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By the fire sat...

English translation: fronting

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15:50 Dec 27, 2010
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary - General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
English term or phrase: By the fire sat...
Dear colleagues

I am looking for a rule that would explain the following usage:

By the fire sat a woman and child.

I am particularly interested in why the word order is inverted.

Thanks in advance!
Andrei Yefimov
Ukraine
Local time: 03:25
English translation:fronting
Explanation:
As Paul says, this is a stylistic device, and it is no more "correct" than saying a woman and child say beside the fire, but more dramatic, more lyrical, slightly more old-fashioned etc.

The use of an "adverbial" at the start of the sentence (by the fire = adverbial phrase of place) provokes the inversion of the normal subject-ver word order.

It is to be noted though that the verb remains in the affirmative, whereas with some other circumstances which provoke word order inversion, the structure of the verb also changes.

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Note added at 22 hrs (2010-12-28 14:17:59 GMT)
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Kim reminds me below of that wonderful work "The Deluxe Transitive Vampire", one of my favourite books (also obviously so for one of my ex-colleagues since it has disappeared without trace from our library!!). Highly recommended, both for specific reference and for browsing. Pantheon | 1993 | ISBN: 0679418601, 0727820737
Selected response from:

Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 02:25
Grading comment
Thank you!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +7fronting
Noni Gilbert
4 +5Emphasis
Paul Lambert
Summary of reference entries provided
Subject-verb inversion - Adverbial fronting
Kim Metzger
Use with verb "to be"
David Knowles

Discussion entries: 5





  

Answers


6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
by the fire sat...
Emphasis


Explanation:
I don't know if there is an especially complicated rule involved, but the reversed word order (as opposed to "woman and child sat by the fire side) is merely for emphasis - or comparison depending on the rest of the text. For example "On the tree stump stood a rabbit while by fire side sat a woman and child". It is a stylistic preference mainly, in my opinion.

Paul Lambert
Sweden
Local time: 02:25
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 16
Notes to answerer
Asker: Thank you, Paul! I wish I could split the points.


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  klp
5 mins
  -> Thank you

agree  Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL
13 mins
  -> Thank you

agree  Jack Doughty
30 mins
  -> Thank you

agree  Thayenga: Yes! :)
1 hr
  -> Thank you

agree  Pham Huu Phuoc
16 hrs
  -> Thank you
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31 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +7
by the fire sat...
fronting


Explanation:
As Paul says, this is a stylistic device, and it is no more "correct" than saying a woman and child say beside the fire, but more dramatic, more lyrical, slightly more old-fashioned etc.

The use of an "adverbial" at the start of the sentence (by the fire = adverbial phrase of place) provokes the inversion of the normal subject-ver word order.

It is to be noted though that the verb remains in the affirmative, whereas with some other circumstances which provoke word order inversion, the structure of the verb also changes.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 22 hrs (2010-12-28 14:17:59 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Kim reminds me below of that wonderful work "The Deluxe Transitive Vampire", one of my favourite books (also obviously so for one of my ex-colleagues since it has disappeared without trace from our library!!). Highly recommended, both for specific reference and for browsing. Pantheon | 1993 | ISBN: 0679418601, 0727820737

Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 02:25
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 16
Grading comment
Thank you!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Kim Metzger
2 mins
  -> Snap! This subject is dealt with in Spain at university level for students of English, and I always used to try to slip it in quietly (or in small doses) without too much theory because otherwise it was rather a daunting section of grammar!

agree  Paul Lambert: I love that explanation.
38 mins
  -> Thank you Paul - wish more of my past students had reacted that way!!

agree  Stephanie Ezrol
59 mins
  -> Thanks Stephanie

agree  Tina Vonhof: Good explanation.
1 hr
  -> Thank you Tina

agree  B D Finch: It is the stylistic equivalent of beginning a film with a camera panning the scene before reaching and focussing in on the actor.
7 hrs
  -> Nice "angle"! Thank you

agree  Phong Le
13 hrs
  -> Thank you

agree  Pham Huu Phuoc
16 hrs
  -> Thank you.
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Reference comments


33 mins peer agreement (net): +2
Reference: Subject-verb inversion - Adverbial fronting

Reference information:
1. Adverbial fronting
An adverb or phrase with an adverbial meaning is put in initial position. This puts a little more emphasis on the fronted word or phrase, and also provides a logical transition from the preceding sentence to the current sentence. These include adverbs of frequency (seldom, rarely, always), adverbs of extent or degree (= how much), and prepositional phrases of location or direction. In such cases, the subject–verb inversion is most commonly used with (1) intransitive verbs expressing existence, appearance, motion, or
change of state (be, stand, exist, grow, come, remain, walk, spring, slip, melt, die...), and (2) passive verbs (be arranged, be arrayed, be strewn, be found...).

direction & location prepositions.
Into the room ran a king penguin.
In the garden stands an oak tree.
Upon the roof scurried the two squirrels.
On the roof was found a bloody scarf.
Upon the ceiling was found a strange stain.

https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/k-lee7/www/kesl/writ/inversion_sv....


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Note added at 39 mins (2010-12-27 16:29:51 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Withsuchprepositions, the subject–verb inversionoccurs if the locationalor directionalphrase occurs first
in the sentence, and it indicates existence or appearance of the subject with respect to the speaker’s point
of view. With such prepositional phrases, the inversion is optional with most verbs, but is required with be.
Into the room a king penguin ran.
Into the room ran a king penguin.
Out of the house Russ stepped. (away from the speaker’s frame of reference)
Out of the house stepped Russ as he moved toward the stranger.
(into speaker’s frame of reference)
In the garden an oak tree stands.
In the garden stands an oak tree.
In the garden is an oak tree.

Kim Metzger
Mexico
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 80
Note to reference poster
Asker: Thank you, Kim! That's exactly what I was looking for.


Peer comments on this reference comment (and responses from the reference poster)
agree  Noni Gilbert: As ever, I tend to balk at the grammarians' choice of egs (with v hon exception of Mr Swan who wd be laughing away at the idea of a king penguin in his living room) - how often do we use the vbs strew or array? But important to stress usage with vb to be.
4 mins
  -> For wonderful examples for grammar see The Deluxe Transitive Vampire
agree  Tony M
15 mins
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2 hrs
Reference: Use with verb "to be"

Reference information:
The simple usage would be: There is an oak tree in the garden, where "there" is a required dummy subject. When you invert, you can drop the "there" if you want.
In the garden there is an oak [tree]
In the garden is an oak [tree]
But: "In the garden stands an oak" sounds best to me.

I'm uncomfortable with using "tree" in the inverted form, perhaps because it's a more poetic, and "oak tree" sounds prosaic.

I'd also say the inverted form is generally more common than the non-inverted form.

David Knowles
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 20
Note to reference poster
Asker: Thank you, David! Your explanation was very helpful.

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Voters for reclassification
as
PRO / non-PRO
Non-PRO (3): Tony M, Ildiko Santana, Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL


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Changes made by editors
Dec 28, 2010 - Changes made by Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL:
LevelPRO » Non-PRO


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