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The order of words in which the subject is placed after the predicate is called inverted order or inversion. There are two types of inversion – partial and complete.


In the case of partial inversion only part of the predicate – the auxiliary or modal verb – is placed before the subject. In the case of complete inversion the whole predicate is placed before the subject.


Partial inversion occurs:

I. In interrogative sentences (except for cases when the interrogative word is the subject of the sentence or an attribute to the subject).

e.g. Have you ever been there? / Cf: Who knows the way? Whoseparents live here?


II. In declarative sentences

a) with negative adverbials at the beginning of the clause/sentence

· after the time adverbials never (before), rarely, seldom; barely/hardly/scarcely…when; nowhere else;

e.g. Seldom did they come to see us.

· after expressions with no and not: not (even) once, on no account, under/in no circumstances, in no way, not since, not only…but (also), at no time, no sooner…than, not until/till, not a single (day/word/person, etc.), on no occasion, neither, nor

e.g. Not since childhood have I been so happy!

e.g. On no account must you discuss it.

e.g. She wasn’t upset. Nor was she disappointed.

e.g. He couldn’t hear. Neither could he see.

· after expressions with the word only: only by (doing sth), only in this way, only then/when/after/later/once/if; only by chance

e.g. Only by doing a lot of exercise did he manage to put off weight.

e.g. Only then did he realize that it was true.

NB Inversion occurs after a clause beginning with only after/by/if/when, not until/till.

e.g. Only after he graduated from med school did he realise that he hated to be a doctor.

e.g. Not until the train pulled into Victoria Station did he find that his wallet had gone.


b) beginning with little (in which case 'little' means 'nothing')

e.g. Little have I seen you lately.

c) beginning with well

e.g. Well did I know my cousin!


d) after “so + adjective…that”, “such + be…that

e.g. The weather conditions became so dangerous that the mountain roads were closed. à So dangerous did the weather conditions become that the mountain roads were closed.

e.g. The play is so popular that the theatre is likely to be full every night. à Such is the popularity of the play that the theatre is likely to be full every night.

e) with the words so, neither, nor, as to express agreement

e.g. I love ice cream. – So do I. // e.g. I don’t like ice cream. – Neither/Nor does she.

e.g. She was a talented musician as was her sister. = She was a talented musician, and so was her sister.


f) with should, were, had when they open a conditional clause instead of if:

e.g. If she should turn up, tell her I’m out. à Should she turn up, tell her I’m out.

e.g. If I were you, I’d stay. à Were I you, I’d stay.

e.g. If I had known about it, I would have stayed. à Had I known about it, I would have stayed.


Complete inversion occurs in the following cases:

1) after verbs of movement and adverbial expressions of place or direction when they come at the beginning of the sentence. (Verbs of movement: to be, to come, to go, to climb, to hang, to lie, to run, to sit, to stand). Inversion of this type doesn’t usually occur with other verbs and is most common after the adverbs here, there, back, down, in, off, up, round placed at the beginning of the sentence.

e.g. Outside the house was a sports car.

e.g. In an armchair sat his mother.

e.g. Here comes the bride.


If the subject is a pronoun, there is NO inversion.

e.g. Here she comes. Up we get. Off we go.


2) in direct speech, when the subject of the introductory verb is a noun

e.g. “Yes,” said Henry/Henry said.

e.g. “Yes,” said the man/the man said.

e.g. “Yes,” he said. (NOT “…said he”)


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