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I've just learnt about inversion and I'm not sure if it can be used in sentences which are in present simple or past simple. Can the two following sentences I made be inverted?

Original sentence:

1a. The lawn was mowed yesterday.

Inverted sentence:

1b. Yesterday was the lawn mowed.


Original sentence:

2a. The streets are cleaned at night in Germany.

Inverted sentence:

2b. In Germany are the streets cleaned at night.


I also think that my problem can be that I'd like to invert passive sentences. I'm quite confused.

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  • Forget about this kind of inversion. It's "antiquated, poetic", not used in normal English today. And don't be too keen on creating passive forms - most style guides will point out that it tends to be overused inappropriately. Feb 27, 2018 at 17:49
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    I disagree @FumbleFingers. Both ways of saying these phrases are used in regular speech. What the OP is looking for is how these phrases are constructed. Feb 27, 2018 at 17:52
  • @Chris: I hope you don't mean that you think OP's 2b In Germany are the streets cleaned at night is used in regular speech! But I would just say that you'd often hear "active" voice In Germany they clean the streets at night in normal speech, whereas a formal written form would always use the passive. But that formal passive style can't deal with things we on the streets can easily express, such as In Germany they go to bed really early. Feb 27, 2018 at 17:58
  • This is really so simple. The second sentences are questions forms with the verb to be. The inversion is for questions with be. It would be interesting to know what Inversion the OP learned about....
    – Lambie
    Feb 27, 2018 at 18:48
  • @Lambie, inversion is also used in other situations than questions. Like subjunctive clauses: "Had we not been there, he would have drowned."; and, yes, sentences that start out with an adverbial-type structure: "Never before did the stock market crash so hard." In English this was much more common in former times, but it is not true that we now only use inverted sentence pattern in questions.
    – Lorel C.
    Jan 22, 2019 at 15:53

1 Answer 1

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The way you inverted sentences 1a and 2a, you have turned them into questions rather than statements.

Trying to figure out an easy way help you to work this out whilst maintaining a statement in the sentence, you need to break up the original sentence thinking of what, where, when, who, or why. If you break up sentence 1a, you would have the action..

The lawn was mowed

when?

yesterday

to invert sentence 1a, you would say

Yesterday, the lawn was mowed

The same can be applied to sentence 2a. The action is

The streets are cleaned at night

where?

In Germany

To invert 2a you could say

In Germany, the streets are cleaned at night

or because at night is also a what, where, when, who, or why; you could also say..

At night in Germany, the streets are cleaned.

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  • Yes, they were turned into questions.
    – Lambie
    Feb 27, 2018 at 18:48
  • I'd also say that as a rule of thumb, it's going to sound unnatural if you end up putting the auxiliary verb last — if you find yourself with sentences that end up as "Mowed yesterday, the lawn was" like a little green Jedi master will you sound :) Deliberate unusual inversion for poetic effect is called anastrophe and wouldn't be at all common in everyday speech/writing. May 25, 2020 at 11:00

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