Not until ... did she

I am looking through sentence transformation exercises for ESOL Cambridge exam.

I have found this structure here:

Not until her brother had left for school did she start (doing) her homework.

What is it called? I would like to do more practice on creating sentences in this way, why don't we put "she didn't start" - what these grammar area is called? I saw something similar with indirect questions when the order of affirmative sentence is preserved but it is not that. I need a hint - if you know what is it called (the structure) or to whch grammar area it belongs I will look for that in my grammar books. But I can't find it and have no idea what to put in google either.

Thank you!
  • Schimmelreiter

    Senior Member
    Inversion: Strong emphasis on the first constituent may lead to inverted word order:

    Never has it been clearer before that not too often should inversion be used. :)


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I can't give it a single, simple name, but a negative phrase of time has been fronted to give it emphasis. The unemphatic version of this sentence is:

    She didn't start (doing) her homework until her brother had left for school.

    The negative is taken from didn't and attached to until; this negative phrase goes to the front; and because it's negative, it now requires inversion of subject and auxiliary: did she, not she did.

    This is true for any negative phrase - that's ones containing n-words like not, never, nothing, but also ones expressing a small degree: only, rarely, hardly, few etc.

    I have never seen such a thing. = Never have I seen such a thing.
    She started her homework only once her brother left. = Only once her brother left did she start her homework.
    << Moderator's note: Added to previous thread. >>

    I am coming across inverted word order again and I cannot localize the grammar area that corresponds to it in my grammar books. Why the word order is inverted in those sentences and where to find more of those structures to learn them all at the same time? Any ideas and comments kindly appreciated.

    The meeting tomorrow is very important; on no account should you be late.

    Not until her brother left for school did she start doing her homework.

    Thank you for your attention.
    Last edited by a moderator:


    German (Germany)
    Those are all remnants of the original V2 syntax of Old and Middle English where fronting of adverbs/adverbials and objects resulted in subject-verb inversion in order to preserve the position of the finite verb in second position in the sentence. It is therefore indeed difficult to find a single common rule where this still applies. Adverbs or adverbials that can still trigger this inversion are actually not always negative:
    Here comes the bus.
    Forever shall we live.
    So loud did he open the door that I woke up.
    For all the people who are confused looking for the explanation in their reference and grammar books: I have found it on page 287 - 290, chapter: Inversion, the book is: Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (Second Edition) International Student Edition.

    Thank you very much for all your replies and thank you natkretep for giving me a hint and posting here answers from other threads I have found there info about the book and found what I was looking for. :)
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