From my grammar books I've learned that if you introduce some indefinite object in some definite place, you do it by using the structure "there is", but when I read literature I occasionally come across cases which violate this supposed rule. See the following examples:

There was a clutter of nearly empty glasses on the table next to the cashier.

On the table next to the cashier stood a clutter of nearly empty glasses.

  1. Are the meanings of the above sentences identical?
  2. Do both the sentences sound natural?
  3. And what is the rule which regulates when I can speak one way or the other?

If I try to make up some other sentences accordingly, I get:

There is ice on the lake.

On the lake is ice. (This seems unnatural to me)

There is a house on the knoll.

On the knoll is (or stands, or sits) a house. (I'm not sure if it's natural)

2 Answers 2


The construction with "there is" is common in spoken English. "On the knoll stands a house" sounds very much like written English. The difference is one of register and style.


Well, I've found the answer to my own question. Often, in the literary or descriptive writing one can put adverbial expressions of place at the beginning of a clause and then the full verb comes before the subject. It's most common in literary sense.

So, answering my question: 1) Yes, the meaning is identical. 2) They sound natural but the latter is mostly found in literature. 3) Try using the latter construction when you write some novel or things of that nature.

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