Usually, when talking about adverbs of frequency, we put them under the topic of "Simple Present Tense". Because in this tense we consider habits and routines and adverbs of frequency are the most useful phrases that we can describe our routines frequency by. My question is if we can use the adverbs of frequency in other cases e.g. present continuous tense or other tenses.
If the answer to the first question is "yes", what is the difference between these two sentences in their meanings:
- He always complains about the food.
- He’s always complaining about the food.
- Adverbs of frequency can be used in their normal function with any non-continuous tense, including passive voice:
I’ll always return your calls.
She hasn’t often seen them together.
They rarely missed a Saturday night at the park.
He had occasionally taken a stroll before dusk.
With continuous tenses, they usually don’t make sense because continuous tenses refer to the exact present moment as distinct from other moments, while adverbs of frequency refer to a pattern of repeated events. The only way it’s possible is if the continuous event itself is the regular event that happens:
A hot mug of tea was always waiting for me when I came downstairs in the morning.
- Using "always" (and no other adverb of frequency) with any continuous tense is good grammar, and has the function of showing annoyance at something that happens often.
Your second example can be rephrased as:
It’s annoying that he always complains about the food.
Note that my rephrasing is in the present simple, not continuous. None of these variations have any continuous meaning at all.