Inversion happens in English for emphasis, dramatic purpose or formality. This type of inversion uses negative and limiting adverbs - these are a group of adverbs which limit the meaning of a verb or make it negative. Examples are 'never', 'hardly', 'no', 'only'...and there are others.
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Under no circumstances should you stop watching this video! Only here will you get the full inversion explanation. Are you ready? Let’s invert!
Inversion happens in English for emphasis, dramatic purpose or formality. In order to invert, the normal sentence order of subject verb object is changed in some way. Let’s find out how. Go!
‘Never had I met someone so interesting.’
Now English has a group of adverbs which limit the meaning of a verb or make it negative. Examples are never, hardly, no, only...and there are others. In order to change normal sentence order, we move the negative adverbial to the beginning of the sentence and we invert the auxiliary verb and subject. So:
‘I had never met someone so interesting.’
‘Never had I met someone so interesting.’
In cases where the tense does not use an auxiliary verb in the affirmative, such as the present simple or the past simple, one must be added. So, for example:
‘I rarely go outside.’
‘Rarely do I go outside.’
‘She seldom worked very hard.’
‘Seldom did she work very hard.’
However, there is another level to this. Some negative or limiting adverbials require you to complete a whole clause before the inversion takes place. It’s kind of a two stage process. So, for example:
‘I didn’t know what to do until I saw what had happened.’
‘Not until I saw what had happened did I know what to do.’
In this case, ‘Not until I saw what had happened’ is the adverbial clause. The inversion takes place after this, in the main clause. And this is common with adverbs like ‘Not’ and ‘Only’ in the following combinations:
‘Hardly’ works like this too, but in the case of hardly, the inversion happens within the adverbial clause. It is mostly used with the past perfect to signify that one action finished just before another started. And notice the use of the connecting time words ‘than’ and ‘when’ in the examples. Are you ready?
‘Hardly had I got home than the dog started barking.’
‘Hardly had he got into the bath when the phone rang.’
Isn’t it typical? Finally, we can use the expression ‘little did they know’ to mean…wait for it…they didn’t know. It’s extremely dramatic and it’s often found within books. It can be quite sinister! For example:
‘Little did they know that he had stolen all of their money.’
Did you get it? Of course you got it! Now, for more information please log on to our website at bbclearningenglish.com. I’ve been Dan, you’ve been fantastic and I’ll see you next time, ok? Let’s invert!
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