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?

What Do We Mean by Inversion?

Inversion is the noun of the verb 'invert.' 'To invert' means '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.

For example, 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).

They are dancing. → Are they dancing?

He swims. → Does he swim?

Mathew can sing. → Can Mathew sing?

When Do We Use Inversion?

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

  1. Negative adverbs
  2. Here and there
  3. Sentences beginning with not

Negative Adverbs

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

Common Negative Adverbs

  1. not
  2. neither
  3. nor
  4. hardly
  5. only
  6. rarely
  7. scarcely
  8. no way
  9. never
  10. at no time
  11. seldom

Never had she been so confused.

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

Adverbs Here and There

using fronting in a sentence

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 a main verb without an auxiliary verb or modal verb.

Here comes the bride.

Here's your cappuccino, sir.

There goes the phone. I’ll answer it.

Sentences Beginning with Not

'Not' in the beginning of a sentence followed by a prepositional phrase or a clause also inverts the sentence.

Not for a second did I believe a word he said to me.

Not only do I want a brand new phone, I want a laptop, too.

Fronting

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.

Review

Inversion and fronting mean to put the words in other orders that are actually correct as well and imply particular purposes.

We use inversion for:

Negative adverbs
Here and there
Sentences beginning with not

We use fronting with:

phrases complements
adjuncts clauses

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