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Session 1

"Never before had I seen such a wonder" is an example of adverbial inversion. But what does this term mean, and how and why do we use it? Find out with Dan's help in the programme.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

English Class

The Grand Canyon

Compare these sentences:

1) I had never seen such a wonder.

2) Never had I seen such a wonder.

Why do you think they are different? Well, Dan's our man as usual as he attempts to explain the principle of inversion in only 90 seconds! Can he do it? If anyone can, Dan can.

Watch the video and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Hi guys. Dan from BBC learning English here. This week we're going to be studying inversion after negative or limiting adverbs. Sounds confusing, doesn't it? But don't worry, it's actually really, really simple. We can explain the whole thing in only 90 seconds, as usual. Are you ready? Here we go.

Now, have you ever been to The Grand Canyon?

I have. It was the most spectacular thing I've ever seen. Seriously. Never had I seen such a wonder.

Never had I seen is an example of inversion. Not sure what I'm talking about? Come here and let me show you.

So, normally we would say: I had never seen such a wonder. But with inversion we move the adverb to the beginning of the sentence, and then we switch the subject and auxiliary verb. Never had I seen such a wonder.

This is done for formailty, for drama or for emphasis. Would you like another example? Come over here.

Rarely would I go home again after what happened. The same applies, guys. We move the adverb to the beginning of the sentence, and then we switch the subject and the auxiliary verb. Rarely would I go home again after what happened.

Now, come over here to the third space. To the third space.

I hardly ever smoke.

This sentence is in the present simple. The same is true as we did before. We move the adverbial phrase to the beginning of the sentence, and then we have to add the auxiliary verb before we switch the subject and the auxiliary.

Hardly ever do I smoke.

There are lots of other adverbials, and you can find information about this and everything that I've talked about on our website at www.bbclearningenglish.com.

I'm out of time guys, I have to go. Dan from BBC Learning English signing off.

Summary

We use inversion to increase the level of:

1) Formality

2) Drama

3) Emphasis

To do this we put the adverb or adverbial phrase to the beginning of the sentence, then switch the positions of the subject and the main verb, like this:

Normal word order: I had never seen such a wonder.

Using inversion: Never had I seen such a wonder.

When we want to use inversion with sentences that have no auxiliary, we need to add it after the adverb and before the subject in the inverted sentence.

Normal word order: I rarely smoke. (no auxiliary)

Using inversion: Rarely do I smoke. (added do after adverb)

To do

Feeling ready to test your ability to use inversion? Try it in our quiz.

 

Invert this!

3 Questions

Can you make an inverted sentence from these words? Check the hint to see the sentence with normal word order.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Inversion

End of Session 1

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Session Grammar

  • Inversion

    We use adverbial inversion for drama, emphasis or formality.

    Form: Move the adverb / adverbial phrase to the beginning of the sentence, and switch the subject and auxiliary:

    Normal word order: I had never seen such a wonder.

    Using inversion: Never had I seen such a wonder.

    When we want to use inversion with sentences that have no auxiliary, we need to add it after the adverb and before the subject in the inverted sentence.

    Normal word order: I rarely smoke. (no auxiliary)

    Using inversion: Rarely do I smoke. (added do after adverb)