Chapter XVI


1. Word order in English is of much greater importance than in Russian. Due to the wealth of inflexions word order in Russian is rather free as the inflexions show the function of each word in a sentence. As English words have hardly any inflexions and their relation to each other is shown by their place in the sentence and not by their form, word order in English is fixed. We cannot change the position of different parts of the sentence at will, especially that of the subject and the object.

To illustrate this we will try to change the order of words in the following sentence.

Mrs. Winter sent the little boy with a message to the next village one December day. (Hardy)

If we put the direct object in the first place and the subject in the third, the meaning of the sentence will change altogether because the object, being placed at the head of the sentence, becomes the subject and the subject, being placed after the predicate, becomes the object.

The little boy sent Mrs. Winter with a message to the next village one December day

In Russian such changes of word order are in most cases possible.



So due to the absence of case distinctions word order is practically the only means of distinguishing between the subject and the direct object.

The above sentence may serve as an example of direct word order in an English declarative sentence:

(a) the subject;

(b) the predicate;

(c) objects;

(d) adverbial modifiers.

2. Inverted order of words.

The order of words in which the subject is placed after the predicate is called inverted order or inversion.

Are you from Canada?

3. Certain types of sentences require the inverted order of words. These are:

1. Interrogative sentences. In most of them the inversion is partial as only part of the predicate is placed before the subject, viz. the auxiliary or modal verb.

Where did they find her? (Du Maurier)

Can I show you my library? (Greene)

With the verb to have (expressing possession) the auxiliary verb do is used.

Do you have a car?

(The usage of to have without the auxiliary verb is nowadays confined to very formal style.)

The whole predicate is placed before the subject when it is expressed by the verb to be.

Is he at home?

N t e 1. No inversion is used when the interrogative word is the subject of the sentence or an attribute to the subject: Who is in the room? Who speaks English here? What photos are lying on the table?

N t e 2. No inversion can be used in general questions in informal style: You see her often ? Youve got the keys ?


2. Sentences introduced by there.

There is nothing marvellous in what Jam is going to relate. (Dickens)

Into the lane where he sat there opened three or four garden gates. (Dickens)

3. Compound sentences, their second part beginning with so or Either.

"Most of these military men are good shots," observed Mr. Snod- grass, calmly; "but so are you, ain't you?" (Dickens)

Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. R., escaped unhurt, so did three of their sons. (Daily Worker)

4. Simple exclamatory sentences expressing wish.

Be it so!

Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt.

May your eyes never shed such stormy, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. (Ch. Bronte)

4. The inverted order of words is widely used when a word or a group of words is put in a prominent position, i. e. when it either opens the sentence or is withdrawn to the end of the sentence so as to produce a greater effect. So word order often becomes a means of emphasis, thus acquiring a stylistic function.

In this case inversion is not due to the structure of the sentence but to the author's wish to produce a certain stylistic effect.

1. Inversion occurs when an adverbial modifier opens the sentence.

Here we must distinguish the following cases:

(a)Adverbial modifiers expressed by a phrase or phrases open the sentence, and the subject often has a lengthy modifier.

In an open barouche, the horses of which had been taken out, stood a stout old gentleman in a blue coat and bright buttons. (Dickens)

On a chair a shiny leather chair displaying its horsehair through a hole in the top left hand corner stood a black despatch case. (Galsworthy)

(b)An adverbial modifier with a negative meaning opens the sentence. Here belong such adverbial modifiers as: in vain, never; little etc. In this case the auxiliary do must be used if the predicate does not contain either an auxiliary or a modal verb.

In vain did the eager Luffey and the enthusiastic struggle5 do all that skill and experience could suggest. (Dickens)

Little had I dreamed, when I pressed my face longingly agains Miss Minns's low greenish window-panes, that I would so soon have the honour to be her guest. (Cronin)

Never before and never since, have I known such peace, such a sense of tranquil happiness. (Cronin)

(c)Adverbial modifiers expressed by such adverbs as so, thus, now, then, etc. placed at the head of the sentence, if the subject is expressed by a noun.

