2

Consder the sentence:

Only if the framework is intuitive(,) can we proceed with formalizing and exploring its variations.

  1. Do we need a comma? Can we omit it?

  2. Is the inverted word order correct here ('can we' vs. 'we can')?

References to established grammar sources are very welcome.

1

The inverted order of "can we" is correct in this instance. I unfortunately cannot say why, except that it sounds very wrong uninverted.

I also believe the comma should be here because this sentence is re-ordered and the comma marks the subordinate clause. The natural order with the main clause leading would read:

We can proceed with formalizing and exploring it variations only if the framework is intuitive.

And in this version, the order of "we can" is restored.

  • No, a comma is not required here: Only if the framework is intuitive can we proceed with formalizing and exploring its variations. Compare: Only if the framework is intuitive, but not otherwise, can we proceed with formalizing and exploring its variations. (of course, but not otherwise is a redundancy here). I doubt anybody could provide a hard and fast rule—putting commas in the right places is a murky business. – Michael Login Nov 15 '17 at 18:44
0

Here's my short and sweet answer: 1. No need for a comma. Otherwise, you would break the flow of your sentence. 2. The order is fine. This is called inversion. It happens when a clause begins with a negative word ("no", "not", "nowhere" et cetera) or phrases like "only" and "rarely". For details, take a look at this post.

Some usage examples:

Nowhere in the regulations does it say that I have to pay an additional fee if my calls are over 10 minutes long.

Rarely do you hear people say that to other people nowadays.

  • 1
    It's worth mentioning that a negative construction is only one case when an inversion is used; there are a few others. – Michael Login Nov 15 '17 at 19:11

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