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Inversion

Grammar | Vocabulary | Tests

Grammar

These Activities focus on the grammar of English. English grammar compared to other grammars is quite simple, but in its simplicity lies its complexity. The Activities here cover all aspects of English grammar from the aspects and tenses to sentence structures. English grammar covers the structure of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and entire texts. There are eight parts of speech in English: nouns, determiners, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. The largest of these parts of speech are the nouns which, unlike most European languages, do not have grammatical gender. English grammar has largely done away with the inflectional case system of other European languages and bases its grammar on analytic constructions. The Activities in this category will go some way to helping you get a better understanding of English grammar.    

Vocabulary

Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.

Tests

If you are preparing for one of the internationally recognised exams such as IELTS, or the exams from Cambridge Assessment English, or Trinity, then the Activities in this category will be very useful to your studies. If you simply want to test your English abilities in and see how you are progressing in your studies of English as a second or foreign language, then the tests in this category will help you. You can test your abilities in English by seeing if you make the same mistakes that advanced users of English or even proficient users of English make. There's also an English level test with a hundred questions to test your general level of English. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, as it's through mistakes that we improve in anything we do, including learning English.

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Inversion is the reversal of the usual order of the words in an English sentence. The normal order of an English sentence is subject – verb – object. We use inversion for various effects. There are two types of inversion in English. Subject and verb inversion to become verb – subject. Subject and auxiliary inversion to become auxiliary – subject – verb. This English Activation Pack will tell you all you need to know about how and when to use inversion. The pack contains an Activation Quiz with over 250 questions designed to get you using inversion properly. Each time you do the quiz you will be given 10 random questions. This way, you will be able to get hours of practice constructing sentences with inversion. Inversion

Inversion - What it is and how to use it

Inversion

Inversion is the reversal of the usual order of the words in an English sentence.

The normal order of an English sentence is subject – verb – object.

We use inversion for various effect.

There are two types of inversion in English.

Questions

The most common form of inversion is in questions.

You are reading this English Activation Pack.

Are you reading this English Activation Pack?

I am not looking at questions in this pack.

If you want to know more about forming questions, look at my 5WH Questions English Activation Pack.

Two Types

There are two types of inversion in English sentences:

Subject and verb inversion to become verb – subject.

Subject and auxiliary inversion to become auxiliary – subject – verb

These inversions are routine for native speakers and generally pass virtually unnoticed.

Inversion can sound formal or pompous when overdone, so it should be used sparingly. 

Subject – Verb Inversion –  after place adverbials

A normal English sentence has the order subject – verb.

The ragged rascal ran around the ragged rock.

Here we have an adverbial expression of place.

If, for literary or formal effect, we put the adverbial at the beginning of the sentence, we invert the subject and verb.

Around the ragged rock ran the ragged rascal.

Subject – Verb Inversion –  after place adverbials

Though mainly used as a literary or formal device, inversion after adverbials of place happens in everyday speech, too.

The sun comes here.

Here comes the sun.

Your dinner is here.

Here is your dinner.

The neighbourhood goes there. [to a bad state]

There goes the neighbourhood.

Subject – Verb Inversion –  after place adverbials

Inversion after adverbials of place does not happen if the subject is a pronoun.

It comes here.

Here it comes.

She is here.

Here she is.

He goes there.

There he goes.

Direct speech inversion

If quoted speech comes before a reporting verb, inversion can occur.

Roxy said, “My kitten has grown too big!”

 “My kitten has grown too big!” Roxy said.

“My kitten has grown too big!” said Roxy.

Direct speech inversion

When the subject is long and the quoted speech comes before the reporting verb, inversion usually occurs.

“Hello!” laughed the strange man in the yellow hat.

Inversion does not normally occur when the subject is a pronoun.

“Hello!” he chuckled.

Delayed Anaphoric Do & Be

An anaphor is the deliberate repetition of a word for literary effect.

This can be achieved with the inversion of a do/does/did or an is/was/were clause

They stink, do blue cheeses. 

She likes a drink, does Margaret.

He enjoyed a swim, did Jim.

A fine fellow, is Harry.

One of a kind, was Marcus.

Two peas in a pod, were they.

Inversion in Newspaper Headlines

Newspaper headlines often use inversion with reported speech.

This is because the most important part of a headline should be the first bit.

This often leaves the reporting verb at the end of the line.

MINISTER SAYS BREXIT WILL NEVER HAPPEN

BREXIT WILL NEVER HAPPEN MINISTER SAYS

BREXIT WILL NEVER HAPPEN SAYS MINISTER

The third headline is the strongest and most eye-catching.

Subject – Auxiliary Inversion

Where we have an auxiliary verb in a sentence we can invert the subject and the auxiliary.

In the simple aspect the auxiliary do comes before the subject.

We usually follow the subject with a bare infinitive.

In subject – auxiliary inversion the word order is the same as in questions.

I have seldom seen such wonderful English material as this.

Seldom have I seen such wonderful English material as this.

This use of subject – auxiliary inversion after negative adverbials (sentence 2) is used for formal, striking, or literary effect.

Negative Adverbials Examples

On the following pages I will give you commonly used negative adverbials which are used to make the sentences more striking.

Note that the use of inversion in such sentences sounds formal.

If you don’t want to sound formal, and are not looking to create a striking, literary, or surprising effect, use the adverbial in the normal place.

The first sentences show the adverbial in the normal place.

The second sentences show the adverbial and the resulting inversion.

Barely

I had barely begun to run when I felt a sharp pain in the back of my leg.

