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INVERSION
In statement it is usual for the verb to follow the subject, but sometimes this word order is
reversed. The re-ordering of information in a sentence gives emphasis in a particular place. Often
this causes an element to be postponed until later in the sentence, focusing attention on it.
INVERSIONAFTER NEGATIVEADVERBIALS
When we begin a sentence with a negative adverb or adverbial phrase, we sometimes have to
change the usual word order of subject and verb (often using an auxiliary verb) because we want
to emphasise the meaning of the adverb. We use inversion when we move a negative adverb
which modifies the verb to the beginning of a sentence.
I had never seen so many people in one room. (= normal word order)
Never had I seen so many people in one room. (= inversion)
There are adverbs and adverbial expressions with a negative, restrictive or emphatic meaning,
which are followed by inversion when placed first in a sentence. The most common adverbs and
adverbial expressions with negative, restrictive or emphatic meaning followed by inversion are:
Seldom, Rarely, Little, Nowhere, Nor even one, In no way, Scarcely/Hardly/Barely … when,
No sooner … than, Not only … but (also) On no occasion/account/condition, In/Under no
circumstances, Only after, Only later, Only once, Only by, Only then, Only when, Only if, Not until,
Never, Never before, Not since, Neither/Not/So, Well (formal) etc:
Well did he remember the night the earthquake struck.
On no occasion was the girl allowed to stay out late.
Never had he had such a terrifying experience.
Little did he know what his decision would lead to.
These structures are normally only used in formal speech and writing. Note that all of these
adverbials can be used without inversion if they come in the normal position.
 NEVER
I have never seen a more obvious case of cheating! (normal position).
Never have I seen a more obvious case of cheating!
 RARELY
Rarely does such a rare painting come on the market.
 SELDOM
Seldom has a scientific discovery had such an impact.
 NO SOONER…THAN
No sooner had I shut the door than I realised I had left my keys inside.
 HARDLY…WHEN
Hardly had the play started when there was a disturbance in the audience.
 SCARCELY… WHEN (than)
Scarcely had they entered the castle when there was a huge explosion.
 ONLY AFTER, ONLY WHEN, ONLY LATER, ONLY THEN, ONLY
Only Jane managed to finish the project on time. (no inversion).
Only in a city as large as this can you find so many foreign restaurants.
Only after we had left the ship did we realise that the captain had remained.
 ON NO CONDITION, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, ON NO ACCOUNT, AT NO TIME, IN NO WAY
Under no circumstances is this door to be left unlocked.
 NOT UNTIL
Not until he stopped to rest did Jack realise that he had been wounded.
Not until the building had been made safe could anyone go back inside.
 NOT ONLY… BUT ALSO
Not only did he lose all the money, but he also found himself in debt.
 LITTLE
Little did anyone suspect what was about to happen.
EXERCISES
1. Underline the best word or phrase:
a. Not only/ Rarely do you see top-rate cameras which are also easy to use.
b. Never I have seen/ Never have I seen such a dramatic end to a football match.
c. What he is talking about/What is he talking about, I have no idea.
d. Only the two members of the French team managed/ did they manage to finish the race.
e. As it may seem strange/ strange as it may seem, he is actually one of the richest men in the world!
f. Hardly had the train pulled out of the station when/than there was a loud screeching sound.
g. Had we known / Had we to have known in advance, we could have done something about it.
h. Hardly/ Little did I know that it would be another three years before I say her again.
2. Write a new sentence with the same meaning, containing the word in capitals.
a. A member of the government rarely admits having made a serious mistake DOES
b. You are not to leave this room under any circumstances. NO
c. The police only later revealed the true identity of the thief. DID
d. It was only after checking the accounts that they realised money was missing. DID
e. The breach of security has not affected the examination results in any way. NO
3. Put one suitable word in each space:
a. Rarely do we find students who are willing to think for themselves.
b. ________ in the polar regions does the temperature fall to such a low level.
c. Little ________anyone suppose that Mrs Robertson was an enemy agent.
d. Scarcely ________everyone left the building when there was a huge explosion.
e. Seldom ________ so many people voted for such an unlikely candidate.
f. Not until doctors examined Brian later ________ anyone realise that he had been shot.
g. No sooner had we reached the bottom of the mountain ______ it started snowing heaving.
h. ________ no circumstances are bags to be taken into the library.
i. Only ______ the airline official checked again did she realise I had been given the wrong ticket.
j. Not only did Harrison break into the house, _______ he also attacked one of the occupants.
k. Never ________ there been a better time to buy a new car.
l. Not only _______ she finish the test before the others in the class, but she also got the
best mark.
KEY
1.
1. Rarely do you see top-rate cameras which are also easy to use.
2. Never have I seen such a dramatic end to a football match.
3. What he is talking about, I have no idea.
4. Only the two members of the French team managed to finish the race.
5. Strange as it may seem, he is actually one of the richest men in the world!
6. Hardly had the train pulled out of the station when there was a loud screeching sound.
7. Had we known in advance, we could have done something about it.
8. Little did I know that it would be another three years before I say her again.
2.
a. Rarely does a member of the government admit having made a serious mistake
b. Under no circumstances are you to leave this room.
c. Only later did the police revealed the true identity of the thief.
d. Only after checking the accounts did they realised money was missing.
e. In no way has the breach of security has not affected the examination results.
