"Imagine the scene: you are sitting on the tube and on gets someone you instinctively feel is American. To make sure you ask them the time, and are right, but how did you know?"

I tried but couldn't find out what "on gets" really is. I've never seen it before. Is it a syntactical trick?

I truly need your help.

2 Answers 2


You are sitting on the tube and on gets someone...

This type of word order is called subject-verb inversion.

Wikipedia explains such inversions, including the directive one, and their uses.

Subject-verb inversion[s]...emphasize the post-verb subject...,for instance, to establish a contrast of the subject with another entity in the discourse context.

The inversion in OP's example is the directive inversion.

A predicative phrase is switched from its default postverbal position to a position preceding the verb...the pre-verb expression denotes a location...the verb is...a verb of movement.

The fronted expression that evokes inversion is a directive expression; it helps express movement toward a destination.

a. Two students came into the room.

b. Into the room came two students. - Directive inversion


It's a strange word order of "someone gets on". I certainly consider the OP phrasing awkward at the very least.

  • 2
    The syntax is nof strange at all. It is a fairly common mode of speech.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented May 28, 2022 at 6:22

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