This is one of my favourite parts of grammar. Inversion is about embellishment and emphasis in most cases. Making writing more formal and adding emphasis to otherwise normal sentences, let’s have a look.
Inversion means putting the verb before the subject.
Instead of this; If I were rich, I would buy a boat
This; Were I rich, I would buy a boat
In sentences where no special effect or emphasis is required, or for more everyday English, the normal word order is used. Here is an example.
- I have never read such an inspiring article
- Never have I read such an inspiring article
Both sentences are correct, but the sentence two it reinforces the fact that in your whole lifetime, you have never read anything so inspiring.
Although inversion is usually taught at a higher level so encourage nicer and more formal language. There are some easy examples that even your lower level students should be using.
- In questions
Does he have a qualification in accountancy? In an interrogative, the verb is always put before the subject.
- So do I, Neither/Nor do I
He likes Game of Thrones, so do I. To agree with a positive or negative statement we use this structure;
So + auxiliary verb + subject
Remember that the appropriate auxiliary verb is the one used in the original sentence.
He is angry, so do I / He is angry so am I.
- With ‘here’ and ‘there’ in exclamations
Here comes the bride!
There goes all my hard work!
- With ‘seldom’, ‘rarely’, ‘never’, and ‘little’
Seldom have I seen such a beautiful sunset – You hardly ever see a sunset that is so beautiful.
- With ‘no sooner’ (When one thing happens soon after another)
No sooner had I opened my umbrella than it started to pour with rain – A few seconds after opening your umbrella, it started to rain.
- In cases with negative adverbials
In no situation is crushed velvet acceptable
Under no circumstances is he allowed in my house
- In adverbial expressions with ‘only’
Only when I got to my car did I realise I had left my keys in the office.
- In adverbial expression with ‘not only’ (to emphasise that two or more things happened with a mutual theme)
Not only did she spill the drink, she also dropped the food
Not only was I angry, I was disappointed with the results.
- Conditionals (We can also use inversion with some conditional sentences in place of ‘if’)
2nd Conditional – Were I to visit her, she would only shout at me – If I visited her, she would only shout at me
3rd Conditional – Had I won the lottery at a young age, I would have spent all the money by now – If I had won the lottery at a young age, I would have spent all the money by now.