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I am not a native English speaker, but I am interested in learning a certain grammar rule. I did come across many sentences where the subject and the verb switched their positions.

For example, I can say that I don't like apples nor does my friend. Here, the modal verb does comes before the subject my friend.

Another example: not only is he a great person, but he is humble.

What is this rule and when is it appropriate to use it?

marked as duplicate by Kit Z. Fox Jan 30 '17 at 14:20

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  • Like "Hit me!"? – Mark Hubbard Jan 29 '17 at 23:12
  • @MarkHubbard No, it wasn't an order. For example, I don't like him nor does he. Something like that. – Diaa Jan 29 '17 at 23:14
  • @Mark Hubbard, "me" is the object, not the subject. The understood but omitted subject is "you." – vpn Jan 29 '17 at 23:34
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    Are you unsure about this? – Hot Licks Jan 29 '17 at 23:36
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    No problem, but that is a different construction: it is called "inversion for emphasis", and comes with certain words like "not only/until", or "only after", etc. And the other is a "I do not like it and neither does he", which is different. – Cascabel Jan 30 '17 at 0:05

English has quite a strong tendency to have the verb second in the sentence (not necessarily the second word, but the second constituent) Normally the subject is the first constituent that precedes it; but there are a number of other items which may serve that function, and in those cases the subject moves after the verb:

  • Emphatic negatives:

Never shall I see him again.

Neither could they reach it that day.

At no time did I notice this.

  • Other adverbs with negative polarity:

Rarely did they come and visit.

Hardly had I arrived than he spoke.

These are mostly a bit literary, but as you point out "neither/nor does ... " is normal in speech.

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    I remember some sentences like not only is he great, but he is a humble person. So, I think your answer best matches what I am looking for. – Diaa Jan 30 '17 at 0:16
  • @DiaaAbidou: "Not only" is another one that occurs in speech. You can say "He is not only great, but a humble person [as well]"; but if you want to get the "not only" outside the verb (so that you can go on to say "but he is ..") it has to come first. – Colin Fine Jan 30 '17 at 0:19
  • So, when do I need to make not only come first? Does it emphasize any additional meaning? – Diaa Jan 30 '17 at 0:22
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    I'm not sure it is a matter of emphasis, @DiaaAbidou: it's more about rhythm and rhetoric. "He is not only great, he has humility" is possible (though some would object to it on stylistic grounds, precisely because the "not only" comes inside the complement of "is", so the two halves are not grammatically parallel); but "Not only is he great, he has humility" has a more sonorous rhythm to my ear. – Colin Fine Jan 30 '17 at 0:33

There is an archaic mode of speech where the subject can come after the verb in the interrogative, as in this excerpt from John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" (1678)

See you yon tree? 'twill well our purpose suit;
' Let us go near; its leaves are full and fair,
' It stands a type of false profession there

The similar archaic imperative (command form) puts the subject after the verb, as in the King James Bible, Matthew 4:10

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

[Update] I forgot about the standard question form of the "to be" verb:

Are you going to work today?

Are we not men?!

Is he or is he not the President?

Note that I interpret the question as asking where the subject can come after the entire verb, and not just between the auxiliary verb and the principal verb.

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    I am not a native English speaker, but I will try to work on your answer to understand it. – Diaa Jan 30 '17 at 0:09
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    This answer is correct, but I don't think it's the case the OP was asking about. – Colin Fine Jan 30 '17 at 0:14
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    I will ask my next questions in ELL since I can't handle this English eloquence anymore :) – Diaa Jan 30 '17 at 0:59
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    @DiaaAbidou You can if you want but your question and understanding were fine. The 'eloquence' in these comments is the result of people getting increasingly sesquipedalian as they get more defensive. That's sort of a common feature on this site; when people get a little ruffled, often because they're having a disagreement, they frequently write in a more complex manner. These discussions can be interesting and valuable but also allow both people to save face, which is sort of the important part in a community where it's so difficult to get emotional feedback (no faces to see). – Please stop being evil Jan 30 '17 at 5:01
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    @DiaaAbidou As the person who asked the question, it's not really imperative that you follow such discussions if you find them difficult: everything you need should really be in the answer. You asked your question with a perfectly acceptable degree of expertise for this site (imho) and understood and responded to the various comments/answers that were directed to you. Don't let other people's superior command of the language scare you away. – Please stop being evil Jan 30 '17 at 5:06

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