Sunday, November 2, 2014

Inversion with so, such and as - exercises

Here are a couple of exercises on inversion with so, such and as, and a rather nerdy discussion of inversion after than. You can find out much more about inversion, and about why we use inversion and fronting, at a rather longer post I wrote recently (link below).

Subject-auxiliary inversion

The most common forms of subject-auxiliary inversion include:
  • conditionals
  • negative inversion
  • so and such
  • after as
As I've already posted lots of exercises on inversion in conditionals and on negative inversion (see links at the end), only the last two are included here.
Not so common:
  • than + inversion in comparatives - see discussion
  • Exclamations (especially in American English)
    Well, have we got a surprise for you!
  • Hopes and wishes starting with may
    May the force be with you!

So and such

In constructions with so + adjective / adverb + that clause, and noun + linking verb + such + that clause, we can front the so or such expression:
  • She was so exhausted that she went straight to bed.
    So exhausted was she that she went straight to bed.
  • He played the tune so badly that nobody recognised it.
    So badly did he play the tune that nobody recognised it.
  • The extent of the damage was such that the car was a total write-off.
    Such was the extent of the dammage that the car was a total write-off.
Exercise 1Rewrite the sentences following the model above.
1. He was so excited that he could hardly sleep.
.
2. His experience was such that he knew what to do immediately.
.
3. She performed it so well that many said that it was perfect.
.
4. He became so angry that he stormed out of the room..
5. The situation was such that the smallest incident could have started a riot.
.
6. He had been working so hard that he had hardly seen his family.
.

As + auxiliary / subject inversion

We can begin a second clause or sentence with as + auxiliary (or be) to say that somebody does the same thing as somebody already mentioned, in which case inversion occurs:
  • Italy produces many excellent wines, and Spain does too.
    Italy produces many excellent wines, as does Spain.
  • France is a founder member of the EU. Belgium is a founder member too.
    France is is a founder member of the EU, as is Belgium.
Note - there is no inversion when the subjects of the two clauses are the same:
  • Denmark has won this year's 'happiest country' award. It wins it every year.
    Denmark has won this year's 'happiest country' award, as it does every year.
Exercise 2Complete the sentences, starting with as. There is one sentence where you don't invert.
1. They launched a new model last week. Their main competitor launched one too.
They launched a new model last week, .
2. We have complained to the council about it. Our neighbours have also complained.
We have complained to the council about it, .
3. She went on holiday to the Bahamas. She goes there every year.
She went on holiday to the Bahamas, .
4. The Czech Republic is famous for its beer, and so is Belgium.
The Czech Republic is famous for its beer, .
5. They might be a bit late due to the traffic. Some of the other guests might be late too.
They might be a bit late due to the traffic, .

Inversion in comparatives after than - a discussion

Some EFL books give examples of subject-auxiliary inversion after than in comparatives, for example:
  • Children living in villages watch more television than do their counterparts in inner city areas
    (Advanced Grammar in Use - Martin Hewings)

  • City dwellers have a higher death rate than do country people.
    (Practical English in Use - Michael Swan)

I have to say, however, that I do not find this kind of inversion very natural, and I would advise learners to generally avoid it. Some famous commentators have also expressed their disapproval: Henry Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) called it 'deprecated', as apparently did another 'grand old man' of English usage, Sir Ernest Gowers, the editor of the 2nd edition (1965), while the editor of the 3rd edition, RW Burchfield (1996), calls it 'rare'.
On one website, a commenter gives this example, suggesting that inversion is necessary here, perhaps because some people are reluctant to end a sentence with 'are', or perhaps because of the length of the second phrase:
  • The infants of humans are more helpless than are those of most other animals.
It has been suggested (in the Cambridge Grammar of the English Grammar) that inversion here serves to put the contrastive subject of the second clause in end position, giving it more prominence. So, in the sentence above, we have the two contrasted elemants (underlined above) at the beginning and at the end.
And while I agree that sentences with be perhaps sound more natural inverted than (do) those with do and especially than those with have, we don't in fact usually need the second verb at all, and both Fowler and Bryan Garner, author of Garner's Modern American Usage (2003) recommend dropping it altogether. And we can still keep the contrasted element at the end. So the most natural version of those three sentences would probably be:
  • The infants of humans are more helpless than those of most other animals.

  • Children living in villages watch more television than their counterparts in inner city areas.

  • City dwellers have a higher death rate than country people.

There are a couple of things to note about comparative clauses with than:
  • this kind of inversion is never used with pronouns
    He is considerably better informed about this than I am.
    He is considerably better informed about this than am I.
  • you're probably better leaving the auxiliary in if there's any room for ambiguity
    My brother knows more about cars than I do

    Taken out of context My brother knows more about cars than me might suggest that he knows more about cars than he knows about me.

  • If there are two auxiliaries, we either invert both together, or keep both together at the end, or miss them out altogether:
    It is no more expensive than would be the system we are proposing
    It is no more expensive than the system we are proposing (would be).
    BUT NOT
    It is no more expensive than would the system you are proposing be
  • We can only invert auxiliaries, not whole verbs:
    He earns more than (does) the chief executive.
    He earns more than earns the chief executive
  • Inversion doesn't seem to work when comparing adverbial expressions
    Sales this year are significantly better than were sales last year.

    It seems to work better when we directly compare subjects:
    This year's sales are significantly better than were those of last year.

    Or we can use a pronoun and simply forget inversion:
    Sales this year are significantly better than they were last year

The exception - than is the case - when inversion is the norm

You might occasionally come across this construction - comparative + 'than is the case' usually followed by with or in. This is always inverted and sounds quite natural, but it can often be left out in a less formal style (as is shown by the brackets I've added).
  • In the UK, a bigger portion of welfare is funded by the state than (is the case) in Poland, France, Germany or the Netherlands. (BBC)

  • These areas look set to weaken more than (is the case with) areas with fewer public sector employees. (The Guardian)

  • And the dangers of global deflation are greater and more difficult to control than (is the case with) global inflation. (The Economist)

  • A higher proportion of Americans go on to higher education than (is the case) in Britain. (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

Answers

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