Inversion in English Sentences

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Inversion in English Sentences." ThoughtCo, Jun. 23, 2017, thoughtco.com/inversion-definition-1209968. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, June 23). Inversion in English Sentences. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/inversion-definition-1209968 Beare, Kenneth. "Inversion in English Sentences." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/inversion-definition-1209968 (accessed September 21, 2017).
illustration of arrows pointing opposite ways
dane_mark / Getty Images

An inverted sentence switches the placement of the verb before the subject of a sentence as if in a question. Here are some examples of inverted sentences:

Not only is he difficult to understand, but he is also funny.
Never have I understood less about women.
Scarcely have they been on time.

Inverted sentences are required with certain grammar structures, or used as a means of sentences stress or emphasis.

 Follow the instructions below to learn how and when inverted sentences are used in English.

Inverted Sentence = Question Form

The question form (auxiliary + subject + main verb) takes the place of the standard positive sentence structure (i.e. He goes to work every day) in inverted sentences. 

Not only do I enjoy classical music, but I also have a season ticket to the symphony.
Seldom has the boss been so upset!
So difficult has science became that only specialists can fathom its complexities. 

In this case, the question form is substituted for standard sentence structure in a statement. Generally, an inversion is used to stress the uniqueness of an event and begins with a negative.

Using Never, Rarely, Seldom in Inverted Sentences

Never, rarely, and seldom are used in inverted sentences to express how unique a given situation is. These time expressions are used with a perfect form or with modals and often include comparatives:

Never have I been more insulted!
Seldom has he seen anything stranger.
Rarely has someone been so wrong as you.

hardly, barely, no sooner, or scarcely

These time expressions are used when a there are a succession of events in the past. The use of this form of inversion focuses on how quickly something happened after something else had been completed.

 

Scarcely had I got out of bed when the doorbell rang.
No sooner had he finished dinner, when she walked in the door.
Barely had I walked in the door, when me dog came rushing to greet me. 

Using After 'Only' Expressions, Such as 'Only After' and 'Only Then'

'Only' is used with a variety of time expressions such as 'only when' 'only as soon as', etc. This form of inversion focuses on how important something in understanding a situation clearly.

Only then did I understand the problem. 
Only after understanding the situation does the teacher make a comment.
Only when all the stars have gone out will I grasp the complexity of the universe. 

Using After 'Little'

'Little' is used in a negative sense in inversions to stress that something has not been understood completely.

Little did he understand the situation.
Little have I read concerning nanotechnology.
Little was I aware that she was in town. 

Inversion After 'So' and 'Such'

The modifiers 'so', and 'such' are related and are also used in version. Remember that 'so' is used with adjectives and 'such' with nouns. 

'So'

'So + adjective ... that' combines with the verb 'to be'.

So strange was the situation that I couldn't sleep.
So difficult is the test that students need three months to prepare.
So expensive was the ticket that we couldn't attend the show. 

'Such'

'So + to be + noun ... (that)':

Such is the moment that all greats traverse.
Such is the stuff of dreams.
Such are the days of our lives. 

Inverted Conditional Forms

Sometimes conditional forms are inverted as a means of sounding more formal. In this case, the conditional 'if' is dropped and the inverted forms take the place of the 'if clause'. 

Had he understood the problem, he wouldn't have committed those mistakes.
Should he decide to come, please telephone.
Had I known, I would have helped him. 

Inversion Quiz

Rewrite the following sentences using the cue and inversion.

Questions

  1. I haven't ever felt so lonely. - never
  2. I couldn't work because of the loud noise. so
  3. She didn't play a lot of basketball. - little
  4. Peter didn't understand the situation. If he had, he would have quit. - had
  5. The story hasn't been told correctly. - rarely
  1. She bought the car after he had explained its benefits. - only after 
  2. I don't eat pork very often. - seldom
  3. I would have bought a new house if I had had enough money. - had 
  4. I will sign the check when you finish the work. - only then
  5. It was a day that we will all remember forever. - such

Answers

  1. Never had I felt so lonely.
  2. So loud was the noise that I couldn't work.
  3. Little did she play basketball.
  4. Had Peter understood the situation, he would have quit.
  5. Rarely has the story been told correctly.
  6. Only after he had explained its benefits did she buy the car.
  7. Seldom do I eat pork.
  8. Had I had enough money, I would have bought a new house.
  9. Only then will I sign the check.
  10. Such was a day that we will all remember forever. 
Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Inversion in English Sentences." ThoughtCo, Jun. 23, 2017, thoughtco.com/inversion-definition-1209968. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, June 23). Inversion in English Sentences. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/inversion-definition-1209968 Beare, Kenneth. "Inversion in English Sentences." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/inversion-definition-1209968 (accessed September 21, 2017).