually does occur. It makes no difference whether the action is "habitual" or merely common, but it should at least be more common than not to use this form.

The paired sentences 1&2, 3&4, 5&6 are essentially identical in meaning. The changed word order will not be reliably understood as making a particular change in meaning.

Using this form of a negated adverb of frequency ("sometimes don't" or "don't sometimes") is a bit unusual, and calls attention to the writing, and to the exception. In some contexts it would be quite natural, in others a bit odd.

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As was explained in my answer to this question, negated adverbs of frequency depend on what is usual, or what is expected. For example, it doesn't make sense to say we "sometimes don't do" something that we don't normally do anyway - it would make more sense to say that we occasionally do it.

If you say "sometimes I don't drink coffee", the inference is that you normally do drink it, but you're telling us about the exception to those times. So what is that exception? What do you drink when you don't drink it? If you're not going to tell us in the wider context what you occasionally drink as an alternative or the reason why you just don't drink anything, then the whole statement seems redundant. We would probably instead say "I usually drink coffee", which makes a positive statement about your habits, allows for an exception, but doesn't demand that you tell us about it because the exception is not the subject of the statement.

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  • The question is can I use sometimes in the following way only if I am talking about things that often happen but not about habits? Do I understand the previous explanation from the previous thread correctly? Thus, I sometimes don't see her. Sometimes I don't see her. I don't see her sometimes. I sometimes don't know what date it is. Sometimes I don't know what day it is. I don't know what date it is sometimes can be used but "I sometimes don't drink coffee", I don't drink coffee sometimes, sometimes I don't drink coffee can't be used because this is about habits. Right? Jul 4, 2022 at 11:45
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    @AntoniaA I would say that something that a regular occurrence and something that is habitual are more or less the same for this purpose - 'habitual' just meaning the habit of a person rather than something that occurs naturally. You need to be clear if you are talking about an exception to something that happens, or is done regularly, or if you are making the point that something rarely happens, or is rarely done.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 4, 2022 at 12:23

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