Explanation of what subjects we can use in subject-verb inversion:

From an answer to “Here he comes”, “Here comes he” : The order of pronoun and verb in inversion:

1. On the corner is a cafe. – correct because “a cafe” is new information (due to using “a”) and, therefore, can be transported to the end of the sentence where it receives the most emphasis

2. Here comes he. – odd (not idiomatic) because “he” is in a very prominent position at the end of the sentence. This position would normally be reserved for new entities. But the fact that we are using a pronoun here means that we must already have been talking about this man in the previous discourse.

Examples which contradict the explanation:


3. Out of the tree fell the squirrel.

4. After the speeches came the toasts.

From a textbook:

5. The door opened and in came the doctor.

6. As soon as I let go of the string, up went the balloon, high into the sky.

Following the explanation above:

The fact that we are using "the" with "squirrel", "toasts", "doctor" and "balloon" means that we must already have been talking about these subjects in the previous discourse. Hence we can't place them in a very prominent position at the end of the sentences, as in 3.-6.

But since 3.-6. are correct, then is the explanation given at the beginning of the post wrong?

  • 1
    If you read on, the person who quoted 'Here comes he' stated that it is not an idiomatic sentence; we would say 'Here comes Bob', but 'Here he comes' when the name isn't mentioned. 'Out of the tree fell the squirrel' strikes me as unlikely too. In an inverted sentence I would expect a squirrel, implying that what fell out was a surprise. Jan 9 '20 at 9:18
  • Kate Bunting, in my text: "Here comes he. – odd". In your text: "Here comes he. – not idiomatic". Why do you think the difference between "odd" and "not idiomatic" is so important? Thanks!
    – Loviii
    Jan 9 '20 at 9:48
  • I thought you were quoting it as though you had been told it was correct, but that you thought it was odd. Sorry if I misunderstood you. Jan 9 '20 at 10:02
  • The explanation at the top is one reason for subject-verb inversion. It is not the only reason. Feb 8 '20 at 22:05
  • @KateBunting Your first comment is relevant. Why not post an answer around that?
    – WS2
    Oct 1 '21 at 7:11

You ignored the usually's etc in the original post.

In terms of "the doctor" and "the speeches", the definite article "the" doesn't indicate that those people/things were talked about before. It just means that people already know that they exist.

After squirrels and balloons, I feel the key word that you missed is the "usually". There other reasons for using inversion. Accentuating items that previously been mentioned isn't banned by that post. (But using a pronoun is double okward because pronouns understate).

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