Page 554 of Collins English Usage reads

You cannot use a pronoun and 'be' after an adjunct:

At the top of the steps it was.

You say it was at the top.

Why is it so?

Does this apply to other copulative/linking verbs too?

1 Answer 1


It's not always true, especially in spoken English.

English, as well as many other languages, is built around constructions that go subject-verb-object. Of course, there are complete sentences where no object is required (eg 'The dog barked'), but in complex sentences, it is unusual for a verb to appear at the end of the construction. When it does, there is an explanation for it, but you are asking for an explanation for the norm, which is a backwards way of looking at it.

While written English is more likely to observe rules, spoken English doesn't. These might be heard in spoken British English, particularly in some regional dialects:

  • "Nice scarf he had".
  • "Looked lovely, it did".
  • "Brand new, it was".

As a general rule, your quotation is correct, but there are plenty of exceptions.

  • Adjuncts of place are often put first when describing a scene or telling a story, or when contrasting what happens in one place with what happens in another
    – GJC
    Sep 21, 2021 at 11:56

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