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Two examples of inversion in English


In grammar, a reversal of normal word order, especially the placement of a verb ahead of the subject (subject-verb inversion).

Questions in English are usually characterized by inversion of the subject and the first verb in the verb phrase.

See also:


From the Latin, "turn"

Examples and Observations:

  • "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."
    (J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit, 1937)

  • "What they talked of all evening long, no one remembered next day."
    (Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, 1957)

  • "Not until the seventeenth century did the fork appear in England."
    (Henry Petroski, The Evolution of Useful Things. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)

  • "There on the tiny stoop sat Pecola in a light red sweater and blue cotton dress."
    (Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970)

  • "There in the dusty light from the one small window on shelves of roughsawed pine stood a collection of fruitjars and bottles with ground glass stoppers and old apothecary jars all bearing antique octagon labels edged in red upon which in Echols' neat script were listed contents and dates."
    (Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing. Random House, 1994)

  • "Not in the legions
    Of horrid hell can come a devil more damned
    In ills to top Macbeth."
    (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)

  • "Inversion is so common in English prose that it may be said to be quite as much in accordance with the genius of the language as any other figure; indeed, in many cases it may well be doubted whether there is any real inversion at all. Thus it may be quite as much the natural order to say, 'Blessed are the pure in heart,' as to say, 'The pure in heart are blessed.'"
    (James De Mille, The Elements of Rhetoric, 1878)

  • "Half an hour later came another inquiry as to tugs. Later came a message from the Irene, telling of the lifting of the fog."
    (The New York Times, April 7, 1911)

  • "There's a lady wants to see you. Miss Peters her name is."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh, 1915)

  • "In subject-dependent inversion the subject occurs in postponed position while some other dependent of the verb is preposed. A considerable range of elements may invert with the subject in this way . . . . In the great majority of cases the preposed element is a complement, usually of the verb be."
    (Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge University Press, 2002)

  • "The man who first saw that it was possible to found a European empire on the ruins of the Mogul monarchy was Dupleix."
    (Thomas Macaulay)

  • "[T]ypical verbs do not themselves permit inversion, but rather require what is traditionally called do-support (i.e. have inverted forms which require the use of the dummy auxiliary do): cf.
    (a) * Intends he to come?
    (b) Does he intend to come?
    (c) *Saw you the mayor?
    (d) Did you see the mayor?
    (e) *Plays he the piano?
    (f) *Does he play the piano?
    (Andrew Radford, Syntax: A Minimalist Introduction. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997)

  • "Also arrested were eight other suspects who allegedly worked secretly for ETA while maintaining the appearance of normal lives, Rubalcaba said at a nationally-televised news conference in Madrid."
    (Al Goodman, "Nine ETA Bombing Suspects Arrested," CNN.com, July 22, 2008)
Pronunciation: in-VUR-zhun
Also Known As: hyperbaton, stylistic inversion, locative inversion, anastrophe
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