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In a recent comic by Poorly Drawn Lines, I came across the following sentences :

Where go the hours? Where go the days?

Son of a gun, where do go they?

Though the last sentence is clearly jokingly incorrect, I initially thought the first ones were a literary, poetic or archaic but correct formulation. However I looked it up and I couldn't find anything on this type of sentence, so I'm not sure.

Can this construction be found elsewhere? And what effect does this word order produce for a native speaker? (Failed attempt at profound poetry, childish and blatant grammatical error, something else?)

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    It's a surprise reversal for effect. Something wicked this way comes, if you shall be so audacious as to wish to sound bewitching in Macbeth. Notable for the ages, right? Ask not what order is wrong, ask what you can do to avoid sounding like some scriptwriter of old. Feb 3, 2022 at 15:00
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    It seems to be a valid but archaic word order. From the 1687 play The Rehearsal: "Well, and where lies the Jest of that?" As a native speaker, I assumed it was a fairly common archaic word order, but I didn't find it in Shakespeare, so it must have been less common that I thought. Feb 3, 2022 at 15:16
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    @PeterShor Shakespeare used "whither goeth/st." as go is a verb of motion. A Winter's Tale - MOPSA. "Thou hast sworn it more to me. Then whither goest? Say, whither?"
    – Greybeard
    Feb 3, 2022 at 15:34
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    @YosefBaskin neat!
    – Anton
    Feb 3, 2022 at 16:03
  • @Greybeard In fact, especially with "whither," even the verb can often be deleted: google.com/… Feb 3, 2022 at 16:58

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Where go the hours? Where go the days?

This is known as adverb fronting inversion.

Random Idea English has a good explanation:

Inversion and fronting

Inversion is often used in connection with fronting. Sometimes fronting involves inversion, often it doesn't. Sometimes that inversion is obligatory, sometimes it isn't.

• Fronting of a negative adverb, with obligatory inversion. He had never seen such a wonderful sunset. (standard word order) Never had he seen such a wonderful sunset. (fronted with inversion)

• Fronting of a prepositional phrase, with optional inversion A large dog lay in front of the fireplace. (standard word order) In front of the fireplace, lay a large dog. (fronted with inversion) In front of the fireplace, a large dog was chewing a bone. (fronted, no inversion)

As you can imagine, in current Modern English, these negative and locative phrases are the most likely to cause inversion.

The commonest is of the type: "There(adv.) is a cat(subject)."

But we also have "so do I"

Earlier, many free-modifier phrases and clauses - and also adjectival phrases and clauses - commonly caused inversion:

"Long was the road, but dearly did he love her."

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    Not the answer. This is the modern use of do-support for wh-questions. Feb 3, 2022 at 21:10

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