So wore the dayaway. (London)

Thus spoke Mr. Pickwick edging himself as near as possible to the portmanteau. (Dickens)

Now was the moment to act.

Then across the evening stillness, broke a blood-curdling yelp, and Montmorency left the boat. (Jerome)

If the subject is a pronoun inversion does not take place.

Thus he thought and crumpled up and sank down upon the wet earth. (London)

(d)Adverbial modifiers of manner expressed by adverbs placed at the head of the sentence, may or may not cause inversion. In case of inversion the auxiliary do must be used if the predicate does not contain either an auxiliary or a modal verb.

Silently and patiently did the doctor bear all this. (Dickens)

Dimly and darkly had the sombre shadows of a summer's night fallen upon all around, when they again reached Dingley Dell. (Dickens)


And suddenly the moon appeared, young and tender, floating up on her back from behind a tree. (Galsworthy)

Speedily that worthy gentleman appeared. (Dickens)

(f) An adverbial modifier preceded by so is placed at the head of the sentence.

So beautifully did she sing that the audience burst into applause.

2. Inversion occurs when the emphatic particle only, the adverbs hardly, scarcely (correlated with the conjunction when), the adverb no sooner (correlated with the conjunction than), or the conjunction nor Pen the sentence. If there is inversion the auxiliary do must be used if (he predicate does not contain either an auxiliary or a modal verb.

Only once did he meet his match in tennis.

In only one respect has there been a decided lack of progress in the domain of medicine, that is in the time it takes to become a qualified practitioner. (Leacock)

I do not care to speak first. Nor do I desire to make trouble for another. (Cronin)

No sooner had Aunt Julie received this emblem of departure than a change came over her... (Galsworthy)

Scarcely was one long task completed when a guard unlocked our door. (London)

3. Inversion occurs when the sentence begins with the word here which is not an adverbial modifier of place but has some demonstrative force.

"Here is my card, Sir," replied Mr. Pickwick. (Dickens) , , .

Here comes my brother John. .

If the subject is expressed by a personal pronoun the order of words is direct.

"Here he is!" said Sam rising with great glee. (Dickens) ! , .

"Here we are!" exclaimed that gentleman. (Dickens) ! .

4. Inversion occurs when postpositions denoting direction open the sentence and the subject is expressed by a noun. Here belong such words as in, out, down, away, up, etc. This order of words makes the speech especially lively.

Out went Mr. Pickwick's head again. (Dickens)

The wind carries their voices away fly the sentences like little narrow ribbons. (Mansfield)

Suddenly in bounced the landlady: "There's a letter for you, Miss Moss." (Mansfield)

But if the subject is a pronoun there is no inversion: Down he fell.

Her skirt flies up above her waist; she tries to beat it down, but it is no use up it flies. (Mansfield)

5. Inversion occurs when an objcct or an adverbial modificr expressed by a word-group with not or many a... opens the sentence.

In case of inversion the auxiliary do must be used if the predicate does not contain either an auxiliary or a modal verb.

Not a hansom did I meet with in all my drive. (London)

Not a hint, however, did she drop about sending me to school.(Ch. Bronte)

Many a dun had she talked to and turned away from her father's door. (Thackeray)

Many a time had he watched him digging graves in the churchyard. (Dickens)

6. Inversion often occurs when a predicative expressed by an adjective or by a noun modified by an adjective or by the pronoun such opens the sentence (in case the subject is a noun or an indefinite pronoun).

Violent was Mr. Weller's indignation as he was borne along. (Dickens)

Such is life, and we are but as grass that is cut down, and put into the oven and baked. (Jerome) Sweet was that evening. (Ch. ظ)

Inversion is very common in clauses of concession where the predicative is followed by the conjunction as.

Great as was its influence upon individual souls, it did not seriously affect the main current of the life either of the church or of the nation. (Wakeman)

However, when the subject is expressed by a personal pronoun, the link verb follows the subject.

Bright eyes theywere. (Dickens)

A strange place itwas. (Dickens)

Starved and tired enough hewas. (Ch. Bronte)

Miserable as he was on the steamer, a new misery came upon him. (London)

7. Inversion is also found in conditional clauses introduced without any conjunction when the predicate is expressed by was, were, had, could or should.

