Inversions in Grammar, Inversions in English and Example Sentences

Inversions in Grammar, Inversions in English and Example Sentences


What Is Invertion?

In English, we employ inversion in a variety of contexts. Inversion simply implies putting the subject before the verb. We commonly do it in the form of a question:

  • In a normal sentence: She is tired. (The subject is “She”. I t is before the verb “is”.)
  • In a question form: Is she tired? ((The verb “is” before the subject “she”. They have changed places. This is called ‘inversion’.)


When we wish to employ inversion in most English verb tenses, we simply relocate the verb before the subject. We relocate the first verb if there are many verbs, such as auxiliary verbs in verb tense.


There are two verb tenses in which the verb and subject are simply moved around:

  • Present simple with ‘be’: am I / are you / is he
  • Past simple with ‘be’: were you / was she


The subject and the auxiliary verb (the first auxiliary verb if there are more than one) are moved around in other verb tenses. The other elements of the verb are not moved:

  • Present continuous: am I going/are you going
  • Past continuous: was he going/were they going
  • Present perfect: have we gone/has she gone
  • Present perfect continuous: has she been going/have they been going
  • Past perfect: had you gone
  • Past perfect continuous: had he been going
  • Future simple: will they go
  • Future continuous: will you be going
  • Future perfect: will they have gone
  • Future perfect continuous: will she have been going
  • Modal verbs: should I go / would you go


To construct the question form, we need to add do/does/did to two tenses. This is still referred to as inversion.

  • Present simple with any verb except “be” (add ‘do’ or ‘does’): do you go/does he go
  • Past simple with any verb except “be” (add ‘did’): did we go/did they go

When Must We Use Inversion?

We use inversion to turn sentences into questions. But in some cases, we don’t use inversion to make a question sentence.


When a negative adverb or adverb phrase is used at the start of a sentence.

Usually, we put the expression at the beginning of the sentence to emphasize what we’re saying. It makes our sentence sound surprising or striking or unusual. It also sounds quite formal. If you don’t want to give this impression, you can put the negative expression later in the sentence in the normal way:


  • Seldom I have been such a beautiful country.

(Because “seldom” is at the start, we employ inversion. This phrase highlights how lovely the country is.)


  • I have seldom been to such a beautiful country.

We don’t utilize inversion because “seldom” is in the correct location. This is just a regular phrase with no emphasis.)


Inversion is only used when the adverb alters the entire phrase rather than the noun:

  • Hardly anyone passed the exam. (No inversion)


We frequently employ the following negative adverbs and adverb phrases with inversion:

  • (Hardly): Hardly had I got into bed when my mother’s telephone rang.
  • (Never): Never had she seen such a beautiful dog before.
  • (Seldom): Seldom do we see such an amazing display of dance.
  • (Rarely): Rarely will you hear such a beautiful song.
  • (Only then): Only then did I understand why the tragedy had happened.
  • (Not only … but): Not only does he love chocolate and sweets, but he also drinks.
  • (No sooner): No sooner had we arrived home than my cousin rang the doorbell.


  • (Scarcely): Scarcely had I got off the taxi when it crashed into the back of a car.
  • (Only later): Only later did she think about the situation.
  • (Nowhere): Nowhere have I ever had such bad taste.
  • (Little): Little did she know!
  • (Only in this way): Only in this way could Joshua earn enough money to live.
  • (In no way): In no way do I and my brother agree with what they’re saying.
  • (On no account): On no account should you do anything without asking my mother first.