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Those sentences which start with negative words other than subjects are inverted. For example:

Little did I dream it.

But how about only a little/few? Do they work like little or few?

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    few is for countable nouns, but money is an uncountable noun, so it's always little money, the other questions aside. – stangdon Mar 1 '17 at 12:32
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    This question isn't really about few and little, but it looks like that from the title. It's really about whether negative inversion is triggered by only a few/little money being fronted. I think everyone is likely to be distracted by few in the first example and not even notice the lack of inversion in the second, even though the actual question is clear if you read the question body. I'm going to edit the question. – snailcar Mar 4 '17 at 4:20
  • I elaborated a bit in chat on why I edited the title of this question: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/24938/conversation/… – snailcar Mar 4 '17 at 4:35
  • @snailplane I think this is a really interesting question now that I look more closely at it. I made the same mistake of thinking it was about few/little and countable/uncountable. – ColleenV Mar 4 '17 at 4:53
  • "Only a little money do I have" is Yoda speech. – fixer1234 Mar 13 '17 at 15:26
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"A few money" is definitely incorrect; "Only a little money do I have" may be correct but sounds very awkward to me. It also sounds very dated, much more so than "Little did I know/dream/expect". I'm guessing that "little [inverted sentence]" is a grammatical form that isn't used much anymore, and survives mostly in those fixed expressions and old-timey songs.

So I don't actually know the answer to whether it's correct to use "Only" in that construction, but that's because that construction doesn't occur much and never in circumstances where you'd put "only" in the first place (you definitely won't say "only little did I dream..."). Is this idle curiosity or do you actually want to write or say this somewhere, and if so what's the context ?

  • Interesting - but it doesn't really answer the OP's question :) – Araucaria Mar 4 '17 at 12:28
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Whether to use "few" or "little" depends on whether the noun the word quantifies is countable or uncountable. Money is uncountable, so we want to use "little." Dollars (or Yuan, or Euros, or whatever) are countable. To get a grasp of this, pull out the currency from your wallet or purse. You should be able to count the number of bills you have. So we would say "only a little money," or "only a few Dollars."

As an aside, let's discuss your placement of the clause "I have." While it is not technically incorrect to put it at the end of the sentence like your example, it is much more natural sounding to put it at the beginning. So the best way to say this is

I only have a little money.

which is uncountable. You could also use a countable noun and say

I only have a few dollars

  • Interesting - but it doesn't really answer the OP's question :) – Araucaria Mar 4 '17 at 12:27
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Short Answer

"Only a little money had I."

This is the answer you're looking for.

Long Answer

But note that the construction of this sentence is different from your example sentence, "Little did I dream it."

Longer Answer

The problem had been that you had been trying to compare an adverb phrase "little did I dream," with a determiner phrase, "only a little money."

The two are constructed differently.

Thus, to achieve the inversion you had wanted, we had had to create a situation in which "a little" acted instead as an adverb by letting it modify the verb.

Little did I dream it. VS. Only a little money I have.

  • Move "a little" so that it modifies the verb.
  • Add a comma as the two phrases have now become their own clauses.

Little did I dream it. VS. Money, only a little I have.

  • Invert to achieve our desired effect.
  • Use past tense in inversion, "did," to maintain parallelism
    • "Did I dream" and "did I have."

Little did I dream it. VS. Money, only a little did I have.

  • Native-speaker-fy it because the thing is, no one says it this way, as far as I know.

Little did I dream it. VS. Only a little money had I.

  • In fact, as far as I know, no one ever really talks like this except to be ironic (and possibly, a little facetious) :O :D.

What do you think? Does this answer your question?

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  1. Little did I dream.

  2. Only a little money do I have.

3, Only a little money I have.

The sentence #1 is grammatical. The adverb little is an adverb that has a negative meaning. In formal style, when you use an adverb with a negative meaning at the beginning of a sentence for emphasis, you invert the subject and auxiliary/modal verb.

Besides, you also start a sentence with "also" followed by some adverbial phrases, such as also after, also later, also then, also when, also at night. In such cases, you also invert the subject and auxiliary/modal verb. For example:

Only after I had seen my son did I feel calm.

The sentence #2 doesn't seem grammatical; the also isn't followed by an adverbial. Instead, it's followrd by a noun phrase "a little money".

As for the sentence #3, it sounds old-fashioned. In modern English, you don't use the structure object + subject + verb. You can rephrase your sentence as follows:

I only have a little money,

I have only a little money.

You can also say "Only I have a little money", but its meaning is different from these two sentences.

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