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Sentences using: [something] + have + they
subject-auxiliary inversions not associated with questions

In the following, why does subject-verb inversion occur? Is it necessary? And what is this type of inversion called?

Colleague’s original:

Only in cases where A is B, the Company shall do X.

I changed to the following:

Only in cases where A is B shall the Company do X.

Searching Google for “shall the Company” gives examples such as:

In no event shall the Company ...
Under no circumstances shall the Company ...

And these all seem quite natural.

“In no event” and “under no circumstances” seem to be prepositional phrases, yet I would say simply, with no inversion:

In the fridge, you will find some beer.

Is the S-V inversion maybe some sort of archaic style that remains in legal or maybe religious texts? Perhaps a remaining German-style syntax?


2 Answers 2


It's grammatical.

Subject-verb inversion is required when preposing a negative adverbial of time, place, or circumstance.

  • At no time did he say that. ~ *At no time he said that.
  • Under no circumstances may she enter. ~ *Under no circumstances she may enter.

It is not allowed, however, when preposing other adverbials.

  • *With no hesitation did he speak up.
  • *With no grace did he accept it.

Only is a negative.

  • Does "when preposing" mean anything different than simply "after"?
    – Merk
    Oct 19, 2012 at 6:20
  • @Merk- It means "when adding to the beginning"- almost the exact opposite. Although, funnily enough, your interpretation in this instance leads to the same semantic conclusion.
    – Jim
    Oct 19, 2012 at 6:29
  • 2
    The normal beginning of an English declarative sentence is the subject NP. If it's anything else, something that would normally occur later has been placed there on purpose. Adverbials are common. So if one simply says "after", one still has to account for how the adverbial got there. Oct 19, 2012 at 7:17

This sounds like a requirements document and "shall statements" are the norm here.

"Shall statements" are usually some form of:

<trigger condition> <subject> shall <verb> <possibly subject to some constraint>

If I were going to rewrite this it would be to: The Company shall do X only in cases where A is B.

The only reason to invert is to draw attention to the constraint clause.

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