In a test I had earlier, there in this sentence :

___ does he come home before 11 AM for he does not want to hear his mother's complaint

There are two answers : "Never" and "Always", with the former was what my teacher chose. I argued that the latter was perfectly fine too, for it meant that the man does not wish to hear his mother's voice of distress because of his schedule. She disagreed, and insisted that "Always" cannot be used as an adverbial for inversion.

Was she correct ?

  • 2
    It's worth pointing out that although this type of inversion is possible with "negative* elements, a sequence such as Never does he allow (something he forbids) is a relatively uncommon literary / formal / dated alternative to the standard sequence He never allows it. Oct 12, 2017 at 16:54
  • 3
    I really don't understand these teachers. First you learn the regular ways of expressing things and only then move on to these things. Just look at the sentence: Never does he...for he does not....who writes/speaks like that? It would usually be: because he does not want to hear his mother complain [a verb] and not mother's complaint in a sentence such as this. It sounds to me as if the teacher is a non-native speaker if he or she presented that sentence to a student....
    – Lambie
    Oct 12, 2017 at 17:21
  • 1
    Let's be clear -- very few people would be comfortable using this kind of inversion in casual conversation. It's appropriate to poetry, drama, and some oratory, but should be avoided until you are fluent enough in English to have heard it regularly and understand the context in which it's used.
    – Andrew
    Oct 12, 2017 at 17:31
  • @Lambie: Couldn't agree more! I wouldn't expect even fairly inexperienced learners to have problems understanding the cited text, even though the syntax might be a bit confusing (not least because it would be relatively unfamiliar, even to many native speakers). But I honestly can't see much point in teaching or testing things like this. By the time anyone (learner or native speaker) is sufficiently advanced that they might ever wish to deliberately use such "marked" forms, they're way past the point at which anyone should want to test their "linguistic competence" in such a way. Oct 12, 2017 at 17:36
  • 1
    @All I do not support the whole indignation - the inversion in the question requires not only "never" but any phrasing with the negative sense. Yes, it's literary, but examples abound. Take the novelization of the 2017 movie Alien:Covenant by Alan Dean Foster: Never before in her career had she longed... Not only was it a hell of an entry... Not only is the stream good company... Not only would I prefer to trust him... and so on and so forth. Oct 12, 2017 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


___ does he come home before 11am for he does not want to hear his mother's complaint.

Your teacher was right. Subject-auxiliary inversion occurs in declarative clauses only when certain types of element are put in front position. Negatives like never are one very obvious type of element that trigger subject-auxiliary inversion when fronted, as in Never does he come home before 11am ...

But always is not negative and hence does not trigger inversion, so we get the uninverted He always comes home before 11am ..., but not the inverted * Always does he come home before 11am ...

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .