Inversion happens when we invert (reverse or swap) the normal subject-verb order. Though this topic has been covered in other places in LEWWWP, I am including it here so I can find it easily and because I try to be more concise and succinct than other people.
What Situations Require Inversion?
Questions invert the subject-verb order by using an auxiliary or modal verb before the subject:
- She sings. => Does she sing?
- They are working. => Are they working?
- Joe can swim. => Can Joe swim?
In formal styles, when we use an adverb with a negative meaning (e.g. never, seldom, rarely, scarcely, hardly) in the front position for emphasis, we invert the subject and auxiliary/modal verb:
- Never have we witnessed such cruel behavior by one child to another.
(inversion of “we have never witnessed”)
- Seldom does one hear a politician say sorry.
(inversion of “one seldom hears”)
Expressions Beginning with Not
We also invert the subject and verb after an initial not + prepositional phrase/clause:
- Not for a moment did I think I would be offered the job.
- Not till I got home did I realize my wallet was missing.
Here and There
Inversion can happen after here and there when they are used as adverbs of place. After here and there, we can use a main verb without an auxiliary verb or modal verb:
- Here comes the bus!
- Heres your coffee.
- I opened the door and there stood Michael, all covered in mud.
- She looked out and there was Pamela, walking along arm in arm with Goldie.
Conditionals without If
- If I had know you were here, I would have come sooner. (normal)
Had I known you were here, I would have come sooner. (inverted)
- If I had been 10 minutes late, they would have sacked me. (normal)
Had I been 10 minutes late, they would have sacked me. (inverted)
Fill in the blanks as correctly as possible: (hints have been provided)
- Never in the world _____ imagined such an outcome. (I would have)
- What in the world _____? (you do)
- The bride is coming here. => Here _____.
- Not until after much gnashing of teeth _____ to choose the first option. (I did decide)
- Seldom in the field of human conflict _____ by so many to so few. (so much was owed) — Winston Churchill
- Not once _____ him lift a hand to help around the house. (I have seen)
- Rarely _____such a find! (there has been)
- What time _____? (it is)
- _____ the name of the game? (?)
- Where in the world _____? (Carmen Sandiego is)
Inversion is often used for extra emphasis. Rewrite these sentences using inversion to add extra emphasis to their meaning:
- The boat is coming here! Yay!
- I have never heard of such rubbish!
- He had scarcely begun his journey when his tire went flat!
- I wouldn’t do this for you for all the money in the world!
- I will not consider doing this for you until you get down on your knees and beg!
- Their competition had hardly begun when they found themselves already behind by 20 points.
- He wants us to do what?
- He’s going where?
- The tornado blows there!
- He has insulted us not once, not twice, but three times today!