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Hello, everyone,

Today I have seen following inversion sentence in a grammar book issued in Korea;

My lost ring was found under the desk.” => “Under the desk was found my lost ring.”

When I refer to Advanced grammar In Use by Hewings, he explained as follows;

Unit 119. Inversion after adverbial phrases of direction and place

When we put an adverbial phrase, especially of direction or place, at the beginning of a sentence, we sometimes put an intransitive verb in front of its subject. This kind of inversion is found particularly in formal or literary styles:

  • Dave began to open the three parcels. Inside the first was a book of crosswords from his

Aunt Alice, (or, less formally Inside the first there was a book of crosswords...)

With the verb be we always use inversion in sentences like this, and inversion is usual with certain verbs of place and movement, such as climb, come, fly, go, hang, lie, run, sit, stand:

  • Above the fireplace was a portrait of the Duke. (not ...a portrait of the Duke was.)
  • In an armchair sat his mother. (rather than ...his mother sat.)


Inversion doesn't usually occur with other verbs. We don't invert subject and verb when the subject is a pronoun. So, for example, we don't say 'In an armchair sat she.'

Thus, while I assume the original sentence has no fact to trigger any inversion, I will appreciate, if you kindly check/advise me whether the above inversion is grammatical and natural.

Best RGDS

Last edited by deepcosmos
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@deepcosmos posted:

Today I have seen following inversion sentence in a grammar book issued in Korea;

My lost ring was found under the desk.” => “Under the desk was found my lost ring.”

. . . Thus, while I assume the original sentence has no fact to trigger any inversion, I will appreciate, if you kindly check/advise me whether the above inversion is grammatical and natural.

Hi, Deepcosmos—Yes, the sentence "Under the desk was found my lost ring" is grammatical and natural. There is no trigger for inversion, nothing that makes it necessary. The inversion is simply optional.

"Was found (under the desk)" is a passive VP. Here is a similar example from a dissertation on inversion:

  • "On any public beach can be found yuppie males, or even older stiffs, who devote long hours at the health club to developing their lats and pecs."

That example originally comes from a 1989 article in the Chicago Tribune newspaper. It is cited in Betty Birner's The Discourse Function of Inversion in English (Garland Publishing, Inc.: New York, 1996).

Last edited by David, Moderator

Hi, Deepcosmos—Yes, the sentence "Under the desk was found my lost ring" is grammatical and natural. There is no trigger for inversion, nothing that makes it necessary. The inversion is simply optional.

"Was found (under the desk)" is a passive VP. Here is a similar example from a dissertation on inversion:

  • "On any public beach can be found yuppie males, or even older stiffs, who devote long hours at the health club to developing their lats and pecs."

That example originally comes from a 1989 article in the Chicago Tribune newspaper. It is cited in Betty Birner's The Discourse Function of Inversion in English (Garland Publishing, Inc.: New York, 1996).

Hello, David,

Appreciate your explanation.

1. As far as I understand, the fronting of a prepositional phrase of 'place' at the beginning is to introduce a new indefinite subject. However, in the original sentence "Under the desk was found my lost ring." I feel "my lost ring" isn't somewhat a new indefinite subject. Even if "my lost ring" isn't a new indefinite subject, do you still evaluate this inversion as grammatical and natural one?

2. Do you also evaluate following inversions as grammatical and natural ones?;

We can do the same with 'can / could be' + third forms of see, hear, make out etc;

* In the background of the painting can be seen the old mill house.

* Outside in the street could be heard the sound of children playing.

* In the distance could just be made out the figure of a lone rider.

* In the background of the painting can be seen an old mill.

3. Also, I have found following cases. I don't understand how each inversion option #2 has been possible?  Is the set of 'past participle' + 'prepositional phrase' considered as a complement which is necessary to trigger the inversion?

The words "To Insure Promptness" were printed on the box at the center of a coffeehouse.

* inversion option#1; On the box at the center of the coffeehouse were printed the words "To Insure Promptness".

* inversion option #2; Printed on the box at the center of the coffeehouse were the words "To Insure Promptness".

The student's name, the date, and three boxes to check were printed on each card.

