Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

June 17, 2009


subject – auxiliary inversion

When we use a particular group of words (called negative adverbials or limiting adverbials) we need to remember to invert the subject and auxiliary verb that follow.

Not once did they invite me to their house. – adverbial + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb etc..

These inversions can be used in writing to give a more formal air to the piece.

  • On no account should you drive while taking these pills. Not only will they make you feel drowsy but they can also affect your vision.

They can also be used more informally in speech and writing for emphasis or to add dramatic effect.

  • Only now do I understand how important a man my Grandfather was.
  • Boy, can she be annoying!

Here is a list of phrases that require inversion:

Not only …. but also ….  

Not only should you return the money but you should also apologise.

On no account ….              

On no account should you leave the room without permission.

No sooner … than        

No sooner had we set out the picnic than the storms started!

Seldom …                      

Seldom before has there been such an important discovery.

Never before ….

Never before have I been so insulted!

Under no circumstances…

Under no circumstances must you speak to them again!

Only now …           

Only now do I realise how difficult it must have been.

No longer …           

No longer can I accept this state of affairs.

At no point …       

At no point was there any mention of redundancies.

Boy, ….                       

Boy, can she talk!

Little …                      

Little did I know what events were going to unfurl during the next few years.

Hardly …                  

Hardly had they left the house when the phone began to ring.

Never …                    

Never have I seen such chaos!

Rarely …                   

Rarely have I heard such an excuse!

These are commonly used devices and I’m sure that you have come across them often in your reading. They are not difficult grammatically although they give the impression of being so – this is the beauty of them!

Happy inversion!




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