Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Repeatedly and Frequently

Repeatedly vs Frequently

Repeatedly, frequently. Yet another pair of English adverbs that make our world a little more complex than it already is. They both refer to executing an action more than once or several times, yet one can’t just say ‘I go to the mall repeatedly’ or ‘this morning, I brushed the lint off my suit frequently until it was again bearable for wearing’. It just sounds off and quite awkward, doesn’t it? And it only takes common sense really for one to detect that something is not right. Confusing may they be, they, for sure, have their individual definition and usage.

If you’d look it up in the dictionary, repeatedly means ‘done in repetition’ or, more simply, ‘done several times’. An action or instance that happens repeatedly means that it occurs again and again. Although it connotes repetition, it does not give a hint as to with what intervals the recurrence takes place. Recurrence can actually be over a period of time with varying interval duration. For example, when one says ‘he repeatedly violated the law’, we can deduce that the subject committed offenses against the law twice or more but it leaves a hanging question on whether they all took place within a lifetime, within a year, within an hour or within a minute. Solely by itself, it can not imply the length of interval with which the instances happened. Another example: ‘Jane repeatedly changed her hairdo’ would tell us that the subject shifted to one hairstyle from another several times but does not indicate how often it actually happened. There is simply no clue of regularity. The same goes with ‘Dad repeatedly advised him to stay focused’. We have no idea whether the repetition happened in one day or throughout the subject’s lifetime.

A less broad term would be ‘frequently’. By definition, it means ‘done many times at short intervals’ or ‘done habitually’. When an instance takes place frequently, it implies that it is done regularly on relatively short intervals. Like repeatedly, the action occurs several times. However, more than once is not necessarily enough to qualify as frequent. For instance, saying ‘I went out of the country thrice’ is not particularly the same as saying ‘I went out of the country frequently’. It is for the reason that the former did not indicate a period or interval to qualify it as something frequent. But if one considers a specified period of time or an interval length such as in the case of ‘I went out of the country thrice a month’, then that is tantamount to saying the subject did go abroad frequently. Further examples like ‘Sam comes here frequently to watch your show’, ‘We go to IHOP frequently’, and ‘Dennis and Angela have been seeing each other frequently’ all connote that the action occur regularly at short intervals- may be once a week in this specific set of examples.

Here are two guide questions to help you determine the right adverb to use. First, does the repetition happen regularly over a period of time? If the answer is yes, use frequently. Otherwise, go for the broader term- repeatedly. Second, did the action occur not more than thrice? If yes, then the appropriate word is repeatedly.

Summary

  1. Frequently and repeatedly are English adverbs that both connote repetitive occurrence.
  2. Repeatedly is a broader term.
  3. Repeatedly means ‘done in repetition’ or ‘done several times’. It does not imply regularity or length of interval.
  4. Frequently means ‘done many times at short intervals’ or ‘done habitually’. There is regularity in the repetitions over a period of time.
  5. Two guide questions to determine which one to use: First, does the repetition happen regularly over a period of time? Second, did the action occur not more than thrice?

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you , sir. It was really helpful for me…..and ig helped me to explain one of my friends and rectify him……..thank you again

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