Inversion and Fronting

Inversion and fronting occur when we invert the normal sentence order. In this lesson, we will study these two grammatical structure.

"Inversion and Fronting" in the English Grammar

What Is Inversion?

Inversion is the noun of the verb 'invert meaning 'to reverse.' The normal word order of a typical sentence in English is subject + verb. When we change the normal word order of a sentence, inversion happens.

When Do We Use Inversion?

Most commonly, we use inversion when we want to form a question. However, inversion happens in other situations:

In Questions

A statement has the subject (s) + verb (v), but to form a question, we invert the subject and the verb, with an auxiliary (aux) or modal verb (m) before the subject (s). We can use inversion to form yes-no questions and wh- questions, we should know that inversion does not normally appear in indirect questions.

They are dancing. → Are they dancing?

He swims. → Does he swim?

Mathew can sing. → Can Mathew sing?

Sara is watching tv. → What is sara watching?

Negative Adverbs of Frequency

When we use adverbs that have a negative meaning, such as 'never,' 'seldom,' 'rarely,' 'scarcely,' 'hardly' in the front position for emphasis in a sentence, we invert the subject and auxiliary or modal verb.

Tip!

Note that these types of sentences are used in formal styles of writing.

Common Negative Adverbs

  • hardly
  • rarely
  • scarcely
  • never
  • seldom

Never had she been so confused.

Seldom have I seen a movie that was so full of emotions.

Expressions Beginning With 'Not'

'Not' in the beginning of a sentence followed by a prepositional phrase or a clause also inverts the sentence.There are Expressions that starts with "not" which can make inversions:

  • not only
  • not for one moment
  • not since
  • not until

Not since they went to Cliffland have I met them altogether.

Not for one moment did I think he would leave me like that.

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.

Here comes the bride.

Here you go, sir.

There goes the phone. I'll answer it.

using fronting in a sentence

Inversion in Conditional Sentences

Inversion in English can be used with third conditional sentences and second conditional sentences, in third conditional we can invert the subject and had to replace "if" and in second conditional sentences with were when the subject and were can replace if by inversion:

If we had done this before, we would have done a better job now!

Had we done this before, we would have done a better job now!

third conditional

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Were it easy, everybody would be doing it.

second conditional

After 'So + Adjective...That'

sometimes we can place ‘so’ at the beginning + an adjective and that. Let’s see some example:

The boy was so happy that he was jumping up and down.

Normal word order

So happy was the boy that he was jumping up and down.

Inverted

Expressions Involving ''No''

Here are some examples of expressions containing "No" to make inversions:

  • under no circumstances
  • at no time
  • in no way
  • no sooner

On no account must we turn against each other.

Under no circumstances would we sign that contract.

Expressions Beginning With "Only"

There are some expressions starting with "Only" that the inversion happens right after them, and there are some expressions starting with "Only" that the inversion happens in the second clause.

here are some expressions which the inversion happens right after them:

  • only with
  • only now
  • only later
  • only then

Only later did I realize why the joke was funny.

Only then did they know this was a big mistake.

Here are some expressions which the inversion happens in the second clause:

  • only when
  • only once
  • only if
  • only after

Only if I study very good, will I get good grades.

Only after she finished her work, was she able to go and see her friends.

Expressions with "Little" and "Such"

"Little" and "Such" are less commonly used in daily English.

Little did we know that we had just started the journey of our life.

Such was the wind that we couldn't open the window.

What Do We Mean By 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 important, we bring it to the front of the sentence. This is called 'fronting' (also called front-focus or preposing).

I bought a brand new smartphone. And a very expensive smartphone it was.

At the back of the garden stood an old shed.

He keeps saying hurtful things. This type of behavior I can't stand anymore.

Words like adjuncts or complements normally are not 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.

Deliberately, she tried to mislead them.

All of a sudden, the lights went out.

When we place a prepositional phrase in the front position, often the order of the subject and the verb is changed.

Around the corner stood a little shop.

In front of me was the famous actor Johnny Depp.

In informal situations, sometimes we take the subject or object from within the clause and put it at the front of the clause. This is often done when the noun phrase is too long and we usually use a pronoun to replace it.

That old man over there with the hat and the stick, he works in the pharmacy.

That restaurant I told you about, it has added new foods to its menu.

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