I understand inversion but I have a difficulty when it comes down to "there."

  • A: Under the window there stood a vase.
  • B: Under the window stood a vase.

Here my teacher said that option B is correct.

  • C: Under the window there was a vase.
  • D: Under the window was a vase.

And here he said that option A is correct.

Could someone explain why I can't say option D?

  • 1
    Your teacher is mistaken. Options A, B, C, and D are all acceptable. If your teacher provided a reason for preferring B and C, we would need to know what he or she provided as reasoning in order to analyze further. May 27, 2017 at 18:06
  • He didn't provide any explanations. He just said these two options were correct because "this is how it should be." May 27, 2017 at 18:11
  • Then you should challenge your teacher to provide a reason for this, because any expert on the English language would say that all of the provided options are acceptable. May 27, 2017 at 18:13
  • Can't put my finger on it but A and D sound kind of weird. Definitely not wrong but I never speak like that in casual conversation. May 27, 2017 at 18:18
  • 2
    They are all correct. But I suspect your teacher doesn't like D because they think a preposition phrase cannot function as a locative complement in an inverted construction. But it can, locational complements like "A vase is on the table" ~ "On the table is a vase", and "A letter was on the table" ~ "On the table was a letter" are grammatically okay, though the non-inverted versions are the norm.
    – BillJ
    May 27, 2017 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


A. Under the window there stood a vase.

This is a presentational construction using a dummy there as Subject. The Locative Adjunct has been fronted. If we didn't have the fronting it would read:

  • There stood a vase under the window.

B. Under the window stood a vase.

This is an example of Subject-Complement inversion. Here we see the Locative Complement of the verb STAND has swapped places with the indefinite Subject a vase. The sentence would otherwise read:

  • A vase stood under the window.

C. Under the window there was a vase.

This is an existential construction in which the Locative Complement has been fronted. It would otherwise read:

  • There was a vase under the window.

D. Under the window was a vase.

Again, this is an example of Subject-Complement inversion. This time with the verb BE instead of the verb STAND.

All four of these examples are completely grammatical. They all demonstrate strategies for avoiding using indefinite noun phrases as Subjects at the beginning of sentences. English speakers tend to avoid using indefinite noun phrases at the beginning of sentences where they can. This makes them easier for listeners to process.

  • 'There' is existential, not locative, in these examples. I looked under the window. There there stood a vase. (locative, then existential usage) _Là , il ya a été ....' Oct 26, 2023 at 16:08
  • @EdwinAshworth I kind of agree. But dummy there is never existential; it is just a dummy subject. It's worth saying so because the very same word occurs in presentational constructions as well as existential ones. There's nothing existential about There suddenly appeared a silhouette or There jumped from the window an assassin, for example. But yes, I'm with you more or less. Oct 26, 2023 at 16:39
  • This is terminology. The linguist Nordquist uses it as an accepted standard term. It introduces a statement telling of an extant / past ... state. Oct 26, 2023 at 18:55

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