Х Her father stood in the doorway. Ч In the doorway stood her father.
Х He had rarely seen such a sunset. Ч Rarely had he seen such a sunset.
Х He showed me his ID card. I only let him in then. Ч Only then did I let him in.Look at the circumstances in which inversion takes place. Notice how the subject comes after the verb (e.g. stood) or an auxiliary (e.g. had, did).
Х 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:
Х Above the fireplace was a portrait of the Duke, (not ...a portrait of the Duke was.)
Х 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.'
| Х It would be a serious setback, if the talks were to fail.|
Х If Alex had asked, I would have been able to help.
Х If you should need more information, please telephone our main office.
|Х It would be a serious setback, were the
talks to fail.|
Х Had Alex asked, I would have been able to help.
Х Should you need more information, please telephone our main office.
Х Had he not resigned, we would have been forced to sack him. (not Hadn't he...)
Х The cake was excellent, as was the coffee, (or ...as the coffee was.)
Х I believed, as did my colleagues, that the plan would work, (or ...as my colleagues did...)
Х 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.
Х Seldom do we have goods returned to us because they are faulty, (not Seldom we do...)
Х Hardly had I 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:
Х She bought a newspaper and some sweets at the shop on the corner. Only later did she realise that she'd been given the wrong change.
Х Only once did I 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.:
Х Only by chance had Jameson discovered where the birds were nesting.
Х 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:
Х At no time did they actually break the rules of the game.
Х 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:
Х Not until August did the government order an inquiry into the accident.
Х Not a single word had she written since the exam had started.# after 'little' with a negative meaning:
Х Little do they know how lucky they are to live in such a wonderful house.
Х Little did I then realise 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:
Х Only when the famine gets worse will world governments begin to act.
Х Not until the train pulled into Euston Station did Jim find that his coat had gone.
Х Her business was so successful that Marie was able to retire at the age of 50. or
Х So successful was her business, that Marie was able to retire at the age of 50.
Х The weather conditions became so dangerous that all mountain roads were closed, or
Х 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.
Х Such is the popularity of the play that the theatre is likely to be full every night, or
Х 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:
Х For some time after the explosion Jack couldn't hear, and neither could he see.
Х The council never wanted the new supermarket to be built, nor did local residents.