Barely had I begun to run when I felt a sharp pain in the back of my leg.

Hardly

I had hardly begun to enjoy the sun when the clouds appeared.

Hardly had I begun to enjoy the sun when the clouds appeared.

In no way

I am in no way related to royalty.

In no way am I related to royalty.

Little

She did not really expect to become such good friends with an elephant.

Little did she expect to become such good friends with an elephant.

Never

He had never before had such an interesting conversation about the meaning of life.

Never before had he had such an interesting conversation about the meaning of life.

No sooner

She had no sooner planted the seed than the rose sprang from the frozen earth.

No sooner had she planted the seed than the rose sprang from the frozen earth.

Not for a moment

I did not think for a moment that I would win against such an opponent.

Not for a moment did I think that I would win against such an opponent.

Not only… but…

The fairy had not only become trapped inside the light bulb, but she also needed the toilet.

Not only had the fairy become trapped inside the light bulb, but she also needed the toilet.

Not until

Until she took a lick of the ice-cream, she did not realise it was not a flavour she liked.

Not until she took a lick of the ice-cream did she realise it was not a flavour she liked.

Nowhere

I have never seen a more impressive yet desolate place as the dunes of the Sahara.

Nowhere have I ever seen a more impressive yet desolate place as the dunes of the Sahara.

Only after

You can only get a hot air balloon to lift off the ground after heating the inside of it.

Only after heating the inside of a hot air balloon can you get it to lift off the ground.

Only if

You should only attempt to abseil down a cliff if you have the right gear and the right training.

Only if you have the right gear and the right training should you attempt to abseil down a cliff.

Only in this way

People will only be able to accept robots as part of everyday society in this way.

Only in this way will people be able to accept robots as part of everyday society.

Only later

I only learnt later that she had magical powers.

I did only learn later that she had magical powers.

Only later did I learn that she had magical powers.

Only then

We only discovered what the problem was then.

We did only discover what the problem was then.

Only then did we discover what the problem was.

Only when

She began to make the cake when she had gathered all the ingredients.

She did begin to make the cake when she had gathered all the ingredients

Only when she had gathered all the ingredients did she begin to make the cake.

On no account

You should never consider riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet.

On no account should you consider riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet.

On no condition

We will not be responsible for cancellations due to adverse weather conditions.

On no condition will we be responsible for cancellations due to adverse weather conditions.

Rarely

This company has rarely faced such difficult challenges.

Rarely has this company faced such difficult challenges.

Scarcely

I had scarcely finished speaking when she burst out laughing at the idea of marriage.

Scarcely had I finished speaking when she burst out laughing at the idea of marriage.

Seldom

One seldom comes across such an inquisitive turtle.

One does seldom come across such an inquisitive turtle.

Seldom does one come across such an inquisitive turtle. 

So and Such

Inversion with

So + Adjective

When an adjectival phrase starting with so begins a sentence, we can use inversion for effect.

The driver was so tired that he refused to keep driving.

So tired was the driver that he refused to keep driving.

So + Adjective

When an adjectival phrase starting with so begins a sentence, we can use inversion for effect.

The ice was so thick that we could sit on it and watch the aurora.

So thick was the ice that we could sit on it and watch the aurora.

So + Adjective

When an adjectival phrase starting with so begins a sentence, we can use inversion for effect.

The girl was so beautiful that all eyes were on her.

So beautiful was the girl that all eyes were on her.

So + Adverb

When an adverbial phrase starting with so begins a sentence, we can use inversion for effect.

A sloth moves so slowly that you wonder how they ever find a mate.

A sloth does move so slowly that you wonder how they ever find a mate.

So slowly does a sloth move that you wonder how they ever find a mate.

So + Adverb

When an adverbial phrase starting with so begins a sentence, we can use inversion for effect.

A bee moves so quickly that it’s almost impossible to get a photo like this.

A bee does move so quickly that it’s almost impossible to get a photo like this.

So quickly does a bee move that it’s almost impossible to get a photo like this.

Such

With noun + copular verb + such + that clause we can invert the sentence.

The damage was such that the building had to be demolished.

Such was the damage that the building had to be demolished.

Conditionals

Inversion in

Conditional Inversion – had

The if clause in conditionals can be inverted using had, were, and should.

This inversion gives the conditional a more formal tone.

If my wife had been here, I would have been able to open this jar.

Had my wife been here, I would have been able to open this jar.

Notice that you only have to swap the auxiliary had with the subject and drop the if to form the inversion.

Conditional Inversion – were

The if clause in conditionals can be inverted using had, were, and should.

This inversion gives the conditional a more formal tone.

If I were stronger, I could open this jar.

Were I stronger, I could open this jar.

Notice that you only have to swap the auxiliary were with the subject and drop the if to form the inversion.

Conditional Inversion – should

The if clause in conditionals can be inverted using had, were, and should.

This inversion gives the conditional a more formal tone.

If the old woman should want to view the house again, please give me a call.

Should the old woman wish to view the house again, please give me a call.

Notice the bare infinitive wish instead of want which lends the conditional more of a formal tone.

Conditional Inversion – negatives

A negative inverted conditional is just as easy to form as any other.

To form the inversion, simply swap the subject and the auxiliary and drop the if.

To form the negative inversion, add not after the subject.

If my mother should ring, I will tell her we’ll see her tomorrow.

Should my mother ring, I will tell her we’ll see her tomorrow.

Should my mother not ring, I will phone her and tell her we’ll see her tomorrow.

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