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5.12: Negative Adverbs

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    Negative Adverbs: Stylistic Inversion or Subject/Auxiliary Inversion

    The following adverbs are called “negative adverbs.”  (Note: Some of these words are also adjectives.  For the purpose of this lesson, however, I will refer to all of them as adverbs.)

    never            never again      almost never         neither              not until             seldom  

    rarely            rarely ever        scarcely ever         hardly ever        barely ever        no sooner

    no longer       at no time        nowhere               no how              nor  not only but also

    When negative adverbs begin a sentence, the subject and verb of the sentence are inverted so that they look like the question form, but they are not questions.  In formal grammar, this is called stylistic inversion.  It is a very strange English form which native speakers never make a mistake with but also have no idea why we do it.  It is probably the least understood of all the grammar rules in English.  It is only done when one of these negative adverbs begins a sentence.  If one of these adverbs follows the subject, then “normal” English grammar rules apply.  In other words, helping verbs are used to make the sentences, depending on the tense of the sentence.  Note the examples below.

    I never eat fatty food.       Present tense       I rarely ate vegetables as a boy.     Past tense
    do I eat fatty food.                            Rarely did I eat vegetables as a boy.

    My son doesn’t drive a car.     Present tense       My son didn’t drive a car.       Past tense
    does my son drive a car.                       At no time did my son drive a car.

    My wife won’t go to the market.                       My wife wouldn’t go home.                 Modal
    Barely ever will my wife go to the market.         No longer would my wife go home.      Verb

    He has hardly ever played his violin.                  She had seldom drunk wine.    Perfect tenses
    Hardly ever
    has he played his violin.                  Seldom had she drunk wine.

    My son not only plays the piano but he also plays the violin.
    Not only does my son play the piano, but he also plays the violin.

    He not only ate a cheeseburger, but he also ate a piece of cake.
    Not only did he eat a cheeseburger, but he also ate a piece of cake.

    In general conversations, people when agreeing with someone will say so do I or so will I or so did I.  For disagreeing, often say neither do I, nor does he, nor will he, or neither had she, etc.

    I have never been to Paris.  Neither have I.  She doesn’t go to church.  Nor does her sister.
    We can’t speak English well, nor can out father.  They won’t go to class, nor will I.

    Exercise 36: Answer or change the following sentences by using negative adverbs, please.

    1.  I don’t speak Chinese, nor ------------------------ my sons.


    2.  Hardly ever --------------------- (hear) my son play his guitar.


    3.  Not only --------------------- my wife speak Portuguese, but she also -------------------- Spanish.


    4.  Seattle is a very wet city.  Never ----------------------- (seen) such a wet place.


    5.  May I use your car?  Of course, but at no time --------------------- drive over the speed limit.


    6.  This January there is very little rain in Seattle.  Very rarely -------------------- (be) this dry.


    7.  My wife doesn’t like rap music.  Neither -------------------- her mother.


    8.  Nowhere in this city ------------------------ (find) good Southern food.


    9.  Neither is my car new, nor ------------------ clean.


    10.  Only in the past couple of weeks  -------------- the weather ------------------ (be) this beautiful.


    11.  I don’t drink whiskey, nor -------------- my son.


    12.  Young people shouldn’t use drugs, nor --------------- old people.


    13.  No sooner ------------------ (leave) my house, than my wife --------------- (leave) home, too.


    14.  Last year my son lost his keys, and never --------------- (find) them again.


    15.  Not only --------------- he quit school at 16 years old, but he also -------------- his job.

    5.12: Negative Adverbs is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Don Bissonnette.

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