Sometimes [= what frequency?]

longslope

Member
Japanese
Hello, everyone.

This time I'd like to ask you about the range in frequency that "sometimes" indicates.
I can imagine the frequencies that "often", "many times", "seldom", and rarely" indicate. On the other hand, I cannot imagine the frequency that "sometimes" indicates. It seems that "sometimes" covers very wide range in frequency.


#1. He sometimes visits my house.
When you read the above sentence, how often do you think he visits my house?
The Japanese language has several expressions that indicate various degrees in frequency. However, my dictionaries say that "sometimes" is an only translation for them.
Should I give up to describe with a single word the degrees in frequency that "sometimes" indicates" in English?
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    When I read that sentence, I don't think he visits me regularly or frequently. He will visit my house from time to time. There is no set routine to the visits. I wouldn't take a message to deliver to him, for example, because I wouldn't really know when he would visit me next.

    To me, "sometimes" is closest to "occasionally" in most contexts.

    What might help is for you to provide the descriptions (in English) of these different Japanese words that are all translated to "sometimes". We might be able to offer words for the different shades of meaning.
     

    longslope

    Member
    Japanese
    When I read that sentence, I don't think he visits me regularly or frequently. He will visit my house from time to time. There is no set routine to the visits. I wouldn't take a message to deliver to him, for example, because I wouldn't really know when he would visit me next.

    To me, "sometimes" is closest to "occasionally" in most contexts.

    What might help is for you to provide the descriptions (in English) of these different Japanese words that are all translated to "sometimes". We might be able to offer words for the different shades of meaning.
    Thank you for the feedback, JamesM.

    Then, I'll show you several Japanese expressions with the descriptions of them. The translations of them are all "sometimes" in my dictionaries.
    There are a lot of similar expressions in Japanese, but I think we can roughly divide them following two groups.

    << Japanese deleted. >>
     
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    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    You can't generally assume that "sometimes" means anything more than "some times", i.e. "a few times". It is also subjective, depending on the age of the speaker and on how often he has visitors. It could be as infrequent as once a year, or as frequent as every few days.
     

    longslope

    Member
    Japanese
    You can't generally assume that "sometimes" means anything more than "some times", i.e. "a few times". It is also subjective, depending on the age of the speaker and on how often he has visitors. It could be as infrequent as once a year, or as frequent as every few days.
    Thank you for a comment, Pertinax.

    I think I understand what you mean. However, any adverb or adjective is more or less subjective. We can say the same thing about Japanese adverbs and adjectives.
    However, we try to discriminate the subtle nuances of what "sometimes" means when we write something in Japanese. I feel a little confused when I write the same thing in English, because it seems that there are only two expressions; "sometimes" and "occasionally" in English.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Seldom, rarely, on occasion, infrequently, on rare occasions, not often, once in a while.
    that's seven more you can add to your list!
    if I do somethng thirty times a day and occasionally fail, I might fail once or twice a day. If I do something else thirty times a decade and occasionally fail, I might fail once or twice a decade. So, "occasionally" varies tremendously
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Oh, there are many, many more than two. :) Sometimes, infrequently, occasionally, from time to time, at times, sporadically, intermittently, off and on, willy-nilly, fitfully, irregularly, in fits and starts, once in a blue moon, when I get the urge, out of the blue... to name a few. :^)

    I think the shortage of words that you have been given is a failure of your dictionary rather than a lack of words or phrases in English that have different nuances.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    If you look in our thesaurus, or click the 'English 'synonyms' link beneath the search box above the definition of sometimes, you will find a long list of possible synonyms.

    To get the nuances of difference between them, you can give us an example sentence along with two or three words you are interested in, and ask what difference in meaning they might have in that context.
     

    longslope

    Member
    Japanese
    Oh, there are many, many more than two. :) Sometimes, infrequently, occasionally, from time to time, at times, sporadically, intermittently, off and on, willy-nilly, fitfully, irregularly, in fits and starts, once in a blue moon, when I get the urge, out of the blue... to name a few. :^)

    I think the shortage of words that you have been given is a failure of your dictionary rather than a lack of words or phrases in English that have different nuances.
    Thank you for the information.

    I understand that I have to look up words more carefully.
     

    longslope

    Member
    Japanese
    If you look in our thesaurus, or click the 'English 'synonyms' link beneath the search box above the definition of sometimes, you will find a long list of possible synonyms.

    To get the nuances of difference between them, you can give us an example sentence along with two or three words you are interested in, and ask what difference in meaning they might have in that context.
    Thank you for your advice.

    I found the following eight phrases as synonyms for "sometimes":
    at times, at intervals, now and then, seldom, occasionally, from time to time, on occasion.

    Would you please tell me the differences in meaning among these phrases?

    I tried to write the following eight sentences including these eight phrase in each, according to the explanation in the dictionaries and my impression about each phrase.

    #1. He sometimes visits his mother because he lives far from her house.
    #2. He at times visits his mother despite he lives far from her house. (less frequent than "sometimes"?)
    #3. He at intervals visits his mother despite he lives far from her house. (regularly?)
    #4. Now and then, I see him visit his mother despite he lives far from her house. (without intent?)
    #5. He seldom visits his mother despite he lives near her house. (really synonym??)
    #6. He occasionally visits his mother despite he lives near her house. (less frequent than "sometimes" or "at times"?)
    #7. From time to time, he visits his mother. (less frequent than "sometimes"? literary expression?)
    #8. He visits his mother on occasion despite he lives near her house. (nearly equal "occasionally?)

