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English Grammar: Inversion

Inversion of the verb before the subject is a common phenomenon in English sentences. The natural order of English sentences is (subject + verb + . . . .) but sometimes it becomes (verb + subject). Inversion is most common with question form of the sentences. However, there are few other circumstances where inversion of subject and verb occurs.

Inversion in questions:

Almost all forms of interrogative sentences (without subject questions and embedded questions) use inversion. These sentences always place the auxiliary verb before the subject.
  • Is he going to the club?
  • Did he go to the club?
  • Where is the club?
  • Who is that guy standing there? (No inversion for it is a subject question)

Inversion in other expressions:

Many other negative and affirmative sentences use inversion.
1. Affirmative and negative agreement: only after so, nor, neither but not in the cases of either and too
  • Alex went to the club, and so did
  • Alex went to the club, and Jenny did too. (No inversion)
  • Robert hasn’t reached yet, neither has
  • Robert hasn’t reached yet; Robin hasn’t either. (No inversion)
  • Russel is not a footballer, and nor is
2. Negative adverbial expressions at the beginning of the sentence.
  • In no way should we accept their offer.
  • Little did they know about me.
  • Never has he felt so embarrassed.
  • Seldom do they go
  • Rarely do we see gypsies.
  • Hardly ever do they talk to each other.
3. Beginning with only not only.
  • Only if they come would I go
  • Only by researching can you solve this problem.
  • Only after lunch can you play.
  • Not only did they kill the adults, but they killed also the children.

4. Adverbials at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Hardly had I reached there, he left.
  • Seldom does the teacher finishes his class early.
  • Rarely does Alex forget to do his
5. Adverbs of place (here & there) at the beginning of a sentence. This type of sentence requires the main verb (not the auxiliary verb) to come before the subject.
  • There is a lady standing in front of the club.
  • Here comes the king.
  • Here is your home-made cola.
  • There are so many people in that field.
 6. Some prepositional phrases at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Into the room came she when I was sleeping.
  • Behind me cries a child.
  • Over the table hangs a painting.
7. Conditionals without the conjunction
  • Had he been there, he could have seen it.
  • Were I the president, I could do the good things.
  • Were he my brother, I would support him to reach his dreams.
  • Should you go there, I will go with you.
Source: Learn Grammar

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