Constants and variables of a certain type can't be declared again with the same name, nor can they be altered to store different types.

After 'nor' why 'can' is used first instead of 'they'? I feel like it should be 'nor they can be...'

  • 5
    "Nor" is negative and hence triggers subject-auxiliary inversion. So we have the inverted "nor can they be" but not the uninverted *"nor they can be".
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 13:05
  • This answer to ell.stackexchange.com/questions/80064/… should be useful: ell.stackexchange.com/a/80071/3281 Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 13:58
  • @Damkerng T. There is no mention of fronted "nor" in that link, so how can it be relevant.
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 15:15
  • 2
    @BillJ Fair enough. (It's only relevant to those who know why it's relevant, and that means that the reader has to know that inversion applies to both negative and restrictive expressions, which makes the inversion happens in both nor (e.g., ..., nor do I care) and only (e.g., Only after ... would I ...).) Still, I think we already have a similar question. (I wrote one in ell.stackexchange.com/questions/26817/…, but it was about as, not nor.) Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 16:36
  • Hey @DamkerngT., would you mind posting the essential gist of your comment as an answer? I'd love to upvote it. :) Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


It's true that in most English clauses, the subject comes before the verb. Then again, inversion is quite common. The two main types of inversion in English are subject-verb inversion (Into the room will come a unicorn--an example on the Wikipedia page), and subject-auxiliary inversion (also known as SAI). Your example sentence is an example of SAI.

Subject-auxiliary inversion (SAI) should not be new to you, because it happens in questions (e.g., Will you help him?), but SAI also happens after negative (never, not, nor) or restrictive (think only, hardly, seldom, and such) expressions. For example:

Never have we been more close.
Not until he had finished his coffee did he consider food.
Only after two billion years did the first cell emerge.
Seldom have I heard such nonsense.

In your example, nor triggers the subject-auxiliary inversion. That's why it is ..., nor can they be altered to store different types.

For more information, see our questions tagged subj-aux-inversion.

  • 2
    Into the room will come a unicorn is really subject–dependent inversion. In this example, the subject a unicorn has switched places with into the room, a dependent of the verb; the subject hasn't actually switched places with the verb. See The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, starting on page 1385.
    – user230
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 14:12

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