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Rarely, though, do countries introduce a single reform alone.

What function does do have in this sentence?

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    There needs to be inversion after negatively orientated adverbs like never, seldom, rarely.... Never have I seen such loyalty. Seldom is he seen here. Hardly had he gone when Sally arrived. When the verb involved is not an auxiliary or copula, do-support is needed. Seldom does he write to his parents. Rarely, though, do countries introduce a single reform. This sort of construction is in a formal register. – Edwin Ashworth May 9 '18 at 8:12
  • The sentence as a whole means the same thing as countries rarely introduce a single reform alone or it is rare that countries introduce a single reform alone. (I'm not quite sure, however, what the meaning of "alone" is here. Without partnering with other countries? But why would they? Or is it just redundant, given that "single" is already used?) In any case, what aspect of do confuses you? Or are you just looking for terminology? – Jason Bassford May 9 '18 at 9:02
  • @JasonBassford It means 'a single reform on its own'. – Araucaria May 9 '18 at 15:05
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One thing it does is allow the writer to emphasize the word 'rarely'. My guess is that this sentence exists in a larger context where the action of introducing a single reform alone is being compared to another action that happens more often. Instead of writing

"Countries rarely introduce a single reform alone, though."

the writer wants to increase the importance of the word 'rarely' by putting it at the beginning of the sentence. The word 'do' is needed as an auxiliary because the main verb must come after the subject in this case. In English, you can't write

"Rarely, though, introduce countries a single reform alone."

.

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This is an example of inversion.

In formal styles, when a "negative" adverb (such as "rarely" or "never") is used in the front position (for emphasis) the subject and verb are inverted.

Never have I been so surprised. (= I have never been so surprised)

When the verb is in the simple present, "do support" is needed to form the inversion

Rarely do I wake before 7am.

Seldom does one hear the howl of a wolf.

Your sentence means the same as

Countries rarely introduce a single reform alone.

In implies that countries usually introduce multiple reforms at the same time.

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