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Unit 1: English In A Minute
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Session 79

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

Activity 1

Simple inversion

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? Never before has inversion been explained so quickly! Dan tells us how to do it! Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

Watch the video and complete the activity

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Never before – probably – has inversion been explained so quickly or so simply, so pay attention because that's what we're doing .

Inversion is something we do in English for emphasis, formality or style.

I will never dance. This sentence follows normal word order: subject, auxiliary verb, adverb, verb.

Never is a negative or limiting adverb. Other examples are: rarely, hardly and not often.

First move the negative adverb to the beginning of the sentence. Then invert, or swap, the order of the subject and auxiliary verb. Never will I dance.

If your sentence is affirmative and doesn't have an auxiliary verb – for example, the present or past simple - then add one. Rarely do I wake up on time.

Remember, it's for emphasis! So only do it for a good reason.


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What is it?
Inversion involves changing the normal word order of sentences for stylistic reasons, usually in order to emphasise, sound dramatic or increase formality. There are different types of inversion. This page concerns inversion after a negative or limiting adverb.

  • Never will I take another exam!

Negative or limiting adverbs
Negative and limiting adverbs are a group of adverbs which limit the meaning of a verb or make it negative. Examples are never, rarely, hardly, not often, etc.

  • Never is he late for work.
  • Rarely did she have car trouble.
  • Hardly had I left the house when...
  • Not often do the children stay up this late.

To invert a sentence move the adverbial to the beginning of the sentence and invert (swap) the subject and auxiliary verb:

  1. I will never dance.
  2. Never I will dance.
  3. Never will I dance.

No auxiliary verb
In cases where the tense does not use an auxiliary verb in the affirmative, such as the present simple or the past simple, one must be added.

  • 'I rarely wake up on time.' becomes: Rarely do I wake up on time.
  • 'He hardly came to school.' becomes: Hardly did he come to school.


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