Futures (revision) Inversion with negative adverbials

Negative adverbialsĀ are words or phrases used to be restrictive, emphatic, or dramatic. They are used at the beginning of sentences and require one to invert the following subject and verb.

Only then did I realise my error.

Never before have I seen such beauty.

Seldom do I eat fast food.

Although more commonly used in written English, they are also used in spoken English. The most common mistake people make with these structures is to fail to invert the subject and verb after the negative adverbial. In this post, we will look at some of the common negatve adverbials, how to use them in sentences, and some common mistakes.


Only then, only later, only once, only by, only when, only if, only after, only now.

Only then did I realise that I had forgotten my key.

Only after waiting many hours did the train finally arrive.

No, Not, Never

Never, no longer, no sooner, never before, not only, not until, no more, in no way, on no account, no longer, at no time

Not until I arrive shall I buy a ticket.

Not since I was in Belgium have I had such fun.

Rarely and Seldom.

Seldom do I make an apple tart.

Rarely do I have the chance to read fiction.

Typical Mistakes

Failure to invert subject and verb

Never beforeĀ I have seenĀ such minute detail on a sculpture.

Never beforeĀ have I seenĀ such minute detail on a sculpture.

Incorrect inversion

This is an easily made mistake as in some sentences we form a subordinate clause with the negative adverbial and make the inversion in the main clause.

Only whenĀ had I arrived I realisedĀ I had left my dossier at the office.

Only whenĀ I had arrived did I realiseĀ I had left my dossier at the office.

You Should

Check that you understand the sense of each of the negative adverbials above.

Try some practice exercises from a grammar practice book.

Continue your study of inversion.

What do you think?

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