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North of the house was a barn - inversion

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by blasita, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. blasita

    blasita Senior Member

    Spanish - Spain (Madrid)
    Hello.

    North of the house was a barn.
    A barn was north of the house.
    There was a barn north of the house.

    I would like to know the grammar behind the first sentence: name of the structure (some kind of subject inversion?) and use; is it mainly used for literary effect?

    By the way, I don't think we need any prepositions, but if we wanted to add one, would 'to (the) north ...' be okay?

    Thank you very much.
     
  2. Wandering JJ

    Wandering JJ Senior Member

    England
    British English
    Hola Blasita!

    According to my grammar books (very old - like me... ) the word order in your bold sentence is to emphasise 'barn'.

    Let me quote: "Another type of inversion [as you suggested] is that in which the subject comes at the end for emphasis. 'Now comes my best trick', 'to the list may be added the following names'."

    To me, your sentence fits this structure exactly: 'North of the house was a barn.' Regrettably, my main source (Usage and Abusage) does not give this inversion a special name - we could call it 'an inversion of emphasis'. You asked if it is used for literary effect. I would say not specifically. I know I use it quite frequently. Someone asks me something about the Russian language and I am likely to reply, "I'm not sure, but in my office is a Russian girl, so I'll ask her tomorrow." This has more impact than the usual word order and emphasises that I'm not waffling but going to ask someone who will almost certainly have the correct answer.

    You are absolutely right about the need for prepositions - not required - but, should you want to use one, in the case of your sentence it would have to be "to the north of the house was a barn."

    Espero que te sirva.

    Un saludo.
     
  3. blasita

    blasita Senior Member

    Spanish - Spain (Madrid)
    Claro que me sirve, ¡es estupendo! Se ve que lo del énfasis no me entra.

    Muchas gracias, Wandering. Un cordial saludo.
     
  4. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    I agree with JJ that it is actually fairly common. :)

    (Usage and Abusage... :p:D)
     
  5. cubaMania Senior Member

    Given your curiosity, you might be interested in this list, found in a document from the University of Illinois, of the various constructions in which subject-verb inversion occurs.
    https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/k-lee7/www/kesl/writ/inversion_sv.pdf
    This case seems to fall into the first construction mentioned in their list, "Adverbial fronting", specifically with the adverbial phrase being one of "location or direction":
    The document goes into additional detail, including when the subject-verb inversion is optional and when it is required.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2011
  6. weeshus

    weeshus Senior Member

    England / Spain
    English - England
    Normally to convey the meaning you want Blasita you would say "To the North of the house was......." For example, describing the situation of a country house...." set in 20 acres of rolling hillside, the house commanded panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. To the north of the house were the cascading hills of the surrounding countryside whilst to the south were the formal gardens for which the house was famous........on the left as you look at it from the main entrance-way you can see the famous folly" etc etc etc.
    Add your own description and paint your own picture, but precede your geographical descriptions with the prepositions "to". "on"

    Well that's what I feel we should do - any other suggestions?

    weeshus
     
  7. weeshus

    weeshus Senior Member

    England / Spain
    English - England
    Additionally Blasita, yes the construction I have added is for literary effect. For me "To the North" is so much more elegant than "North of..."

    Lots of great prose and poetry follow this route - I think:)

    weeshus
     
  8. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    I agree with you there. :)
     
  9. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    In case no one has mentioned it, the article (the) is not optional here if the preposition is used.

    north of the house :tick:
    to the north of the house :tick:
    to north of the house :cross:
     
  10. weeshus

    weeshus Senior Member

    England / Spain
    English - England
    You are so right and absolutely correct gengo

    weeshus
     
  11. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    Yes, you have it right; inversion is anything that reverses the usual or expected order: here, the subject "a barn" and the subject complement "north of the house" were inverted for literary effect, or simply to highlight that which was new information or more important ("north of the house"). Usually, the subject tends to be more specific: "a barn" is more specific than "north of the house," and therefore "a barn" fits nicely as the subject. We can also say that in north of the house was a barn, "north of the house" is the syntactic subject, while "a barn" is the logical subject.
    cheers
     
  12. blasita

    blasita Senior Member

    Spanish - Spain (Madrid)
    This document is very helpful; thank you, CubaMania.



    It is much clearer now. Thank you all for your help; I really appreciate it.

    Un saludo a todos y gracias otra vez.
     
  13. pubman Senior Member

    Good explanation seven days, just one point, We don't say "in north of the house"
     
  14. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    Thanks for catching that. It does look weird. Actually, I inadvertently italicized "in." What I meant was:
    We can also say that in (the sentence) "North of the house was a barn," "north of the house" is the syntactic subject, while "a barn" is the logical subject.
    Sorry for the confusion.
    Cheers
     
  15. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    I'm not sure the adverbial phrase "north of the house" is any kind of subject of that sentence.
     
  16. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    I agree. It's similar to the following.

    Behind the house was a barn.

    If we add "there" to the sentence, it seems clearer that the first part is not a subject.

    Behind the house there was a barn.

    "There was a barn" is the main part of the sentence, and "north of the house" seems to me to be a prepositional phrase that merely describes the location of the subject (a barn), and could of course be placed at the end of the sentence.

    For "north of the house" to be a subject in "north of the house was a barn," it would have to mean that the name of the barn was "North of the House."

    However, I admit that I'm not familiar with "syntactic subject."
     

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