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In this example, are the subject and complement inverted, or could it be possible to understand that ‘The thing’ or something of the subject of verb ‘was’ is dropped?

Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

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No "dummy 'it'" is required in the sentence: Perched atop a high mountain...was a vast castle... is perfectly grammatical. Subject-Complement inversion: A vast castle..., its windows sparkling..., was perched atop a high mountain. –  user21497 Nov 10 '12 at 13:34
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Yes, I'd say it was inversion, because an adjectival phrase (perched...) cannot normally be the subject of a sentence, which can be no other than a vast castle.... –  Cerberus Nov 10 '12 at 13:45
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@Cerberus's comment is the correct answer here. –  Mark Beadles Nov 10 '12 at 14:14
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@Tim: Normal word order is SVC: "Castle is perched". The sentence starting with "Perched" is the inversion: CVS. I said that both were perfectly grammatical and that no dummy "it" was necessary to make the inverted sentence grammatical. The OP wanted to know whether "the subject and complement [are] inverted". Cerberus and I are saying essentially the same thing: "YES: Subj-Complement inversion." That's all there is to it. –  user21497 Nov 10 '12 at 14:34
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Not unless this mythical "General Reference" that people keep referring to has a good account of the interactions between Right Node Raising and There-insertion. –  John Lawler Nov 10 '12 at 17:04
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

While it may appear that the subject is "dropped" (also called "understood"), this is an example of inversion.

You could think of the sentence as simply: "Perched on a mountain was a castle," akin to the example sentence: "Lost among the old tables and chairs was the priceless Victorian desk," which is one of the 18 kinds of sentence inversions, called "intro -ed" described at:

http://www.testmagic.com/grammar/explanations/inversion.htm

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