Using Inversions in your lessons

One of the greatest barriers I have come to face, language wise, was the very often asked question: “Am I going to use this in my ‘real-life’?” or “How useful is this?”

I have realised that students have been getting to advanced levels without using more sophisticated vocabulary/grammar structures.

In order to change that view, I decided to try and show students how common they are and how they are used.  I have planned a lesson on ‘Inversions’ that can be seen on: and I would like to share that with you.

First, I thought that in order to be able to show them how usual Inversions are I would have to choose something that would reach out to them.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity of seeing Ricardo Barros share a great talk on Inversions. He used snippets of popular TV series to systematize the language and so, there it was! Using TV series to demonstrate how usual they are.

Then I started planning my lesson. I decided to rely on a scene where Penny from “The big bang theory” is using an inversion. You see, if I had started with Sheldon, students might have said “of course he is using Inversions, he is extremely formal”. Thus, Penny was my first choice. She says: “Not only will I drive you there I will buy all the dragon T-shirts you want”. This is one of the most common inversions that is ever used. Sheldon is second, he says: “Not only am I going to this foolish dinner at Christmas …” He, I am using colour codes to make everything clearer –

  • RED – negative adverbial (NOT ONLY)
  • BLUE – auxiliary (WILL / AM)
  • GREEN – subject of the sentence (I)

Moving on, as Sheldon is indeed a more formal person, I decided to show another inversion being used by him: “Nowhere is it specified that I can’t outsource that to an Indian” when talking to his friends about a relationship agreement.

  • RED – negative adverbial (NOWHERE)
  • BLUE – auxiliary (IS)
  • GREEN – subject (IT)

Now, let’s have one from “Friends”. Phoebe was my choice to show students how common Inversions are. Phoebe is talking to Monica about one of her clients who died: “She woke up, had her massage. Little did she now God was thinking: ok, but that’s it”.

  • RED – negative adverbial (LITTLE)
  • BLUE – auxiliary (DID)
  • GREEN – subject (SHE)

Phoebe again: “Only once in a blue moon does a dog’s ear grow back”. She was telling her friends what happened to her father’s dog after being hit by a car.


So far, students have seen a wide range of Inversion daily uses.

Despite what some people may say (that these were taken from TV series in which actors/reses follow scripts, thus it is not qualified as a real conversation), I believe that TV series show a great deal of daily situations in which we find ourselves oftentimes. In addition, we have to think about what students have been in contact with the most. This way, engaging them is easier and all the tasks will be more meaningful.

Finally yet importantly, there is another inversion used by Phil Dunphy from “The modern family”. This is one of those scenes where they are talking to the camera “Not since I fell off the roof while they were delivering our trampoline have things come together so beautifully”.

This one is trickier, since the auxiliary is placed further in the sentence, notwithstanding, it is there. It follows the same structure (and colour codes) used before.

One of the happiest moments (post this lesson) was when a student of mine sent me a message saying that he was checking some information on LinkedIn and came across an inversion: “Not only is this moral failure, it is also a huge missed economic opportunity…” This brings me back to the first point shared here, how commonly used they are.

Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds the Cambridge Train the Trainer and the DELTA Mods II and III(Teaching Exam Lessons). She has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 15 years. She is an Academic and Pedagogic Coordinator. She is currently doing a Company Management MBA at FGV.

1 Comment
  • Jane
    Posted at 09:19h, 07 julho Responder

    Fantastic tips for an inversion lesson! It‘s going to really add some interest to my class.
    Thanks for sharing

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