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Adverbs of place and direction usually go in end position. However, they can be put in front position to emphasize location (and in this case, inversion is frequently used):

“Next to the bookshelf was a fireplace” (not “Next to the bookshelf a fireplace was”)

Of course, inversion is not used when a pronoun is a subject. Nevertheless, there are other exceptions:

“Through the waves the boy swam powerfully”

“Outside the church the choir sang”

“In the garden John built a play house for the children” (not "in the garden built John...")

Hewings’s grammar provides the following explanation (which I find hard to comprehend): “…we don’t usually put the subject after the verb when we talk about actions: if one of these intransitive verbs is followed by and adverb of manner; with other intransitive verbs; of with transitive verbs…” (Unit 76).

Is there a simpler explanation than that (such that a person with no linguistic background could understand)?

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In my opinion, Michael Swan's explanation is simpler:

When an adverbial expression of place or direction comes at the beginning of a clause, intransitive verbs are often put before their subjects.

(See: Practical English Usage, Third Edition, 303.1)

Note that he adds: "This happens especially when a new indefinite subject is being introduced"

On the grass sat an enormous frog.

Directly in front of them stood a great castle.

Along the road came a strange procession.

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    You don't actually say what his explanation is. What is it? – Jason Bassford Apr 9 at 23:49
  • But what about the rule which allows as to go without inversion even when adverbial expression of place or direction comes at the beginning of a clause: “On the grass sat an enormous frog.” (Yes, there is inversion) “Outside the church the choir sang” (No inversion!) – Zak Apr 10 at 10:59
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    @Rompey Again, though, this doesn't help anybody else doesn't have access to the book. Questions and answers, while quoting a source, shouldn't rely on the reader having to go to the source in order to understand what's being said. Following through to the source should only be something in addition to self-contained information. – Jason Bassford Apr 10 at 13:28
  • No, he lists only intransitive verbs used to “indicate being in a position or movement to a position”: (hang, lie, live, sit, stand, come, fly, go, march, roll, run, swim, walk). How could I overlook this (rhetorical question)?! – Zak Apr 10 at 13:42
  • @JasonBassford " this doesn't help anybody else doesn't have access to the book". Judging by the OP's comment it did help him. – Rompey Apr 11 at 1:04

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