Even were they absolutely hers, it would be a passing means to enrich herself. (Hardy)

He soon returned with food enough fur half-a-dozen people and two bottles of wine enough to last them for a day or more, should any emergency arise. (Hardy)

Yates would have felt better, had the gesture of a few kind words to Thorpe been permitted him. (Heym)

It must be borne in mind that emphatic order does not necessarily mean inversion; emphasis may be also achieved by the prominent position of some part of the sentence without inversion, i. e. without placing the predicate before the subject.[6]

Here we shall only mention a peculiar way of making almost any part of the sentence emphatic. This is achieved by placing it is or it was before the part of the sentence which is to be emphasized and a clause introduced by the relative pronoun who or that, by the conjunction that or without any connective after it.

So it's you that have disgraced the family. (Voynich)

It is not in Mr. Rochester he is interested. (Ch. Bronte)

Father appreciated him. It was on father's suggestion that he went to law college. (London)


5. Position of the object.

The usual position of the object in declarative sentences is after the predicate (see Chapter XV, 26). However, in exclamatory sentences the direct object may occupy the first place.

What wonderfully blue eyes you have, Ernest! (Wilde)



This position of the object generally does not cause inversion, except in poetry, high prose, and negative exclamatory sentences.

Thee would I spare nay more would save thee now! (Byron)

Passage after passage did he explore, room after room did he peep into! (Dickens)

In declarative sentences the front position of the object serves the purpose of emphasis. In Russian this position of the object is common (e. g. , ); in English it occurs but seldom.

A fearful voyage I had with such a monster in the vessel. (Ch. ظ)

Honey she had in plenty out of her own hives. (Hardy)


[1] The prominent position of each part of the sentence will be treated in paragraphs dealing with the place of different parts of the sentence.


As a rule this prominent position of the object causes no inversion except when the object is expressed by word-groups with not a... or many a... (see 4.5).

The direct object acquires some prominence when it is separated from the predicate by some secondary part of the sentence generally an adverbial modifier or a prepositional indirect object. We may call this the back position of the object.

She produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys. (Ch. ظ)

I had at heart a strange and anxious thought. (Ch. Bront)

Cowperwood smiled as he saw in the morning papers the announcement of the passage of each ordinance granting him a franchise. (Dreiser)

As is seen from the above examples this occurs when the object has an attribute.

The front position of the indirect object in declarative sentences is rare. The prepositional indirect object is more common in this position, especially in colloquial English.

Of his love he would tell her nothing. (Voynich)

To Martin the future did not seem so dim. Success trembled just before him. (London)

Sometimes the front position of the prepositional indirect object causes inversion.

To this circumstance may be attributed the fact that none of the letters reached my hand. (Dickens)


6. Position of the attribute.

I. The usual place of the attribute expressed by an adjective, noun, pronoun, or participle is before the word it modifies.

What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman! (Wilde)

With most of such attributes the order in which they follow each ther is generally free, i. e. it can be easily changed.

Amelia Sedley had such a kindly, smiling, tender, generous heart of her own as won the love of everybody who came near her. (Thackeray)

However, with some attributes the order in which they follow each other is more or less fixed.

Attributes denoting age, colour, material, and nationality come next to the noun modified.

Rawdon preferred the quiet little Belgian city to either of the more noisy capitals. (Thackeray).

Two years of married life had not lengthened her short dark chestnut hair. (Galsworthy)

When two or more attributes denoting age, colour, material, and nationality refer to the same noun the order is as follows:

various age colour material nationality  
    red   Turkish slippers
    black lacy   dress
  old blue     kimono
pleasant young       man


E. g.

3 2 3 1

She had brought her a bright yellow spotted silk blouse and purple Angora sweater. (M. Dickens)


It is interesting to note that the adjective little often corresponds to Russian diminutive suffixes in such words as , , , . In this case as well as when little denotes age, it is placed immediately before the noun unless there are attributes denoting colour or nationality.

