Grammar Reference

Session 1 - Masterclass
Inversion 2

Inversion happens in English for emphasis, dramatic purpose or formality. In order to invert, the subject verb object order of a normal sentence is changed in some way. 

1. Reduced Conditionals:
Conditionals are sentences in English which express the result or possible result of a real or imagined action. The usually start with if:

If you go to town, will you get me a cola? (1st conditional)
If I were an animal, I would be a dog. (2nd conditional)
If I had stayed longer, I would have learned a new language. (3rd conditional)

In second and third conditionals we can remove the if and invert the subject and auxiliary verb. This is considered to be more formal and so more polite. In the case of the second conditional, if the verb is an action we use were and the infinitive.

Were I an animal, I would be a dog.
Were I to go on holiday, I would go to Jamaica. (If I went on holiday...)
Had I stayed longer, I would have learned a new language.

To invert a first conditional in this way, we need to use the word ‘should’. Should makes a first conditional more polite and more tentative. Then we remove the if and invert the subject and auxiliary verb as normal. So:

If you should go to town, will you get me a cola?
Should you go to town, will you get me a cola?

Negatives in these forms are not contracted. So:

Should you not go to town…
Were I not a human…
Had I not left so early…

2. Adverbs of place or movement:
Adverbs of place or movement usually come after the verb in a clause.When an adverb of place or movement is put at the beginning of a clause, then the whole verb phrase, and not just the auxiliary verb, can be put before the subject. This is done for dramatic effect and is usually conveyed in a written style and even more so when introducing a new noun - such as in a story. So, for example:

The spy came through the window. 
Through the window came the spy (adverb of movement + complete verb phrase + subject)

300 men would stand in the pass.
In the pass would stand 300 men. (adverb of place + complete verb phrase + subject)

This is common with shorter adverbs in speech, such as: here & there. If a pronoun is used instead of a noun, it must go before the verb.

There sat my father. There he sat.
On ran the racers. On they ran.
I opened the box and out jumped a puppy! I opened the box and out it jumped.

3. Consequences of an adjective:
We can use so plus an adjective, then we invert the normal subject and auxiliary verb, and finally we use ‘that’ to emphasise how strongly something’s description affected us and what the consequence was. We can do the same thing with a noun using such.

So beautiful was she that I fell in love immediately (so + adjective + inversion + that + consequence)
Such a beautiful woman was she that I fell in love immediately. (such + noun + inversion + that + consequence)