In statements it is usual for the verb to follow the subject. Sometimes, however, this word order is reversed. We can refer to this as INVERSION.
Compare: • Her father stood in the doorway. In the doorway stood her father.
• He had rarely seen such a sunset. • Rarely had he seen such a sunset.
• He showed me his ID card. I only let him in then. • Only then did / let him in.
Inversion after adverbial phrases of direction and place
When we put an adverbial phrase, especially of direction or place, at the beginning of a sentence, we sometimes put an intransitive verb in front of its subject. This kind of inversion is found particularly in formal or literary styles: • Dave began to open the three parcels. Inside the first was a book of crosswords from his Aunt Alice, (or, less formally Inside the first there was a book of crosswords...)
With the verb be we always use inversion in sentences like this, and inversion is usual with certain verbs of place and movement, such as climb, come, fly, go, hang, lie, run, sit, stand:
• Above the fireplace was a portrait of the Duke, (not ...a portrait of the Duke was.)
• In an armchair sat his mother, (rather than ...his mother sat.)
Inversion doesn't usually occur with other verbs. We don't invert subject and verb when the subject is a pronoun. So, for example, we don't say 'In an armchair sat she.' In speech, inversion often occurs after here and there, and adverbs such as back, down, in, off,
• I lit the fuse and after a few seconds up went the rocket.
• Here comes Sandra's car.
Inversion in conditional sentences We can use clauses with inversion instead of certain kinds of if/-clauses.
Compare: • It would be a serious setback, if the talks were to fail. > It would be a serious setback, were talks to fail.
• If you should need more information, please telephone our main office. >Should you need more information telephone our main office.
• If Alex had asked, I would have been able to help. >Had Alex asked, I would have been to help.
The sentences with inversion are rather more formal than those with 'if'. Notice that in negative clauses with inversion, we don't use contracted forms:
• Had he not resigned, we would have been forced to sack him. (not Hadn't he...)
Inversion in comparisons with 'as' and 'than'
• The cake was excellent, as was the coffee, (or ...as the coffee was.)
• I believed, as did my colleagues, that the plan would work, (or ...as my colleagues did...)
• Research shows that children living in villages watch more television than do their counterparts in inner city areas, (or ...than their counterparts do...)
We prefer to use inversion after “as” and “than” in formal written language. Notice that we don't invert subject and verb when the subject is a pronoun.
In formal and literary language in particular, we use negative adverbials at the beginning of a clause. The subject and verb are inverted:
• after the time adverbials never (before), rarely, seldom; barely/hardly/scarcely...when/before; no sooner...than:
• Seldom do we have goods returned to us because they are faulty, (not Seldom we do...)
• Hardly had / got onto the motorway when I saw two police cars following me.
• after only + a time expression, as in only after, only later, only once, only then, only when:
• She bought a newspaper and some sweets at the shop on the corner. Only later did she realize that she'd been given the wrong change.
• Only once did / go to the opera in the whole time I was in Italy.
• after only + other prepositional phrases beginning only by..., only in..., only with..., etc.:
• Only by chance had Jameson discovered where the birds were nesting.
• Mary had to work at evenings and weekends. Only in this way was she able to complete the report by the deadline.
• after expressions with preposition + no, such as at no time, in no way, on no account, under/in no circumstances: • At no time did they actually break the rules of the game.
• Under no circumstances are passengers permitted to open the doors themselves.
• after expressions with not..., such as not only, not until, and also not + object:
• Not until August did the government order an inquiry into the accident.
• Not a single word had she written since the exam had started. • after little with a negative meaning:
• Little do they know how lucky they are to live in such a wonderful house.
• Little did / then realize the day would come when Michael would be famous.
Notice that inversion can occur after a clause beginning only after/if/when or not until:
• Only when the famine gets worse will world governments begin to act.
• Not until the train pulled into Euston Station did Jim find that his coat had gone.
>>> Inversion after 'so + adjective... that'; 'such + be...that'; 'neither.../nor...' Compare these pairs of sentences:
• Her business was so successful that Marie was able to retire at the age of 50. or
• So successful was her business, that Marie was able to retire at the age of 50.
• The weather conditions became so dangerous that all mountain roads were closed, or
• So dangerous did weather conditions become, that all mountain roads were closed.
We can use so + adjective at the beginning of a clause to give special emphasis to the adjective. When we do this, the subject and verb are inverted. We can use such + be at the beginning of a clause to emphasize the extent or degree of something. The subject and verb are inverted. Compare:
• Such is the popularity of the play that the theatre is likely to be full every night, or
• The play is so popular that the theatre is likely to be full every night.
We invert the subject and verb after neither and nor when these words begin a clause: • For some time after the explosion Jack couldn't hear, and neither could he see.
• The council never wanted the new supermarket to be built, nor did local residents.