#1 below is an instance of inversion, i.e., the subject "great responsibility" follows the verb "comes." I'd like to know whether this inversion is optional; is #2 correct?

  1. With great power comes great responsibility.
  2. With great power great responsibility comes.

And I am wondering whether the pattern of #1 can be generalized to the following example.

  1. With a (or his) knife came (or rushed) a (or the) man.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • 2
    Yes it's fine. It sounds rather more poetic, possibly intended as rhetoric. Jan 13, 2019 at 0:10
  • I suggest putting a comma after power in the inverted version. Jan 13, 2019 at 0:12
  • @RonaldSole Are you saying the second one is fine?
    – Apollyon
    Jan 13, 2019 at 0:17
  • @JasonBassford Are you suggesting putting a comma so that the sentence is "With great power, comes great responsibility"?
    – Apollyon
    Jan 13, 2019 at 0:33
  • 1
    To my ears, the second is not incorrect (i.e. it is grammatically acceptable), but it sounds wrong. It sounds like something that Yoda would say in a Star Wars movie. I could see it being used for poetic or literary effect, but I could not imagine myself using it in normal speech or writing. The first is so idiomatic and ingrained in the language, that the use of the second might be so jarring that I may miss the next few words that were spoken.
    – James
    Jan 13, 2019 at 0:40

1 Answer 1


Inversion can be a rhetorical strategy. Constituents are placed in their syntactic positions for balance, or for emphasis, or for contrast, and so on.

Some verbs see inversion far more than others do. With those verbs the inversion raises the statement smoothly into a heightened register:

After great pain comes a formal feeling.

(The original of that line does not use inversion, btw.)

And when the verb is one that is not usually found in clauses showing inversion, it can sound very forced; there is nothing "smooth" about it:

With weapons drawn stormed the police the gangsters' hideout.

It is grammatical but terribly wooden, and unnatural, especially in a contemporary context.

  • I think such inversion is impossible with transitive verbs.
    – Apollyon
    Jan 13, 2019 at 14:52
  • That judgment, "impossible", is too extreme. Transitive verbs were used in inverted constructions as recently as the late 19th century. They could be used in a historical novel today and would be perceived as archaisms not as impossibilities.
    – TimR
    Jan 13, 2019 at 21:50

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