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  1. #1

    Lightbulb S-V inversion and "after"

    I remembered today an example that had puzzled me some time ago, so I thought we could discuss it

    "After the break came an announcement" is perfectly grammatical.

    *"five minutes later came a man" is not. (Actually, I have heard it in sports commentating, [ten minutes later came his second goal] but I doubt that it's grammatical, strictly speaking)

    How is that explained in terms of grammar, since both cases involve a fronted time adverbial, followed by "came" and then the NP? What is the element that differentiates "after the break" from "five minutes later"?

    It's interesting to note that according to Leech and Svartvik, 416, the only way to invert S and V is with a fronted adverbial of place or direction, there's no mention of time adverbials.
    Down came the rain
    To the right lay the pillars of the Hall entrance

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    Re: S-V inversion and "after"

    To my humble ear, the difference is in the preposition after. Prepositional phrases can often be moved around in sentences.

    Maybe I should say, "In sentences, prepositional phrases can be moved around."

    Caution: Not every prepositional phrase in every sentence can be moved, but most can. Try it.

    To Leech and Svartvik I say: With patience, comes understanding.

  2. #3

    Re: S-V inversion and "after"

    It's true, the difference is in the preposition. But then we would have to introduce another factor, to differentiate between "after" and "later". Because they both are prepositions, and thus "After the break" and "ten minutes later" are both prepositional phrases. As for PP be moved around, notice the fact that in this phrase:

    In sentences, prepositional phrases can be moved around.
    ...there is no S-V inversion. "Prepositional phrases" is the S, with the V following right after.

    In the S-V inversion example:
    To the right lay the pillars of the Hall entrance

    it is not possible to rephrase it as *Lay the pillars of the Hall entrance to the right

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    Re: S-V inversion and "after"

    How do you feel about using just later?

    Later came a man. (I'm not sure about doing this with something just like 'a man', but it might work with something more special)

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    Re: S-V inversion and "after"

    S-V inversion and "after"

    I don’t think it’s a question of grammar here. It’s linked to context. For instance, why is the following unacceptable:

    *After the break came a thunderstorm. ?

    It would only be acceptable if the thunderstorm had been a fake one, programmed into the event in question.

    After the break came a very realistic fake thunderstorm with what seemed like real lightning and real claps of thunder. The children in the audience were obviously frightened.

    I think it’s not a question of incompatibility of the subject with the fronted time adverbial + verb (came)

    To my mind, the reason why

    ?Five minutes later came a man

    sounds wrong

    is because it’s taken out of context. If the arrival of the man had been programmed into let’s say a circus performance, then it would become acceptable:

    First came a lion tamer with six performing lions, followed by a bunch of clowns. Five minutes later came a man sitting on an elephant and brandishing a flag.

    My (pro tem) conclusion would be that this type of structure (a fronted time adverbial, followed by "came" and then the NP) would only be acceptable if it described a series of programmed events in some type of show.

    Another comment: I think if one searches hard enough one can often find a suitable context for “utterances” that otherwise seem to be unacceptable.
    Last edited by naomimalan; 24-Feb-2008 at 15:51. Reason: superfluous

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