Inversion of subject and verb 2



In sentences beginning with a negative or near-negative adverb, the subject and verb are in question form-that is, the sentence looks like a question, but it is not a question at all, as in (a) and (b):


Never would I do anything like that!


Never would I do anything like that!

I know that this occurs with other constructions, too. What are some of these constructions?

Orlando, FL


You are right-not only does this inversion occur after a negative or near negative adverb, but it also does in a few other instances.

This kind of construction emphasizes the negative adverbial at the beginning of the sentence, and it also gives a formal, sometimes elegant, dramatic, literary, or even poetic tone to the language. The verb in the main clause contains this inversion, although the key word or words forcing the inversion may be in either the main clause or the dependent clause.

In addition to your examples of use with negative or near-negative adverbials, as in sentences (a) and (b) above, this construction exists when one of the following is the initial word in the sentence:

1. Only + a time expression in a clause, or only if:

Only when Dr. Schiller has all the facts will he present his report to the committee.

Only if John Hush is sure that he can win will he run for the job of senator.

2. Adverbial expressions with so:

So thrilling was the violinist's performance that the audience jumped to their feet and wildly applauded him.

So deeply did she feel her loss that she was not able to mention his name without tears for the rest of her life.

3. Little when it modifies a verb:

Little did I know that my friends were planning a surprise birthday party for me.

Little does she understand the importance of preparing for the future.

Although this kind of inversion does color the language to sound a bit literary, the phenomenon of subject-verb inversion is still productive, as in the following examples of very contemporary English:

No way am I going to get of out here on time today!

No way would Betty allow that to happen!

No way will I write another word about this subject!

See also this related message.

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