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I am interested in subject–auxiliary inversions when the sentence begins with an adverb or an adverbial phrase. If the adverb is not negative (for instance, "not only" or "never"), can we invert the usual word order of subject + verb?

For example, can we turn "It faded slowly" into "Slowly did it fade"?

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  • The acceptability (it's meaningless trying to define 'grammaticality' here) of this style varies immensely with register. In a work of fiction by Tolkien, 150%. In the local pub, expect to be barred or thumped. In a scientific account, expect the editor to send it back. // 'Slowly[,] it faded' is far more generally idiomatic. / Note that idiomaticity varies even with negative adverbs. 'Never did I say that' has a similar distribution to 'Slowly did it fade'. Mar 2, 2017 at 11:02
  • Yes: the fronting of an adverb does not prevent subject-auxiliary inversion occurring in this kind of interrogative. But are you sure you meant the second sentence to be an interrogative? (You've added a question mark).
    – BillJ
    Mar 2, 2017 at 18:22
  • @BillJ The question mark belongs to the question Can we turn ... into ...?, not to the "Slowly did it fade" part.
    – Cromack
    Mar 3, 2017 at 9:02

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Verily say I unto thee that the way I have begun this sentence is antiquated and idiosyncratic.

You could use it but you'd sound like Henry V.

Even if you modernised the language by saying Honestly am I telling you you'd still sound odd, a bit more like Yoda this time.

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