I came across the sentence

Pretty soon along came some people.

However I wonder if

Some people came along pretty soon.

is correct. Is this sentence anastrophe?

  • Can you provide a link to the original context? It's a rather unusual combination of "informal" pretty soon coupled with a "dated, poetic" non-standard reordering of the normal form some people came [along], which leads me to suspect it wasn't written by a native speaker. Mar 11, 2016 at 17:45
  • This sentence is from the book "The little house" but the content can be seen because of copyright. Mar 11, 2016 at 17:55
  • Is that the 1942 children's book? It's not the kind of phrasing one would expect people to say today (or even write, unless they were facetiously imitating an outdated/childish style), But as regards along, it's an optional word there (which could be replaced with by in the "standard" word order). It just adds the implication that those people probably arrived / "turned up" at that place by chance, rather than because that's where they were trying to get to. Mar 11, 2016 at 18:18
  • Yes, but your link is wrong. it's en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_House Mar 11, 2016 at 18:38
  • 2
    Like Little Miss Muffet: "Along came a spider", although rhyming also is a factor here. Could you add a few lines before and after yours? That should fall within fair use, though you should add a citation regarding the source in your question.
    – user3169
    Mar 11, 2016 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


The first is casual and informal but not especially unusual in British English. The second one sounds clumsy and strange to me.

"I put some rubbish out ready for the bin men last night and, of course, pretty soon along come the local foxes and now it's all over the street" is a similar example I heard recently.

  • I think your got these two the wrong way around. OP's #1 is a dated / poetic / "nursery story" usage. The relatively unusual juxtaposition of colloquial pretty soon and "literary, marked" subject/verb inversion might not be out of place in a Brer Rabbit tale, but it's definitely not the idiomatic standard for today's spoken contexts. OP's #2 is absolutely "ordinary". Mar 11, 2016 at 19:14
  • @FumbleFingers Where would such an ugly construction be ordinary English? "Pretty soon after" or "pretty soon afterwards" would be more normal but ending after "soon" seems, at best, American.
    – Nagora
    Mar 11, 2016 at 21:06
  • @FumbleFingers It's actually not subject-verb inversion, but subject-dependent inversion. But I have to agree with you. Since this type of subject-dependent inversion appears mainly in storytelling contexts, it does sound rather odd next to the colloquial pretty soon, doesn't it?
    – user230
    Mar 11, 2016 at 22:13
  • @snail - I agree with you and Fumble about the storytelling thing. Pretty soon along came some people has a similar "ring" to it as Once upon a time (words that, if they weren't so familiar, might sound a little awkward.)
    – J.R.
    Mar 11, 2016 at 22:24
  • @snailboat: That's why I haven't posted an answer, and why you should (you're more up on the precise application of grammatical terminology). I'm inclined to believe anastrophe is too "strong" a term for this particular inversion, since we're so familiar with it from the "stylized story-telling" context that it's even possible for Nagora here to classify it as more normal than the "normal" version. Your (definitive?) ruling on whether it could properly be called an "anastrophe" would be useful. Mar 12, 2016 at 13:04

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