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In the center of the room there is a column.

vs.

There is a column in the center of the room.

If both are grammatical, is there a preferable way? Does context or style influence the choice?

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I've read 5 pages of there is/are questions and failed to find this simple one. Most of the questions concern choosing singular or plural, correct positions of negation, adverbs, etc.

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    Ok, thanks a lot for your help! I will uncheck your answer now and get back to it in a couple of days, that sounds quite wise. Dec 20, 2016 at 10:43

1 Answer 1

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There is usually called dummy pronoun and according to the answer posted by @BillJ in the question, Why is “there” a subject while “here” isn't?:

To complete the syntax, the subject of the non-existential construction becomes a displaced subject in the existential version:

[1] "Several windows were open". [2] "There were several windows open".

In [2] “several windows” is analysed as a displaced subject (an internal complement of the verb), but it does correspond semantically to the subject in the non-existential counterpart [1].

The example sentence "In the center of the room there is a column." has the same meaning as "There is a column in the center of the room." and the prepositional phrase (PP) in the center of the room has been fronted to emphasize the location of the column. In this case, using there is optional because the PP already indicates the place where the column is. In other words, both

In the center of the room was there a column. (There was a column in the center of the room.)

(You need to note that the word order of the verb was and the subject there is changed. Also, there are cases where the change doesn't occur.)

In the center of the room was a column. (A column was in the center of the room.)

are grammatically valid. The main purpose of fronting is to emphasize the fronted word or phrase.

Some elements like adjuncts or complements do not typically belong at the beginning of a clause. When we want to focus on them, we bring them to the front or beginning of the clause. We often find this in written literary or formal contexts.

[Cambridge Dictionary Grammar]

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  • Why do the verb and the Subject invert in your example? Dec 20, 2016 at 12:45
  • I don't think other answers can best this one. Thanks again. Dec 22, 2016 at 8:58
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    @NoxNoctis Glad it helped! Some grammar books or grammarians will tell you the subject-verb inversion will only occur when there is a Negative Polarity Item (NPI), but I have seen many sentences where it occurs when a prepositional phrase is fronted. Please read this link for your further study. english.stackexchange.com/questions/80644/… and english.stackexchange.com/questions/62208/…. I don't see any reason why the bolded part is impossible. That's my opinion.
    – user140086
    Dec 22, 2016 at 9:03

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