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When is inversion between the subject and the object or the subject and the complement possible?

For instance:

I stood at the window watching the kids play. <---> At the window watching the kids play stood I.

We were playing football <---> football were playing we.

The notebook stood besides the bed <---> Besides the bed stood the notebook.

I think you understand what I mean already. Are all of these sentences correct? Are there exceptions to that rule? Also, what context are these structures used in? It looks a bit like a literary style to me.

  • In your third sentence, you should use beside (next to) not besides (instead of). – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 20 '18 at 14:42
  • Short answer, none of those work as written or punctuated. And you are not really inverting subject and object. We were playing football = Football we were playing [that would be a subject-object inversion] – Lambie Oct 20 '18 at 14:50
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I would say it's almost always possible, but this is a poetic style that sounds artificial and dramatic, and doesn't really work except in an appropriate context.

For example, suppose I show up to meet my friends 10 minutes after the appointed time, and instead of saying, "I am late", I exclaim

Late am I!

It might sound funny or it might just sound weird, depending on my character. In the same way, you should avoid using most inversion until you understand its use.

All three of your examples are (more or less) correctly inverted, although as Jason Bassford points out the last one should be

Beside the bed stood the notebook.

It's unusual for something like a notebook to stand, though unless it's very large. It would be more common to say the notebook lay beside the bed ... but perhaps there's a reason it's standing up.

  • Is there really any difference between "beside" and "besides"? – F0rg1v3n Oct 23 '18 at 16:46
  • @F0rg1v3n Yes, there is, unfortunately. Besides is normally used as an adverb meaning "in addition to; apart from" while beside is a preposition meaning "at the side of, next to" If you ask that as a separate question I can give you more detail. – Andrew Oct 23 '18 at 17:28
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The sentences you proposed are OK, but unusual. In other words,

Perfect they are, if Yoda you are!

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