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    #1

    inversions

    Dear teachers,

    Would you please give me a list of expressions that cause an inversion of subject and verb, please?

    ex: Never have I seen such a beautiful painting.
    Not only have I missed the train this morning, but I have also lost my wallet. (are the tenses correct ?)

    Any more, please?

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    #2

    Re: inversions

    Your sentences are correct.

    Inversion is a very complex topic. Here are some references:

    Inversion - English (ESL) Weblog
    Inversion in modern written English
    Inversion - Inverted sentences for advanced learners of English
    Inversions in English Grammar
    Inversion. Fowler, H. W. 1908. The King's English

    I have very little to add, except that the most common form, I think, transforms subject-verb-adverb into adverb-verb-subject.

    The rain came down --> Down came the rain.

    In general, I think you should avoid inversion except in set phrases: "neither did he", and some others. See the references. Otherwise very few rules work 100% accurately: inversion relies on the music of the language, and in some (native!) ears it sounds like so much noise.
    Last edited by abaka; 02-Feb-2009 at 23:19.

  1. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: inversions

    Quote Originally Posted by hela View Post
    Dear teachers,

    Would you please give me a list of expressions that cause an inversion of subject and verb, please?

    ex: Never have I seen such a beautiful painting.
    Not only have I missed the train this morning, but I have also lost my wallet. (are the tenses correct ?)

    Any more, please?
    The tenses are correct. There is no list. You could rent some Star Wars movies and listen to how Yoda talks (Yoda quotes).

    [I edit copy and have tutored university writing.]

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    #4

    Re: inversions

    Thanks abaka and charlie.

    What do you think of the tenses in (a). Is it possible to 2 different tenses in each clause.

    compare:
    a) Not only have I done my homework, but I did the laundry as well.
    b) Not only have I missed the train this morning, but I have also lost my wallet.

    Regards

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    #5

    Re: inversions

    The inversions are fine. "Not only" is definitely on most lists of standard inversions. I'll say more at the end.

    As regards the sequence and matching of tenses... it's a tricky point.

    The only place English has explicit tense-matching rules is in reported speech in the past: She said, "I will do the laundry" vs. She said she would do the laundry. Otherwise tenses are used for meaning, and to a certain degree for style.

    In your examples, (b) is irreproachable both in meaning--as of now, the state of your morning train ride is "missed", and the state of your wallet is "lost"--and in style, for both your clauses share the same tense.

    In (a) if we go strictly by meaning, you are saying that you have no homework left to do as of now, and at a certain unspecified moment in the past you did your homework. Why not? I wouldn't disallow it. But in terms of style, if you are reporting the present state of your homework (done), you should also report the state of the laundry (done), especially in a contrastive "not only...but" construction. Therefore a better form is

    Not only have I done my homework, but I have done the laundry as well.

    or, omitting as many words as possible, optimally:

    Not only have I done my homework, but the laundry as well.

    Now, about the inversion. In any English sentence, rhetorical weight is greatest at the beginning and at the end of a sentence, with the stretches in between emphasized less. As Fowler (see the reference) among others discusses at great length, the inversion, where it works, resets the emphasis.

    Therefore, "I have done not only the homework, but the laundry as well" has no particular emphasis. On the other hand, "Not only have I done my homework, but the laundry as well", by bringing the "not only" to the front, emphasizes that you have done not one useful chore, but two.
    Last edited by abaka; 03-Feb-2009 at 07:03.

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