Subject-Verb Inversion

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Subject-Verb Inversion :

The normal English order of subject-verb-completer is disturbed only occasionally but under several circumstances. Burchfield* lists about ten situations in which the subject will come after the verb. The most important of these are as follows (subjects in blue):

  1. In questions (routinely): "Have you eaten breakfast yet?" "Are you ready?"

  2. In expletive constructions: "There were four basic causes of the Civil War." "Here is the book."

  3. In attributing speech (occasionally, but optionally): "'Help me!' cried Farmer Brown."

  4. To give prominence or focus to a particular word or phrase by putting the predicate in the initial position: "Even more important is the chapter dealing with ordnance."

  5. When a sentence begins with an adverb or an adverbial phrase or clause: "Seldom has so much been owed by so many to so few."

  6. In negative constructions: "I don't believe a word she says, nor does my brother. Come to think of it, neither does her father."

  7. After so: "I believe her; so does my brother."

  8. For emphasis and literary effect: "Into the jaws of Death, / Into the mouth of Hell / Rode the six hundred."**

There are other uses of inversion, but most of those result in a strained or literary effect.

English Glossary Index

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