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ESL Grammar Resources

Inversions           
 

 

 

When to Invert the Subject and Verb:

  Questions
  Negatives
  (Necessary) Prepositional Phrases of Place
  Conditionals
  Comparisons

1. Questions

 


He is a doctor.


He ate an apple.
 
Is he a doctor?


Did he eat an apple?

(Direct inversion)


(With "do")

 

 

2. Negatives

 


He is a doctor.


He ate an apple.

Not only is he a doctor, (but) he is also a millionaire.


Not only did he eat an apple, (but) he also ate an orange.

 

 

3. Prepositional Phrases of Place (Necessary)

 


On the table is a book.

On the table (there) is a book.

 

The prepositional phrase is necessary here, because without it, the sentence would be incomplete: ("is a book" is not a complete sentence.) Inversion is necessary.

 


At the restaurant, the food was too spicy.

(inversion is not necessary)

 

Without the prepositional phrase, the sentence the food was too spicy is still complete.

This structure is typically used with linking verbs (be, appear, seem, etc.) or words that function as linking verbs.

 


In the doorway appeared two strangers.

On the table lies my textbook.

In the kitchen, he ate an apple.

In the doorway were two strangers.

On the table is my textbook.

(Action verb: no inversion necessary.)

 

 

4. In some situations, the conditional if is omitted and an inversion is used in its place. (Only with verbs, were, should or had.) Note the following examples:

 

 


If I were a doctor, I would be rich.

Were I a doctor, I would be rich.

If I had taken the subway, I would have arrived on time.

Had I taken the subway, I would have arrived on time.

If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake.

Had I known you were coming, I would have baked a cake.

If I go to Chicago, I will visit my grandmother.

XX Go I to Chicago, I will visit my grandmother.

If I have enough money, I will buy a horse.

XX Have I enough money, I will buy a horse.

 

 

5. Comparisons with than may also be inverted, but the inversion is optional. Note the following examples.

 


He has more marbles than John does.

He has more marbles than does John.

He has more marbles than John. (informal okay.)

**Be careful. On the TOEFL, when comparisons are used, sometimes important words are left out or in error, thereby requiring only one of the possible options.

 

**Be careful. On the TOEFL, when comparisons are used, sometimes important words are left out or in error, thereby requiring only one of the possible options.

 


She loves her cat more than Jim.

She loves her cat more than she loves Jim.

She loves her cat more than Jim loves her cat./more than Jim does.

My dog is smarter than Jack.

My dog is smarter than Jack's.

My dog is smarter than Jack's dog.

My dog is smarter than that of Jack.

My classes are more challenging than those of Mindy.

 

 

 


 

 

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