Inversion of subject and verb 1



In sentences like "Down came the rain" and "Up came the sun," the subject and verb are not in question form, but are inverted. Is this normal English?



Yes, this kind of English is normal, although it would be considered somewhat flowery in spoken English. You see it sometimes in descriptive writing. This kind of construction emphasizes the adverbial at the beginning of the sentence, and it also gives a formal, dramatic, literary, or even poetic tone to the language in constructions like these:

1. Sentences beginning with adverbs such as up, down, in and out, when the subject is a noun, but not a pronoun, and the verb is intransitive:

Down came the rain with terrific force; up went the umbrellas.
      (but, it came down.they went up)

In walked the president, accompanied by his wife, daughters, and five Secret Service Agents.
      (but, he walked in.)

2. Sentences beginning with a prepositional phrase expressing place, with the main verb being intransitive. Again, nouns, not pronouns, fit into this inversion pattern.

On the corner stood a large, impressive statue of the famous general.
      (but, it stood on the corner)

Inside the room lay the remnants of their dinner, hurriedly abandoned as the family fled the marauders.
      (but, they lay inside the room)

3. A passive verb which is separated into its parts, with the main verb beginning the sentence. Again, nouns, not pronouns, fit into this inversion pattern.

Watched closely by scientists are long-dormant volcanoes.
       (but, they are closely watched-or they
       are watched closely)

Held as hostages were several reporters from the mainland.
       (but, they were held as.)

See also this related message.

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