    I'm very sorry I used too many phrases to explain.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It is not possible to determine a quantitative value for the frequency (such as the number of visits per year) simply from the words used in those sentences - if that is the basis for your question. The use of the word "despite" already reveals something about the expectations of the writer in how often the person should visit his mother. In any case, it is not possible to "rank" these in numerical order of frequency because thay are all "non-quantitative" in nature and are simply word variations describing an event that does not happen as often/infrequently as the writer expects. It may be possible to rank, on an absolute basis of frequency, some similar words in your language : you might be able to state that " the frequency of occurrence increases in the words ordered as A(means lowest frequency) B (more frequent than A but less than C) etc. and H almost :eek: means "often"" but that is nor possible for these English words/phrases. The choice of words will depend on what the writer is trying to emphasize and whether "quantitative precision" is even part of their goal or not.

    (There are some grammatical errors in your set of sentences but that's not what my response is about except the major one: Despite the fact that he lives near her house)
     

    longslope

    Member
    Japanese
    It is not possible to determine a quantitative value for the frequency (such as the number of visits per year) simply from the words used in those sentences - if that is the basis for your question. The use of the word "despite" already reveals something about the expectations of the writer in how often the person should visit his mother. In any case, it is not possible to "rank" these in numerical order of frequency because thay are all "non-quantitative" in nature and are simply word variations describing an event that does not happen as often/infrequently as the writer expects. It may be possible to rank, on an absolute basis of frequency, some similar words in your language : you might be able to state that " the frequency of occurrence increases in the words ordered as A(means lowest frequency) B (more frequent than A but less than C) etc. and H almost :eek: means "often"" but that is nor possible for these English words/phrases. The choice of words will depend on what the writer is trying to emphasize and whether "quantitative precision" is even part of their goal or not.

    (There are some grammatical errors in your set of sentences but that's not what my response is about except the major one: Despite the fact that he lives near her house)
    Dear JulianStuart,

    I'm very sorry that I bothered you with my pointless question. And thank you for point out my grammatical error.

    If you don't mind, I'd like to try to ask you again about the differences in meanings among the several phrases that I found.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Dear JulianStuart,

    I'm very sorry that I bothered you with my pointless question. And thank you for point out my grammatical error.

    If you don't mind, I'd like to try to ask you again about the differences in meanings among the several phrases that I found.
    It was not a pointless question - simply one that is not really "answerable" - and you don't find that out if you don't ask. I asked the same sort of question of my Japanese teacher about a similar issue and didn't get a "quantitative" answer either!
     

    longslope

    Member
    Japanese
    It was not a pointless question - simply one that is not really "answerable" - and you don't find that out if you don't ask. I asked the same sort of question of my Japanese teacher about a similar issue and didn't get a "quantitative" answer either!
    Thank you for your reply.

    As you pointed out, we cannot expect a quantitative answer for such kind of words and phrases. Then, I'd like to show you a situation first. Then I will ask you a question.

    Situation:
    Mrs. A has a son who lives with his family; his wife and daughter.
    Her son visits her two or three times a month. His wife visits her with him about once a month. All of his family members visit her three or four times a year. Mrs. A doesn't think that they often visit her, but she doesn't think that they seldom visit her either.

    Question:
    What are the suitable words or phrases to describe the frequency of the visit from her son, her daughter-in-law, and her grandchild individually, when Mrs. A talk about their visits?


    Thank you in advance.
     

    HalfEmptyHero

    Member
    American English
    I usually don't use "sometimes" to voice quantity, but rather use it with the intention of being vague. This shows up in the following context: My friend says to me, "Do you like bowling?" I would reply, "Sometimes." The reason I do that is because I don't bowl but I don't want to tell him that I don't bowl. It would almost be rude of me to no, as this person is probably going to ask me if I want to go bowling with him.
    longslope said:
    Situation: Mrs. A has a son who lives with his family; his wife and daughter. Her son visits her two or three times a month. His wife visits her with him about once a month. All of his family members visit her three or four times a year. Mrs. A doesn't think that they visit her often enough, but she doesn't think that they visit her too seldom either.
    The "too seldom" still sounds a little weird. In this situation I would simply say "They visit her a few times a month" or "They visit her a few times a year" respectively. Using "sometimes" here would be too vague and would not get the point across.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I think longslope is asking for words and phrases that definitely fit between the limits set by "often" and "seldom" in terms of frequency. Those words clearly have specific meaning for Mrs. A. because she states that two or three times a month is not "often" and two or three times a year is not "seldom".

    Most of the phrases identified so far would seem to fit here, longslope, except of course seldom and rarely. She might feel sometimes or occasionally describe the frequency of whole family visits because of how she personally uses the word "seldom". From time to time would fit. On occasion does not seem to carry the nuance of the regularity with which these visits seem to occur - regularly can mean at regular intervals whether the intervals are short or long. So they could all visit regularly even if at different frequencies! The overlap of all of these is quite extensive.
     
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