Inversion involves changing the position of the subject and auxiliary or modal verb.
We use inversion:
- When we start a sentence with a negative adverbial expression, an adverbial expression of place, or simply an adverb
- With: "only after", "only if", "only when", etc. when placed at the beginning of a sentence for rhetorical effect
- In conditional sentences without "if"
- To add emphasis, usually sounding more formal.
- "Under no circumstances should you open the box."
(You should not open the box.)
- "On the table were three old books."
(Three old books were on the table.)
- "Hardly had I entered the room when the orchestra began to play."
(I had hardly entered the room when the orchestra began to play.)
- "Only when it started raining did he give me the umbrella."*
(He gave me the umbrella only when it started raining.)
* Note that the inversion occurs in the main clause after expressions such as only after, only if, only when.
- "Had I gone to university, I might have been a doctor."
(If I had gone to university, I might have been a doctor.)
- "Had I not gone to university, I wouldn’t have been a doctor."
(If I hadn’t gone to university, I wouldn’t have been a doctor.)
- "Had you gone to university, would you have been a doctor?"
(If you had gone to university, would you have been a doctor?)
Some common negative adverbials
- Never (before), Rarely, Seldom…
- Under no circumstances…
- Hardly, Scarcely …when…
- No sooner…than…
- In no way…
- Not only…but…
- On no account…
- At no time…
- As soon as I arrived, the music started.
"No sooner did I arrive than the music started."
- You mustn’t have the music too loud.
"On no account must you have the music too loud." *
- He’d never seen anything like it before.
"Never before had he seen anything like it." *
- I’d never seen the film.
"At no time had I (ever) seen the film." *
* Note that a negative verb transforms as a positive verb when following a negative adverbial expression.
Transform the following sentences: