What Is Inversion?
Inversion is mostly used when we want to form a question. However, it might happen in other situations:
The word order of a statement is normally subject (s) + verb (v), but to form a question, we invert the subject and the verb and use an auxiliary or modal verb before the subject. We can use inversion to form yes-no questions and wh- questions. However, keep in mind that inversion does not normally happen in indirect questions. Take a look at the examples below:
Negative Adverbs of Frequency
When we use adverbs that have a negative meaning, such as 'never', 'seldom', 'rarely', 'scarcely', and 'hardly' in the front position in a sentence for emphasis, we invert the subject and auxiliary or modal verb.
Note that these types of sentences are used in formal styles of writing.
Expressions Beginning With 'Not'
- not only
- not for one moment
- not since
- not until
Adverbs Here and There
When 'here' and 'there' are used as adverbs of place at the beginning of a sentence, inversion happens. After 'here' and 'there,' we can use the main verb without an auxiliary verb or modal verb. For example:
Inversion in Conditional Sentences
Inversion can also happen in third conditional and second conditional sentences. In the third conditional, we can invert the subject and 'had' to replace 'if', and in second conditional sentences the subject and 'were' can replace 'if' through inversion:
third conditional with inversion
second conditional with inversion
After 'So + Adjective...That'
Sometimes we can place ‘so’ at the beginning of a sentence followed by an adjective and 'that'. Let’s see some examples:
The boy was so happy that he was jumping up and down.
Normal word order
Expressions Containing ''No''
Here are some examples of expressions with 'No' that require inversion of sentence elements:
- under no circumstances
- at no time
- in no way
- no sooner
Expressions Beginning With 'Only'
There are some expressions that begin with 'Only' and require inversion of subject and verb in the clause introduced by the expression. There are also expressions that start with 'Only' and require inversion in the following clause.
Here are some expressions which require inversion in the same clause:
- only with
- only now
- only later
- only then
Here are some expressions that require inversion in the following clause:
- only when
- only once
- only if
- only after
Expressions with 'Little' and 'Such'
'Little' and 'Such' also require inversion of subject and verb, but are less commonly used in daily English.
What is Fronting?
Normally, the word order in an affirmative sentence is subject + verb + object or complement. However, sometimes, especially in spoken English, when we want to put emphasis on something, we bring it to the front of the sentence. This is called 'fronting' (also called front-focus or preposing). Pay attention to the examples:
I bought a brand new smartphone. And
He keeps saying hurtful things.
Words like adjuncts or complements are not normally placed at the beginning of a sentence. But when we want to put emphasis on them, we place them at the beginning of the clause. This happens mostly in written or formal texts.
When we place a prepositional phrase in the front position, the order of the subject and the verb is often changed. For example:
Sometimes, especially in informal contexts, we take the subject or object from within the clause and put it at the beginning of the clause. This is often done when the noun phrase is too long and we usually use a pronoun to replace it.
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