I saw a sentence in which "is" precedes the subject though the sentence is not interrogative. Here comes the sentence:

  • In fig. 4 is shown [the approach to equilibrium absorbance for a glass illuminated at three different intensities].

In general, when can we precede a subject by a verb?

Personally, I used such a structure a little earlier (Here comes the sentence) which I think is correct as it looks so.

What is the underlying principle behind when to bring the subject first or the verb?

  • 2
    "In general, when can we precede a subject by a verb?" is amusingly self-referential. As to declarative sentences, you can do that any time, that's called a hyperbaton. It can be used for emphasis or pathos, or for an alien or humoristic effect, as with Yoda speak. So in general, this question is too general.
    – RegDwigнt
    May 11, 2014 at 14:04
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    I'd add that 'In fig. 4 is shown the approach to equilibrium absorbance for a glass illuminated at three different intensities' virtually screams for this ordering. The passive is preferable (to 'Fig. 4 shows the approach to equilibrium absorbance for a glass illuminated at three different intensities') and putting the complicated subject of the passive construction in the 'normal' place ('The approach to equilibrium absorbance for a glass illuminated at three different intensities is shown in fig. 4') is unwieldy and demanding almost to the point of incorrectness. May 11, 2014 at 14:22
  • @RegDwigнt thanks. Then I conclude we can bring verbs for passive sentences first whenever we want. May 11, 2014 at 14:37
  • @EdwinAshworth thank you. Why can't I vote your answers? May 11, 2014 at 14:38
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    @F.E. So "Then was discovered uranium" sounds better than "Then uranium was discovered"? ;)
    – oerkelens
    May 11, 2014 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


Verbs can precede subjects more or less whenever you want them to. It typically looks something like this:

The dog jumped over the fence.

Over the fence, the dog jumped.

As RegDwight notes in the comments, this is called a hyperbaton:

Hyperbaton is a figure of speech that consists of an alteration of the logical order of the words in a sentence, or in which normally associated words are separated. The term may also be used more generally for all different figures of speech which transpose natural word order in sentences.

A whole bunch of detail and examples can be found on this previous answer to Why is this a hyperbaton?

For your particular example, there is no comma:

In fig. 4 is shown [...].

The more standard form is actually:

[...] is shown in fig. 4.

It is common in technical writing to move "fig. 4" to the beginning of the sentence because it is easier to read along with the description once you know which figure to look at. Why they bothered keeping "in" and "is" is beyond me. It would be much easier to read without them:

Fig. 4 shows [...].

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    Whenever want you them to, precede subjects verbs can? Most emphatically disagree I. German are we speaking not. May 19, 2014 at 18:55
  • @PeterShor: I didn't say you can do it however you wanted. You should have written "Disagree most emphatically, do I." I have no idea what your first sentence was trying to convey but I'd guess it was "Precede verbs, subjects can, whenever you want them to." And that isn't actually what I said, meant or implied. Your third example should be, "Speaking German, we are not."
    – MrHen
    May 19, 2014 at 18:57
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    "Disagree most emphatically, do I" still isn't grammatical. May 19, 2014 at 18:58
  • It's a hyperbaton and examples of this type of usage shows up all over literature. But I certainly wouldn't recommend using it without a terribly good reason since used improperly (as you have in all three of your examples) it is extremely hard to read.
    – MrHen
    May 19, 2014 at 18:59
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    Shouldn't it be "most emphatically do I disagree"? And I was trying to point out that there are rules about how you use hyperbaton, a fact which we clearly agree on but which didn't figure prominently in your answer. May 19, 2014 at 19:05

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