He was naked and painted blue and yellow in stripes a jolly little chap. (Galsworthy)

He was a little like Jolly, but eager-looking and less formal.- altogether a very interesting little brother. (Galsworthy)


Mrs. Inchbare's unloveable hair clung fast round her head in wiry little yellow curls. (Collins)

A fortnight after it took place, he asked her where was her little French watch and chain she used to wear. (Thackeray)

II. Post-position of the attribute.

There are some cases when the post-position of the attribute is its normal place, i. e. when it is not emphatic.

1. Most adjectives in -able and -ible are generally placed after the noun, especially when the noun is preceded by the adjective only or an adjective in the superlative degree: sufferings unspeakable, the only person visible, with all the solemnity possible, the most interesting thing imaginable.

However, a few adjectives with the same suffixes stand before the noun they modify.

He is the only reasonable man here.

She is a sensible little girl.

2. In some stock phrases the adjective is placed after the noun:

wealth untold

from times immemorial

generations unborn

court martial -

sum total

four years running

the first person singular

the second person plural


3. The adjectives proper (, ) and present () are placed after the noun.

We shan't find anything about sculpture in this book, it deals with architectureproper. , . All the peoplepresent welcomed Paul Robeson enthusiastically. .

These meanings of proper and present are not to be confused with the meanings of proper and present when used in pre-position, e.g.

This is not aproper answer to a question of this kind.

Ourpresent task is to preserve peace in the world.

4. Attributes expressed by cardinal numerals denoting the place of the object in a series always follow the noun modified. No article is used in this case: page ten, tram number six, room two.

5. Adjectives stand after indefinite and negative pronouns.

I'd like to read something very interesting.

There is nothing extraordinary in her dress.

I'd like to speak with somebody very clever on the subject.

6. Attributes expressed by prepositional phrases follow the noun modified.

As a gesture of proud defiance he had named his son Francis Nicholas. (Cronin)

Besides the cases when the post-position of the attribute is its normal (unemphatic) place, there are a few instances when the postposition of an attribute expressed by an adjective serves the purpose of emphasis.

It was with a conscience uneasy that Edwin shut the front door one night a month later. (Bennett)

In this example we can easily put the attribute before the word modified, but then it will not be prominent.

Whereas the post-position of a single adjective is rather rare, two or more adjectives are often placed after the word modified for the sake of emphasis: these adjectives may or may not be joined by a conjunction.

He gave Annette a look furtive and searching. (Galsworthy)

("He gave Annette a furtive and searching look" would sound less emphatic.)

All sorts of fancies bright and dark tenanted my mind. (Ch. tont)

When two or more attributive adjectives are placed in post-position, their connection with the noun they modify is often loose, i. e. they become detached and are consequently separated by a comma.

When I looked up... there stood the widow, pale, grave, and amazed. (Ch. Bronte)

The boy inherited his own eyes, large, brilliant and black (E. Bronte)

When an attribute expressed by an adjective modifies a proper noun or a personal pronoun, it mostly stands in loose connection to it whether it is placed in pre-position or in post-position.

Clare, restless, went out into the dusk. (Hardy)

Pale and constrained, he walked into the room and took his seat at the window. (Cronin)


7. Position of adverbial modifiers.

An adverbial modifier hardly ever separates the direct object from the predicate. It stands either before the predicate or after the direct object.

Helen heard me patiently to the end. (Ch. Bront)

We could also very well say: " Helen patiently heard me to the end," but no other position of the adverbial modifier is possible here, unless it is meant to be emphatic; in this case it is placed at the beginning of the sentence.

However, an adverbial modifier separates the direct object from its verb when the object has an attribute (see 5).

He knew instinctively the principles of "pyramiding" and "kiting". (Dreiser)

He could read English but he saw there an alien speech. (London)

1. An adverbial modifier of time is generally placed either at the beginning or at the end of the sentence.

On Tuesday night the new laundrymen arrived, and the rest of the week was spent breaking them into the routine. (London)

Probably we shall try tomorrow. (Heym)

Adverbial modifiers expressed by the adverbs now and then can be placed in nearly any position.

Tess then remembered that there would have been time for this. (Hardy)

Indeed, anything untoward was now sedulously kept from James (Galsworthy)

We now slowly ascended a drive and came upon the long front of a house. (Ch. Bronte)


Note. The hour is generally mentioned before a more general adverbial modifier of time such as day, night, evening, morning.