3.
a) Do
b) Only
c) Did
d) Had
e) Have
f) Did
g) Than
h) Under
i) When
j) But
k) Has
l) Did

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Inversion grammar and practice

  • 1. INVERSION In statement it is usual for the verb to follow the subject, but sometimes this word order is reversed. The re-ordering of information in a sentence gives emphasis in a particular place. Often this causes an element to be postponed until later in the sentence, focusing attention on it. INVERSIONAFTER NEGATIVEADVERBIALS When we begin a sentence with a negative adverb or adverbial phrase, we sometimes have to change the usual word order of subject and verb (often using an auxiliary verb) because we want to emphasise the meaning of the adverb. We use inversion when we move a negative adverb which modifies the verb to the beginning of a sentence. I had never seen so many people in one room. (= normal word order) Never had I seen so many people in one room. (= inversion) There are adverbs and adverbial expressions with a negative, restrictive or emphatic meaning, which are followed by inversion when placed first in a sentence. The most common adverbs and adverbial expressions with negative, restrictive or emphatic meaning followed by inversion are: Seldom, Rarely, Little, Nowhere, Nor even one, In no way, Scarcely/Hardly/Barely … when, No sooner … than, Not only … but (also) On no occasion/account/condition, In/Under no circumstances, Only after, Only later, Only once, Only by, Only then, Only when, Only if, Not until, Never, Never before, Not since, Neither/Not/So, Well (formal) etc: Well did he remember the night the earthquake struck. On no occasion was the girl allowed to stay out late. Never had he had such a terrifying experience. Little did he know what his decision would lead to. These structures are normally only used in formal speech and writing. Note that all of these adverbials can be used without inversion if they come in the normal position.  NEVER I have never seen a more obvious case of cheating! (normal position). Never have I seen a more obvious case of cheating!  RARELY Rarely does such a rare painting come on the market.  SELDOM Seldom has a scientific discovery had such an impact.  NO SOONER…THAN No sooner had I shut the door than I realised I had left my keys inside.  HARDLY…WHEN Hardly had the play started when there was a disturbance in the audience.  SCARCELY… WHEN (than) Scarcely had they entered the castle when there was a huge explosion.  ONLY AFTER, ONLY WHEN, ONLY LATER, ONLY THEN, ONLY Only Jane managed to finish the project on time. (no inversion). Only in a city as large as this can you find so many foreign restaurants. Only after we had left the ship did we realise that the captain had remained.  ON NO CONDITION, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, ON NO ACCOUNT, AT NO TIME, IN NO WAY Under no circumstances is this door to be left unlocked.  NOT UNTIL Not until he stopped to rest did Jack realise that he had been wounded. Not until the building had been made safe could anyone go back inside.  NOT ONLY… BUT ALSO Not only did he lose all the money, but he also found himself in debt.  LITTLE Little did anyone suspect what was about to happen.
  • 2. EXERCISES 1. Underline the best word or phrase: a. Not only/ Rarely do you see top-rate cameras which are also easy to use. b. Never I have seen/ Never have I seen such a dramatic end to a football match. c. What he is talking about/What is he talking about, I have no idea. d. Only the two members of the French team managed/ did they manage to finish the race. e. As it may seem strange/ strange as it may seem, he is actually one of the richest men in the world! f. Hardly had the train pulled out of the station when/than there was a loud screeching sound. g. Had we known / Had we to have known in advance, we could have done something about it. h. Hardly/ Little did I know that it would be another three years before I say her again. 2. Write a new sentence with the same meaning, containing the word in capitals. a. A member of the government rarely admits having made a serious mistake DOES b. You are not to leave this room under any circumstances. NO c. The police only later revealed the true identity of the thief. DID d. It was only after checking the accounts that they realised money was missing. DID e. The breach of security has not affected the examination results in any way. NO 3. Put one suitable word in each space: a. Rarely do we find students who are willing to think for themselves. b. ________ in the polar regions does the temperature fall to such a low level. c. Little ________anyone suppose that Mrs Robertson was an enemy agent. d. Scarcely ________everyone left the building when there was a huge explosion. e. Seldom ________ so many people voted for such an unlikely candidate. f. Not until doctors examined Brian later ________ anyone realise that he had been shot. g. No sooner had we reached the bottom of the mountain ______ it started snowing heaving. h. ________ no circumstances are bags to be taken into the library. i. Only ______ the airline official checked again did she realise I had been given the wrong ticket. j. Not only did Harrison break into the house, _______ he also attacked one of the occupants. k. Never ________ there been a better time to buy a new car. l. Not only _______ she finish the test before the others in the class, but she also got the best mark.
  • 3. KEY 1. 1. Rarely do you see top-rate cameras which are also easy to use. 2. Never have I seen such a dramatic end to a football match. 3. What he is talking about, I have no idea. 4. Only the two members of the French team managed to finish the race. 5. Strange as it may seem, he is actually one of the richest men in the world! 6. Hardly had the train pulled out of the station when there was a loud screeching sound. 7. Had we known in advance, we could have done something about it. 8. Little did I know that it would be another three years before I say her again. 2. a. Rarely does a member of the government admit having made a serious mistake b. Under no circumstances are you to leave this room. c. Only later did the police revealed the true identity of the thief. d. Only after checking the accounts did they realised money was missing. e. In no way has the breach of security has not affected the examination results. 3. a) Do b) Only c) Did d) Had e) Have f) Did g) Than h) Under i) When j) But k) Has l) Did