Unit 9.2

Inversion in Conditional Sentences


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Introduction

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

Inversion is used in conditional sentences to make sentences more formal.

Form

To make an inversion in conditional sentences we first omit the if.

In real conditionals*, we make the inversion by using should at the beginning of the sentence.

The structure is:
Should/had + clause 1 + comma (,) + clause 2

* When we talk about a present choice and its future consequence.

NOTE: We do not use the contracted forms of negative clauses in inversion.

Example

  • Had I known about the draft beer, I would have bought it instantly.
  • Had he helped me with the lamb leg , I wouldn’t have cut my hand.
  • Should you want to be thin, you must eat food that has low sugar and salt.
  • Should you want excellent quality meat, you must buy only from this shop.
  • Were children not to digest what they eat, they usually would have stomachache.

Use

We use inversion in conditional sentences mainly in formal situations.

When we use should, the conditional sentence is a real conditional, which means that we talk about a present choice and its future consequence.

Summary

Inversion is used in conditional sentences to make sentences more formal. To make an inversion in conditional sentences we first omit the if. When we use should, the conditional sentence is a real conditional, which means that we talk about a present choice and its future consequence.

The structure is: we start with should or had followed by the first clause, a comma (,) and the second clause.

For example:
— Had I known about his behaviour earlier, I would have punished him.” = we do not use I had known, but there is an inversion;
— Should you need more information, contact me.” = we do not use we should need, but there is an inversion.

NOTE: We don’t use the contracted forms of negative clauses in inversion.

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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