Emphasis with inversion
In English, with regard to emphasis with inversion, you may have heard a native speaker say something like “never have we been to such a show” or “rarely were we able to tell the difference”.
Emphasis with inversion or auxiliary inversion consists of inserting an adverb or an adverbial phrase of some sort at the beginning of the sentence, followed by an auxiliary and subject (adverb + auxiliary + subject).
- Never (adverb) have (auxiliary verb) we (subject) been to such a show.
- Rarely (adverb) were (auxiliary verb) we (subject) able to tell the difference.
Needless to say, emphasis with inversion or auxiliary inversion is common among native speakers. At first, it can sound a little weird, but this way you can apply more emphasis than usual.
Common adverbs and adverbial phrases that we use in emphasis with inversion
- Seldom, rarely, never, scarcely, on no account, in no way, hardly, only then, no sooner, only later, nowhere, little, only etc.
Examples of ’emphasis with inversion’ using the structure
(adverb/adverb phrase + auxiliary + subject)
- Never, have I seen such barbarity from anyone in my life.
- Hardly, had they even read the article.
- Seldom, do we ever cross paths with them, they are a little sketchy.
- Little, was I to know that I missed my aeroplane apparently.
- On no account, will my friend accept your proposal.
- Only then, after marrying my wife, did I realise she was pregnant.
Common adverbial phrases in which the inversion must go in the second clause
- Only by, only after, not until, only when, not since
Examples of ’emphasis with inversion’, with the emphasis in the second clause
- Only by knowing your enemy, can you learn about him/her.
- Only after graduating from university with a master’s degree, did I manage to find a job.
- Not until I left the building, could I see the rain clouds.
- Only when you reach twenty-nine years, will I allow you to live here.
- Not since Jamie found a job, has he been so happy.
Other ways to emphasise in English
Modal auxiliary verbs:
- Articles (a/an, the, zero article)
- Pronouns: subject, object and possessive
- Question tags
- English conditionals
- Interrogatives in English
- Phrasal verbs
- Prefixes and suffixes
- Reported and direct speech
- Punctuation: apostrophes, colons, semi-colons, commas, dashes, full stops, question marks, exclamation marks, and quotation marks
- Numbers: cardinal, ordinal, and Roman numbers
- The verb: “get”
- ‘Get’ vs. ‘go’ and ‘got’ vs. ‘gotten’
- Copular verbs
- Cleft sentences
- Subjunctive in English
- Vulgar and taboo in English
- Split infinitive
- Gerunds in English
- To + infinitive
- Bare infinitive
- British and American spelling