Unit 9.2

Inversion after Negative and Restrictive Expressions


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Introduction

Inversion happens when we invert the normal order of a sentence, mostly the form of the subject-verb.

We use inversion when there are negative or restrictive expressions.

Form

Negative or restrictive expressions can appear at the beginning of a sentence.

The most commonly used restrictive expressions are: barely, hardly, in/under no circumstances, little, never, no sooner…. than, not till/until, only after, only if, rarely, scarcely, seldom…

If we use these expressions, we have to invert the position of the verb and the subject.
The structure is:
Negative/Restrictive expression + auxiliary verb + subject + verb…

If we use the expressions only after, only if, not till/until at the beginning of a sentence, inversion takes place in the main clause.
The structure is:
Negative/Restrictive expression + clause + auxiliary verb + subject + verb + …

NOTE: Inversion is not used after not far.

Example

  • Hardly had I finished the heavy food when they brought the dessert.
  • Little does she know about the breastfeeding.
  • No sooner had we finished the first course than we started to eat the second one.
  • Not until everyone had taken a seat at the table did we start eating.
  • Only after I drank the milk did I realize that it had gone bad.

Use

We use inversion to emphasize the meaning of the sentence. We use it mostly in a literary way or a formal way.

Summary

Inversion happens when we invert the normal order of a sentence, mostly the form of the subject-verb in order to emphasize the sentence. We use inversion mostly in a literary way or a formal way.

When negative or restrictive expressions are used (at the beginning of a sentence), we see an inversion of the verb and subject.

When only after, only if, not till/until are used at the beginning, inversion takes place in the main clause.

The structure is: we start with the negative or restrictive expression followed by a clause, an auxiliary verb, the subject and a verb.

If there is not an auxiliary verb, we use do/does for present situations and did for past situations.

For example:

Only after she had finished cooking did she realize she forgot to put salt.” = When a sentence starts with only after, only if, not till/until, inversion takes place in the main clause.
Seldom does he like rice pudding.” = To put emphasis on the sentence, seldom is followed by an auxiliary verb.

NOTE: Inversion is not used after not far.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

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