Understanding Sentence Inversion in English

Last updated on March 11th, 2023 at 01:25 pm

Learning about sentence inversion, will add to some new kinds of sentences to your quiver.

Similar sentences, used over and over again, make reading boring. So, good writers keep changing their sentence structure to create engagement.

With sentence inversion up your sleeve, you’ll perhaps have more variety to express yourself clearly and interestingly.

Let’s move on directly to the sentences we’re talking about:

Helping Verbs and Subject

Before learning sentence inversion, one ought to know about auxiliary or helping verbs.

Look at this sentence:

He is playing football.

Here, the main verb is “playing” and the helping verb is “is”.

Perhaps, this has made ‘helping verb’ somewhat understandable to you’. Some other examples are (helping verbs are italicized):

  • They will go by bus.
  • Samantha and Priyanka have decided to continue their educational programs.
  • We are planning to invite all the relatives.
  • He completed the work perfectly. (completed= did + complete)

This means, common sentences are of the form: subject – auxiliary verb – main verb – ….

Must read: Correcting sentences in English

What is Sentence Inversion

Sentence inversion means an inversion of the order of the helping verb and the subject. As an example, let’s consider the aforementioned sentence, “They will go by bus.”

The interrogative of this looks like this:

Will they go by bus?

Observe that the sentence is now of the form:

auxiliary verb – subject– main verb – ….

The positions of the auxiliary verb and the subject have been interchanged. This is the simplest form of inversion.

However, the order of the main verb and the subject also gets inverted at times:

They pulled and pulled and at last up came the enormous turnip.

She came with me and along came her entire family.

Write better and correct sentences in English [16 unmissable tips]

Kinds of Sentence Inversion

Sentence inversion is observed in

  • Interrogative Sentences
  • Sentences starting with negative adverbs/ adverb phrases
  • Sentences beginning with certain prepositions
  • When ‘Had’, ‘Should’, ‘Were’ are used at the beginning
  • Poetic language to express the intent dramatically

Sentence Inversion Examples

Interrogative Sentences

  • Am I allowed to do this?
  • Are you sure about this?

Sentences starting with negative adverbs/ phrases/ conjunctions

  • Hardly had I bought the car when a driver came searching for a job. (This means: Immediately after I bought the car, a driver came searching for a job.)
  • No sooner had I started to sing than he knocked.
  • Hardly had the good news come in when the earthquake shook the town.
  • Scarcely do I find time to write a letter to my wife.
  • Rarely did the newspaper present the truth.
  • Seldom do barking dogs bite.
  • In no condition should you buy that kind of costly dress.

Sentences beginning with prepositions

  • Over the wall jumped he, with fury.
  • On goes his battle, against the corrupt.

‘Had’, ‘Should’, ‘Were’ are used at the beginning

  • Had he appeared in the court, we would have won the case.
  • Were they good people, they would have pardoned him.
  • Should you practice the art well, I will provide an opportunity to apply for the next level. [This means: If (=Should) you practice well….]

Poetic/ Rhythmic language to grab attention

Dark was the night, eerie the atmosphere.

Telling I am, he is an honest man.

This one is a you tube video that explains the sentence inversion very simply:

Sentence Inversion Adds to Your Acumen

At first sight, sentence inversion appears an unnecessary grammar skill. However, unless you’re using unique writing skills, how will you become a good writer?

So, I encourage you to learn and practice not only inversion but also many other forms of uncommon writing skills.

As always, the best way to hone your skills with sentence inversion is to deliberately use them in your articles and play with them as much as possible.

A Request to my Esteemed Readers

  • Kindly Keep suggesting the subject of articles on which you want me to write.
  • Point out any mistake that I have made.
  • Please let me know if you need any further help with sentence inversion.