I sometimes see sentences that their order is like when we use that order to ask a question. More clearly, I am giving the example in below;

For had she done so, she would have concluded that my compliment was non sense and nowhere near anything that could be called truth.

Above in the text, have/had auxiliary verb comes before the subject she. And I often see this usage, in generally long sentences. What is the reason for that order ?

1 Answer 1


This is a conditional clause. The usual construction of the sentence would be :

If she had done so she would have concluded that my compliment was nonsense.

Main clause: She would have concluded that my compliment was nonsense.
Subordinate clause: If she had done so.

In literary English when the auxiliary verb of the subordinate "if clause" is "had", "were", or "should" it is possible to have this auxiliary verb at the beginning of the subordinate clause and omit "if".

Note: you could not have "have" (as stated in your question) because conditional can only be expressed with "had", and not "have")


  • If it were true, I would know.
    → Were it true, I would know.

  • If you had told me you were coming, I would have baked a cake.
    → Had you told me you were coming, I would have baked a cake.

When the subordinate clause does not have "were" or "had" it is still possible to introduce "were" or "should" and have auxiliary verb/subject inversion by introducing an auxiliary verb:

  • If you arrive early, I'll come and pick you up.
    → Should you arrive early, I would pick you up.
    → Were you to arrive early, I could pick you up.
  • 1
    +0.7 :) But a) These inverted irrealis clauses can follow the main clause; b) it is not all conditionals but only irrealis conditionals which cannot be expressed with have; and c) the past form were, unlike should, marks an irrealis conditional, so your very last example, Were you to arrive early, give a ring won't work. Mar 1, 2014 at 14:29
  • @StoneyB. Sounds weird to my ears having the main clause first, seems to take off part of the effect brought by the inversion, but technically, of course you're right. Thanks, I've amended my answer (I'm not bothered about my reputation really, but every little bit adds to the quality of the site, and answers have to be reliable). I'm not sure I understand your c) remark, do you mean we couldn't say "Were you to arrive early, I'd pick you up" or "Were you to arrive early, give a ring" but it would be correct with "should"? I have to ponder about it... and I might come up with a question.
    – None
    Mar 1, 2014 at 16:29
  • Were in the condition clause (protasis, IF-clause) is a past form indicating an irrealis condition and it must be matched with an irrealis in the consequence clause (apodosis, THEN-clause). You can say "Were you to arrive early I could pick you up", but you can't say "Were you to arrive early I can pick you up". Mar 1, 2014 at 16:48

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