Inversion Of Subject And Verb

The normal order of words in a sentence is subject, verb and object. But sometimes certain adverbs are put first and then this order is inverted, and the verb comes before the subject.

Study the following sentences:

  • The game had scarcely started when the rain came pouring down.
  • Scarcely had the game started when the rain came pouring down.
  • had hardly reached the station when the train arrived.
  • Hardly had I reached the station when the train arrived.
  • had never seen such a vast crowd.
  • Never had I seen such a vast crowd.
  • have seldom heard such a beautiful voice.
  • Seldom have I heard such a beautiful voice.
  • He had hardly finished his lunch when someone knocked at the door.
  • Hardly had he finished his lunch when someone knocked at the door.

Inversion of adverb particles

Adverb particles (e.g. up, down, in, out, on, off, away and back ) are sometimes inverted for the sake of emphasis.

  • They went off on a hunting trip.
  • Off they went on a hunting trip.
  • He fell down from his horse, with a heavy thud.
  • Down he fell from his horse, with a heavy thud.
  • He went up to the thirty-second floor of the hotel.
  • Up he went to the thirty-second floor of the hotel.
  • The bird flew away at the sound of the gun.
  • Away the bird flew at the sound of the gun.
  • They came out from their dirty hiding place.
  • Out they came from their dirty hiding place.

In the examples given above the subjects are all personal pronouns and they come between the particle and the verb. But if the subject is a noun or any pronoun other than a personal pronoun, it will come after the verb.

  • The soldier went off with the prisoners and booty.
  • Off went the soldier with the prisoners and booty. (NOT Off the soldier went …)
  • The traitors fell down as the soldiers cut them.
  • Down fell the traitors as the soldiers cut them.
  • The national flag went up as the president pressed the button.
  • Up went the national flag as the president pressed the button.
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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