* inversion option #1; On each card were printed the student's name, the date, and three boxes to check.

* inversion option #2; Printed on each card were the student's name, the date, and three boxes to check.

4. If you say, all the inversions in above 1, 2, 3 are grammatical and natural, then, am I all right to think these patterns of inversion are seldom cases and style matter only?

Best RGDS,

@deepcosmos posted:

Hello, David,

Appreciate your explanation.

Hello, Deepcosmos—Appreciate your appreciation.

@deepcosmos posted:

1. As far as I understand, the fronting of a prepositional phrase of 'place' at the beginning is to introduce a new indefinite subject. However, in the original sentence "Under the desk was found my lost ring." I feel "my lost ring" isn't somewhat a new indefinite subject. Even if "my lost ring" isn't a new indefinite subject, do you still evaluate this inversion as grammatical and natural one?

Yes, "my lost ring" isn't an indefinite subject, and, yes, the sentence that I have already told you is correct and natural is  correct and natural. What you think is a rule here is not a rule at all. I don't know why you made the assumption that it was or why you feel inclined to object to what I have said.

@deepcosmos posted:

2. Do you also evaluate following inversions as grammatical and natural ones?;

We can do the same with 'can / could be' + third forms of see, hear, make out etc;

* In the background of the painting can be seen the old mill house.

* Outside in the street could be heard the sound of children playing.

* In the distance could just be made out the figure of a lone rider.

* In the background of the painting can be seen an old mill.

Yes, all of them are grammatical and would be natural in a suitable context.

@deepcosmos posted:

3. Also, I have found following cases. I don't understand how each inversion option #2 has been possible?  Is the set of 'past participle' + 'prepositional phrase' considered as a complement which is necessary to trigger the inversion?

The words "To Insure Promptness" were printed on the box at the center of a coffeehouse.

* inversion option#1; On the box at the center of the coffeehouse were printed the words "To Insure Promptness".

* inversion option #2; Printed on the box at the center of the coffeehouse were the words "To Insure Promptness".

The student's name, the date, and three boxes to check were printed on each card.

* inversion option #1; On each card were printed the student's name, the date, and three boxes to check.

* inversion option #2; Printed on each card were the student's name, the date, and three boxes to check.

Yes, all of those cases are fine. You have yet to produce a bad example. Perhaps what troubles you is optionality. Writers and speakers have choices. These are fancy choices that are available to us. They belong primarily to literary discourse and are more common in written than in spoken English.

As to "triggering," in the cases above (it would be helpful if you labeled your examples) where the prepositional phrase is fronted, the inversion is optional. We can have either "On the box were printed the words" or "On the box, the words were printed." In the other case, inversion is mandatory:

  • The information was printed on each card.
  • On each card, the information was printed.
  • On each card was printed the information.
  • Printed on each card was the information.
  • *Printed on each card, the information was.

In this example, "was printed on each card" is not a dynamic passive. It is better analyzed as either a statal passive or as a copula plus an adjectival past-participial phrase functioning as subject complement. The inversion is comparable to that found in "Deepcosmos is the member's name."

@deepcosmos posted:

4. If you say, all the inversions in above 1, 2, 3 are grammatical and natural, then, am I all right to think these patterns of inversion are seldom cases and style matter only?

I do not know what you mean by asking whether they "are seldom cases and style matter only." The question sounds like gibberish. Did you make a typo?

Last edited by David, Moderator

In full agreement with everything David has said, here is one of the best references I have ever found on full inversion after a fronted adverbial (item 5.3.6 of Mastering English: An Advanced Grammar for Non-native and Native Speakers, by Carl Bache and Niels Davidsen-Nielsen, 2010). Item 5.3.7 is also relevant.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator
@deepcosmos posted:

1. As far as I understand, the fronting of a prepositional phrase of 'place' at the beginning is to introduce a new indefinite subject. However, in the original sentence "Under the desk was found my lost ring." I feel "my lost ring" isn't somewhat a new indefinite subject. Even if "my lost ring" isn't a new indefinite subject, do you still evaluate this inversion as grammatical and natural one?

