TOEFL Subject-Verb Inversions

Understanding TOEFL subject-verb inversions will increase your chances of accurately using these advanced grammar structures.  Moreover, using them more frequently during the speaking and writing sections of the exam will help you to score higher. Finally, this web page will help you use TOEFL subject-verb inversions more accurately and more strategically.

TOEFL subject-verb inversions

TOEFL Subject-Verb Inversions: Questions

Among TOEFL subject-verb inversions, one type is the common question:

  •  aux verb + subject+ main verb: Do you want to ride a bicycle or run when choosing a form of exercise?
  • Wh-+ aux verb + subject+ main verb: What do most people like to do when they decide to work out in their free time?

Sometimes, asking a yes/no or wh- question can hook your audience during a TOEFL independent speaking or writing task, as you can see in the following example introduction:

What do most people like to do when they exercise? Well, like many others I prefer to run when I get free time from work. Running burns calories quickly, and it improves my heart health.

Notice how in the example speaking response introduction, I begin with a question as a way to engage the listeners.


Another type of TOEFL subject-verb inversion involves making comparisons. In the below two examples notice how compound sentences are used to make comparisons.

  • S+ V+ and + so + V + S: The man believes that the new policy on bicycle parking restricts students’ movements on campus too much, and so does the woman. In fact, the woman suggests that university officials should abandon this policy and provide even more bicycle parking than before. 
  • S+ V+ and + so + V + S: According to the professor, the main ants in a colony want to be productive, and so do the rest of the ants.

Using “and so does the woman” clearly shows how both the man and the woman have the same opinion about the bicycle policy proposed by the campus administration.  Similarly, the phrase “and so do the rest of the ants” shows how the main ants and the rest of the colony are productive.

Prepositional Phrases of Location

Other types of TOEFL subject-verb inversions place prepositional phrases of location at the beginning of the sentence.  This type of syntactic word order focuses more on where and not what you are speaking or writing about.

  • PP location + verb + subject: Next to the shelf on the floor are several worn books from many years of reading.
  • PP location + verb + subject: In the San Bernardino mountains is a ski resort called Snow Summit.

In the first sentence, a plural subject follows “are,” and in the second sentence a singular subject follow “is.”  Both sentences focus more on the location.

Negative and Almost Negative Adverbs

Placing negative and almost negative adverbs at the beginning of the sentence causes another type of subject-verb inversion. And, in this case, you create a very strong sentence of emphasis. Therefore, do NOT overuse this type of advanced grammar structure. Compare the two example sentences below, the first of which uses a subject-verb inversion:

  • Negative adverb + aux v + subject + main V : Never have I tasted such delicious meat. (strong emphasis)
  • S+ v: That was delicious meat. (weaker emphasis)

Using the subject-verb inversion with the negative adverb creates a much stronger emphasis. Note in the next example how using an almost negative adverb has the same effect.

  • Almost negative adverb + aux v + subject + m v: Hardly ever does my friend miss class. (Strong emphasis)
  • My friend does not miss class much. (Weaker emphasis)

Conditional Statements

In conditional statements with should, had, and were, it is possible to omit the subordinator if and then invert the subject and verb, as you can see below.

  • If Tom should call, I will let you know right away.
  • Aux v + subject + main v: Should Tom call, I will let you know right away.
  • If Kent had time, he would attend the conference.
  • Aux v + subject + main v: Had Kent time, he would attend the conference.
  • If Susan had gone to the show, she would have seen her friend Janet.
  • Aux v + subject + main v: Had Susan gone to the show, she would have seen her friend Janet.
  • If Pamela were in class right now, she would be taking the midterm exam.
  • Aux v + subject + main v: Were Pamela in class right now, she would be taking the midterm exam.

In these TOEFL subject-verb inversions, there is no difference in emphasis. However, you do show TOEFL iBT human raters that you have syntactic variety and that you are making your sentences more concise by omitting if.


The last of the TOEFL subject-verb inversions discussed focus on quotations.  If you place the voice marker after the quotation, you can invert the subject/verb.

  • With inversion: “Get everyone into the basement quickly!” yelled Tom, as he and his friends prepared for the incoming twister.
  • Without inversion: As he and his friends prepared for incoming twister, Tom yelled, “Get everyone into the basement quickly!”
  • With inversion: “Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy,” explains the professor in his lecture.
  • Without inversion: In the lecture, the professor explains, “Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy.”

Signal phrases create subject-verb inversions when they are placed after the quotation.  You can also place these signal phrases before the quotations that you are using, as you can also see in the above examples. In these cases, you will not need to invert the subject and the verb.

TOEFL Subject-Verb Inversions: Quiz 1

1.  Does anyone know____________having the debate?

A. where are the students

B. the students are

C. where the students are

D. that the students


2. What is true according to the below sentence:

Mary doesn’t support the new policy, and neither does the man.

A. The two speakers hold differing opinions of the new policy.

B. Neither the woman nor the man oppose the policy explained in the passage.

C. Both speakers agree that the new policy should be abolished.


3. Next to the house__________that was in the process of being restored.

A. was an old car

B. an old car as

C. there was an old car

D. which was an old car


4. What is the most likely meaning for the below sentence?

Hardly ever does my professor arrive on time for class.

A.  The professor is always tardy for class.

B. Usually the professor is delayed when coming to class.

C. The professor is never on time for class.

D. The professor usually does not give hard class assignments.


5. _____________the writing project, he would have passed the class.

A. Has he completed

B. If he completed

C. If completed

D. Had he completed


6. “Many small animals use protective mechanisms such as camouflage to avoid being eaten by predators,” asserting the professor in the lecture.


7. _____________say when you asked him to post-pone our chapter test?

A.  What the professor

B. What did the professor

C.  What have the professor

D. What is the professor


8. In the San Gabriel mountains is many bears, mountain lions, big horn sheep, and marmots.


9. Not for all the money in the world__________________take a chemistry class from Professor Lee.

A. I would ever

B. would I ever

C. which I would ever

D. I ever


10. “The journey of a 1000 miles begin with the first step,” said a Chinese philosopher many years ago.


TOEFL Subject-Verb Inversions: Quiz 2

1. __________________________________asked the professor, as she frantically decided whether or not to post-pone the midterm exams.

A. “Where are the rest of the scantrons,”

B. “Where the rest of the scantrons?”

C. “Where the rest of the scantrons are?”

D. “Where are the rest of the scantrons?”


2. Many professors feel that they are be asked to take on too many responsibilities, and so do the rest of the faculty at California State University, San Bernardino.


3. Out of the tunnel_____________as it went full steam down the railroad tracks.

A. after which the train roared

B. roared a train

C. roars a train

D. the train roaring


4. Scarcely ever has my best friend said anything negatively about me behind my back.


5. _____________, she will contact the scholarship office to see if she can receive any financial aid for the upcoming semester.

A. Had she had time

B. Has she time

C. If she has time

D. She has time


6. “Sacrifice means to give up something of value for something of greater value,” observed my TOEFL speaking mentor.

7. Do the other people in your marketing department understand__________________ offer a better contract?

A. why the competitor cannot

B. why didn’t the competitor

C. why cannot the competitor

D. the competitor didn’t


8. In the backyard a treehouse was that a father built out of love for his son Ronnie.


9. Never have any of my friends cheat on a test while they attended college class.


10. “I pushed all my friends away when I was suffering from my untreated depression,” lamented Angela, with salty tears stream down her face.


Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,

TOEFL Private Lessons

TOEFL Speaking and Writing Feedback Service

Online TOEFL Courses



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.