I have read this at the Science.com, and it's in the second line of the last paragraph.

A bow and arrow or an atlatl allows users to attack prey—and enemies—from a safer distance than does an ordinary spear.

I would have put it this way: A bow and arrow or an atlatl allows users to attack prey—and enemies—from a safer distance than an ordinary spear does.

So here are my questions:

  1. Are both of the two sentences right?

  2. When can I put the verb ahead of the noun? When is it a necessity?

  • The verb first actually sounds better to me, unfortunately I'm not really able to describe why. Nov 8, 2012 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


It is a particular property of the pro-verb do (and also have, when it is a pro-verb, and be).

When one of these auxiliaries is used to stand for a verb phrase which has just been mentioned, after a conjunction like than or as, the verb may precede the subject:

He is going home now, as am I.

I want this to end, as do they.

The inversion is not compulsory, and tends to be associated with more formal or literary language than the uninverted form (your no. 2):

He is going home now, as I am.

There is a parallel with So used to mean also:

So does he!

but in this case, the inversion is compulsory, as without it the meaning will change:

So he does.

means either and therefore he does (whatever) or I am surprised or appreciative that he does (whatever) depending on the intonation; but it has no sense of as well.

  • 2
    There is this Germanic left-branching tendency to replicate items backwards at the end of a sentence. Tag questions work that way, don't they? Chuck Fillmore once mentioned "a party game in which people English as if it a verb-final language were to speak induced are." Nov 8, 2012 at 1:39
  • @John Lawler: Haha - I like that one! I suppose it's horses for courses, but I'm glad the ordering in my native language doesn't force me to read that many words before I get to find out what's happening (i.e. - the verbs! :). Nov 8, 2012 at 2:12
  • Me, too. But over half the languages in the world are standard SOV. It's a very stable configuration. Nov 8, 2012 at 3:28
  • I was never a fan of Reverse Polish Notation. I'm surprised the fraction is "over half the languages in the world".
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 8, 2012 at 6:44
  • 1
    Now I think of it, other auxiliaries such as can and should show this pattern as well, though they're not common after than.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 8, 2012 at 20:18

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