At nine in the evening Badly White... opened the door to the room and poked his head in. (Maltz)


2. An adverbial modifier of place generally stands either at the beginning or at the end of the sentence.

Down in the mill yard a Bessemer furnace was blowing flame into the sky. (Maltz)

Geodin led the guestsinto the parlour. (O. Henry)

There it was all spiritual.Here it was all material and meanly material. (London)

... a library was a most likely place for her, and he might see her there. (London)

However, an adverbial modifier of place sometimes comes between the predicate and the prepositional object.

He emergedfrom the theatre with the first of the crowd. (London)

Adverbial modifiers of place generally precede those of time and purpose:

I am goingto the country tomorrow.

Well, they only kept upthere about an hour but that was sure a long time. (Maltz)

Sybil had goneto town to buy a new carpet for the first floor landing. (M. Dickens)

3.The place of the adverbial modifier of frequency is more fixed than that of other adverbial modifiers which enjoy a certain freedom of position. As a rule they precede the predicate verb in a simple tense form but follow the verb to be and all the modal verbs. In acompoundtense form they follow the first auxiliary.

No oneever loved me. (London)

Lily would complain that shealways told Jane everything she knew. (Herbert)

She wasalways on the point of telling him the truth.

As for Charlie, he neededfrequently to have a confidant. (S. Lewis)

Don't go worrying about what may never happen.

He can never leave out an irreligious finale. (Lindsay)

I'd just love to come, but Francis and I can't ever be away together. (Galsworthy)

She cared for Ailen more than she had ever cared for any of her children. (M. Dickens)

However, when they are emphasized they stand before the verb to be.

You were awfully good about being pushed up here, but then you always are good about the things that happen to you. (M. Dickens)

The adverbial modifier expressed by the adverbs sometimes and generally may be placed either before or after the verb.

For he sometimes thought that, unless he proclaimed to the world what had happened to him, he would never again feel quite in possession of his soul. (Galsworthy)

And I got so lonely here sometimes. (Dreiser)

In interrogative sentences adverbial modifiers of frequency come immediately after the subject.

Did you ever have shoes like that? (Abrahams)

Does he often come to see you?

Adverbial modifiers of frequency sometimes occupy the first place. This position generally does not cause inversion.

Often he had asked her to come and pass judgement on his junk. (Galsworthy)

Occasionally a small band of people followed the preachers to their mission. (Dreiser)

(For the emphatic position of the adverbial modifier never see 4. 1 b.)

4. The most frequent position of an adverbial modifier of manner is after the predicate if the verb is intransitive, and after the direct object if the verb is transitive.

"You needn't worry about me," Louise said stoutly. (M. Dickens)

Cokane shakes hands effusively with Sartorius. (Shaw)

An adverbial modifier of manner generally stands between the predicate-verb and the prepositional indirect object though it is also found after the object.

She leaned lightly against his shoulder. (London)

Gwendolen... though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. (Wilde)

Very often, however, an adverbial modifier of manner expressed by an adverb stands immediately before the predicate.

... Bessie was already gone, and had closed the nursery door upon me. I slowly descended. (Ch. ront)

Then it occurred to him that with this letter she was entering that very state which he himself so earnestly desired to quit. (Galsworthy)

In compound tense forms an adverbial modifier of manner expressed by an adverb generally comes after the last auxiliary.

These ladies were deferentially received by Miss Temple. (Ch. Bronte)

Mr. Ernest has been suddenly called back to town. (Wilde)

(For the emphatic position of adverbial modifiers of manner see 4.1 d.)

5.Adverbial modifiers of degree always precede the predicate; if the verb is in a compound tense-form they follow the first auxiliary.

I entirely agree with you.

He has quite forgotten about the concert.

6.An adverbial modifier of degree expressed by the adverb enough generally follows the adjective it modifies, but may follow or precede a noun.

He is clever enough but very lazy.

When enough modifies a noun it may either follow or precede it.

I have time enough to do it

I have enough time to do it.

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