Yes, "my lost ring" isn't an indefinite subject, and, yes, the sentence that I have already told you is correct and natural is  correct and natural. What you think is a rule here is not a rule at all. I don't know why you made the assumption that it was or why you feel inclined to object to what I have said.



Hello, David,

Sorry for my belated reply, since I've been away from my office due to local business travel.

The reason why I asked for your evaluating about the inversion's being grammatical and natural is the British's initial responses to the same sentence as follows (all the British). Is this a kind of the usage difference between two countries?

* 1st response;

1. “My lost ring was found under the desk.” Question: "Where was your lost ring found?"

2. “Under the desk was found my lost ring.” Question: ???

1. is ok. 2 is not. It's bizarre. Why? Because it lacks topic focus or functional sentence perspective. What is the question? What is the old information and what is the new information you want to convey? What is the context?

Trying to analyse grammar in this way out of context is unlikely to be a fruitful exercise. You need to be aware of the importance of functional sentence perspective in English, and the importance of word order in establishing the correct functional perspective.

* 2nd response;

This structure is used to introduce a new thing into the situation - which is therefore probably indefinite. Under the desk was a ring. (We didn't know about the ring before.) 'My lost ring' rather implies it is known to be lost. So your original sentence doesn't sound right. Variations on it could: Under the desk was the ring I had lost three years ago. This ring is only definite 'the' because it's qualified by a relative clause. The ring is new in this context.

* 3rd response;

This sentence is unusual and may seem awkward or stilted. While it does not seem suitable for ordinary everyday use, I wouldn't say that is impossible in all styles of writing.

@deepcosmos posted:

4. If you say, all the inversions in above 1, 2, 3 are grammatical and natural, then, am I all right to think these patterns of inversion are seldom cases and style matter only?

@David, Moderator posted:I do not know what you mean by asking whether they "are seldom cases and style matter only." The question sounds like gibberish. Did you make a typo?

Yes, I did make a typo, which was found later. I should have used 'rare'(not seen or found very often) in place of 'seldom".

Best RGDS,

@deepcosmos posted:

Sorry for my belated reply, since I've been away from my office due to local business travel.

That's not a problem, Deepcosmos. Welcome back. You are a valued member.

@deepcosmos posted:

The reason why I asked for your evaluating about the inversion's being grammatical and natural is the British's initial responses to the same sentence as follows (all the British). Is this a kind of the usage difference between two countries?

* 1st response;

1. “My lost ring was found under the desk.” Question: "Where was your lost ring found?"

2. “Under the desk was found my lost ring.” Question: ???

1. is ok. 2 is not. It's bizarre. Why? Because it lacks topic focus or functional sentence perspective. What is the question? What is the old information and what is the new information you want to convey? What is the context?

Trying to analyse grammar in this way out of context is unlikely to be a fruitful exercise. You need to be aware of the importance of functional sentence perspective in English, and the importance of word order in establishing the correct functional perspective.

* 2nd response;

This structure is used to introduce a new thing into the situation - which is therefore probably indefinite. Under the desk was a ring. (We didn't know about the ring before.) 'My lost ring' rather implies it is known to be lost. So your original sentence doesn't sound right. Variations on it could: Under the desk was the ring I had lost three years ago. This ring is only definite 'the' because it's qualified by a relative clause. The ring is new in this context.

* 3rd response;

This sentence is unusual and may seem awkward or stilted. While it does not seem suitable for ordinary everyday use, I wouldn't say that is impossible in all styles of writing.

When I said that the sentence was grammatically correct and natural, I hope you did not interpret me as meaning that it could be used in any context! Since your questions tend to be fairly advanced, I assumed that you knew you were presenting an unusual sentence, and that your question was whether your unusual sentence was grammatical and would be natural in a suitable context.

It would be absurdly unnatural to utter the sentence "Under the desk was found my lost ring" as the first sentence of a discourse. The sentence presupposes, for one thing, that the interlocutor is aware that your ring was lost! Also, that type of inverted syntax would be used only in very special contexts. For example, it would work in a sentence list of things that had been found in various places:

  • During the earthquake, I lost many cherished belongings, including my ring, my favorite golf ball, and my photograph collection. Gradually, these items were found, in a variety of locations. Next to the fireplace was found my lost golf ball. On top of the refrigerator was found my lost photograph collection. And under the desk was found my lost ring.

