1

I wrote a sentence:

1." True, a pretty simple model was used, one involving 300 neurons of a creature that hardly anyone would like to have as a pet - a worm, for goodness sake!

Then I re-wrote it:

  1. "True, a pretty simple model was used, one involving 300 neurons of a creature that hardly would anyone like to have as a pet - a worm, for goodness sake!

(here we have inversion in a clause beginning with "hardly")

My question:

  1. Does the first sentence look as normal speech?
  2. Does the second sentence look as normal speech?
  3. Hardly ever will you get this kind of inversion in colloquial speech (rather than in formal writing), will you?

PS. By inversion I mean subject-auxiliary inversion when two words change (an auxiliary verb/operator and subject); I used it (in sentence 2) because "hardly" is an adverb having negative force.

"Answer #3: Never in either case, the inversion is simply incorrect.

Why? An answer to this question implies making a distinction between two styles, formal style and informal speech, and considering the two sentences from two different viewpoints.

  • hardly would anyone like is not mellifluous in 2. – AmE speaker Oct 28 '17 at 19:25
  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. I think your real question is numbered "3". I believe that should be the question needing an answer, multiple questions in a single post are not encouraged. Thanks. – J. Taylor Oct 28 '17 at 19:49
  • J. Taylor, you are right. I 've added PS – AstronautID Oct 28 '17 at 20:05
  • "Hardly" modifies "anyone", not "would like". – Hot Licks Oct 30 '17 at 2:14
1

Your second sentence is not correct.

Your first sentence is much better. Here is, perhaps, yet a better way to write the sentence:

True, a pretty simple model was used; one involving a creature with 300 neurons that hardly anyone would keep as a pet — a worm, for goodness sake!

Answer #1: Good enough.

Answer #2: Absolutely not.

Answer #3: Never in either case.


The problem is that you aren't inverting (or, more accurately, you're not inverting the correct words). Please note that "would" is not the verb. "To keep" is the verb. Also note that "anyone" is not the subject of the clause. "Worm" is the subject of the clause. To simplify:

Would anyone have a worm as a pet?

can be inverted to be:

Is a worm a pet anyone would have?

Adding the adverb "hardly" we have the following two examples:

Hardly anyone would keep a worm as a pet.

A worm is a pet hardly anyone would keep.

To wrap this all up, to invert my first example:

True, a pretty simple model was used; one involving a creature with 300 neurons that as a pet hardly anyone would keep — a worm, for goodness sake!

Note, however, that while this example of inversion is grammatically correct, it sounds funny — not formal-funny, it's simply not the way anyone under any circumstances would say it or write it. This is what I meant by "Never in either case." The sentence is far too complex to easily allow inversion.

The Wiki article you cited in your comment makes it sound like you can invert at will. While you can if the rule is more important than the usage, you cannot if usage is more important than the rule. Winston Churchill is attributed with once expressing his disconent with people who believe the rules are more important than usage when he said,

This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.

Just because you can do it doesn't make it right.

  • @AstronautID, I enhanced my answer to address the problem with the inversion. – JBH Oct 30 '17 at 1:43
  • "To keep" is the verb. Who "keeps"? – AstronautID Oct 31 '17 at 0:29
  • It's not "who keeps" in your sentence. It's "what's being kept?" "Anyone" is not the subject, but the predicate of the clause. The worm is the subject. – JBH Oct 31 '17 at 0:52
  • Is the author of sentences like this "Hardly anyone would keep a worm as a pet" aware there's been some research done on the question whether inversion is obligatory in sentences starting with "hardly"? english.stackexchange.com/questions/276870/… – AstronautID Nov 1 '17 at 23:56

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