3

From the sentence:

They are nice and flashy on the outside, and they tell you all the great things that are inside but very rarely do you actually get to see inside the box.

I feel natural that the "do" is placed here, but what is this situation called and how do I know when to use it?

7
  • 1
    It's a stylised "literary inversion" from the "default" word order: ...but you very rarely actually get to see inside the box. In this particular case, that inversion also requires including "do-support" for the verb, but this isn't always the case with literary inversion. And it's got no particular implications for the meaning, either. Just accept it as valid if you come acrosss this kind of thing - but unless you're very confident, you probably shouldn't try to copy the style. Commented May 27, 2021 at 15:33
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? What is the function of "do" in this sentence? Also The role of do in a declarative sentence and possibly others. Commented May 27, 2021 at 15:36
  • @FumbleFingers This is a good question and I find your advice a bit off putting. Also, why don't you submit a formal answer?
    – Lambie
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 15:39
  • @Lambie: It's so obviously a duplicate I don't understand why you went to the trouble of writing another answer. I've no idea why you think my advice is "off-putting", but that's presumably your problem, not mine. Commented May 27, 2021 at 15:45
  • @FumbleFingers Actually, it isn't a duplicate as the answers do not explain that certain adverbs trigger it due to their position before the verb. to pre-position certain adverbs, you need the auxiliary. And by the way, you don't explain that either.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 15:51

2 Answers 2

3

They are nice and flashy on the outside, and they tell you all the great things that are inside but [very rarely do you actually get to see inside the box].

The bracketed element has subject-auxiliary inversion. This occurs in declarative clauses only when certain types of element are put in front position. Negatives are one very obvious type of element that trigger subject-auxiliary inversion when fronted:

Never had I seen such chaos.

At no stage were they in danger.

"Rarely" is not negative, but it is semantically close to a negative, in that Rarely do I leave the house, for example, entails that I don't often leave the house, that I do leave the house no more often than occasionally", and in this respect has a negative meaning.

The other 'approximate negators' are the adverbs "seldom", "barely", "hardly" and "scarcely", and the determinatives "few" and "little".

1

This is a subject-auxiliary inversion

In English grammar, subject-auxiliary inversion is the movement of an auxiliary verb to a position in front of the subject of a main clause.

Two possibilities:

  • but very rarely do you actually get to see inside the box. OR
  • but you actually rarely get to see inside the box.

It is the placement of the adverb rarely that triggers the inversion; if the adverb is placed after the verb phrase "get to see", the inversion would not be necessary.

inversion

It is adverbs such as rarely, seldom, little that work like this. Refer to the link for more of them. Not all adverbs do.