Why don't you ask your British advisors how they feel about the sentence now?

@deepcosmos posted:

4. If you say, all the inversions in above 1, 2, 3 are grammatical and natural, then, am I all right to think these patterns of inversion are seldom cases and style matter only?

@deepcosmos posted:

Yes, I did make a typo, which was found later. I should have used 'rare'(not seen or found very often) in place of 'seldom".

Thus, you meant to ask whether those patterns are "are rare cases and style matter only"? How would you like me to interpret "and style matter only"?

In full agreement with everything David has said, here is one of the best references I have ever found on full inversion after a fronted adverbial (item 5.3.6 of Mastering English: An Advanced Grammar for Non-native and Native Speakers, by Carl Bache and Niels Davidsen-Nielsen, 2010). Item 5.3.7 is also relevant.

Thanks for that fine reference, Gustavo. I've already ordered myself a copy. 

Last edited by David, Moderator

When I said that the sentence was grammatically correct and natural, I hope you did not interpret me as meaning that it could be used in any context! Since your questions tend to be fairly advanced, I assumed that you knew you were presenting an unusual sentence, and that your question was whether your unusual sentence was grammatical and would be natural in a suitable context.

It would be absurdly unnatural to utter the sentence "Under the desk was found my lost ring" as the first sentence of a discourse. The sentence presupposes, for one thing, that the interlocutor is aware that your ring was lost! Also, that type of inverted syntax would be used only in very special contexts. For example, it would work in a sentence list of things that had been found in various places:

  • During the earthquake, I lost many cherished belongings, including my ring, my favorite golf ball, and my photograph collection. Gradually, these items were found, in a variety of locations. Next to the fireplace was found my lost golf ball. On top of the refrigerator was found my lost photograph collection. And under the desk was found my lost ring.

Why don't you ask your British advisors how they feel about the sentence now?



Hi, David, thank for your further explanation.

You're such an elaborate alchemist of grammar. Without your this explanation, how such a wonderful sentence couldn't have hit on me by myself.



Thus, you meant to ask whether those patterns are "are rare cases and style matter only"? How would you like me to interpret "and style matter only"?

I meant "style matter only" to tell you that some people prefer the version of “Under the desk was found my lost ring.” and some don't.

Appreciate, David, you've broaden my view of inversion today. I, EFL learner, feel personally this inversion has been one of the most difficult parts in grammar.

Best RGDS,

@deepcosmos posted:

Hello, everyone,

Today I have seen following inversion sentence in a grammar book issued in Korea;

My lost ring was found under the desk.” => “Under the desk was found my lost ring.”

When I refer to Advanced grammar In Use by Hewings, he explained as follows;

Unit 119. Inversion after adverbial phrases of direction and place

When we put an adverbial phrase, especially of direction or place, at the beginning of a sentence, we sometimes put an intransitive verb in front of its subject. This kind of inversion is found particularly in formal or literary styles:

  • Dave began to open the three parcels. Inside the first was a book of crosswords from his

Aunt Alice, (or, less formally Inside the first there was a book of crosswords...)

With the verb be we always use inversion in sentences like this, and inversion is usual with certain verbs of place and movement, such as climb, come, fly, go, hang, lie, run, sit, stand:

  • Above the fireplace was a portrait of the Duke. (not ...a portrait of the Duke was.)
  • In an armchair sat his mother. (rather than ...his mother sat.)


Inversion doesn't usually occur with other verbs. We don't invert subject and verb when the subject is a pronoun. So, for example, we don't say 'In an armchair sat she.'

Thus, while I assume the original sentence has no fact to trigger any inversion, I will appreciate, if you kindly check/advise me whether the above inversion is grammatical and natural.

Best RGDS

Yes , we can't say ' in an armchair sat she ' but this shouldn't imply total prohibition of verb inversion process here on the excuse that verb inversion is limited only to some specific verbs .

General rule of verb inversion imposes the structure 'auxiliary verb +subject + principal verb . If we go by it , we must say

In the armchair did she sit .

Please drop a line , if not convinced.

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