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Inverted order of words.

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


Haven’t youany family? (Du Maurier)

§ 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)


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

Is he at home?

Have you many friends?


N o t e. — 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?


2. Sentences introduced by there.


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

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



3. Compound sentences, their second part beginning with so or neither.


“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 younever feel what I then felt. May your eyesnever 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used when a word or a group of words is put in a prominent position, i. e. when it either opens the sentence or is withdrawn to the end of the sentence so as to produce a greater effect.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 gentlemanin 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 strugglers do all that skill

and experience could suggest. (Dickens)

Little had I dreamed,when I pressed my face longingly against 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 day away.(London)

Thus spoke Mr. Pickwickedging himself as Hear as possible to the

portmanteau. (Dickens)

Now was the momentto 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 uponthe wet earth.



(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 shadowsof a summer’s night fallen upon

all around, when they again reached Dingley Dell. (Dickens)


B u t: 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 open the sentence. If there is inversion the auxiliary do must be used if the 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 progressin the domain

of medicine, that is in the time it takes to become a qualified practitioner.


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


No sooner had Aunt Julie received this emblem of departure than a change

came over her... (Galsworthy)

Scarcely iocs one long task completed when a guard unlocked our door.



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)

«Вот моя визитная карточка, сэр», — ответил мистер Пиквик.

Here comes my brother John.

Вот идет мой брат Джон.


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)

«Вот он!» — радостно сказал Сэм, вставая.

“Here we are!”exclaimed that gentleman. (Dickens)

«Вот и мы!» — воскликнул этот джентльмен.


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 sentenceslike little narrow

ribbons. (Mansfield)

Suddenly in bounced the landlady: “There’s a letter for you, Miss Moss.”



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 object or an adverbial modifier expressed by a word-group with not a..., 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.


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

I hated that man, many and many a time had my fingers longed to tear him.



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 indignationas 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. Bronte)


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

Great as was its influenceupon 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 they were.(Dickens)

A strange place it was. (Dickens)

Starved and tired enough he was.(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 theyabsolutely hers, it would be a passing means to enrich herself.


He soon returned with food enough for half-a-dozen people and two bottles of

wine — enough to last them for a day or more, should any emergency arise.


Yates would have felt better, had the gestureof a few kind words toThorpe

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.1


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.


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 youthat have disgraced the family. (Voynich)

It is not in Mr. Rochesterhe is interested. (Ch. Bronte)

Father appreciated him. It was on father’s suggestionthat he went to law

college. (London)


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