How can I teach inversion at advanced level?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

Moderator: Susan

Silver Member
Posts: 24
Joined: 25 Mar 2008, 10:42

How can I teach inversion at advanced level?

Unread postby matthau » 12 Apr 2008, 07:23

Hi Lucy,

My question deals with inversion. As is known, inversion can be grammatical and emphatic. The former is obligatory and is used, for example, in questions, e.g. Must I do it now? The latter is regarded as a stylistic device and serves as an alternative to the standard word order, e.g. I know little about it. -- Little do I know about it.

Teaching grammatical inversion is something we know quite well because we deal with it from the very beginning. The problem is emphatic inversion, which is usually taught to advanced students, and from what I was able to find out in grammar textbooks, is not methodologically worked out.

It is either translating from students' mother tongue or mechanically converting sentences with the standard word order to sentences with an inverted word order, without any understanding of the purposes of all those manipulations.

As a result, not knowing what it is all about, students get bored, confused and often apply inversion inadequately (like, 'In vain did I try to do this exercise yesterday', after which the class howls with laughter).

I would appreciate it if you could suggest some interesting and efficient method for teaching this grammar topic.

User avatar
Posts: 656
Joined: 13 Jan 2004, 16:09
Status: Teacher Trainer
Location: France

Re: inversion

Unread postby Lucy » 13 Apr 2008, 20:06

Dear Matthau,

I’m afraid I don’t know of any exciting ways to deal with this language point. However, I suggest the following.

If your students are confused and applying the inversion wrongly, I suggest you start by reviewing the structure and practising it in a controlled way. You supply the prompt and they supply the inverted phrase. Not very interesting at advanced level, but it seems necessary in this case. You can keep it brief.

As for further practice, it sounds like your students have come up with a fun way; so, why not just go with the flow? They can create sentences using the inversion you mention prompted by whatever comes up in the classroom. You could also suggest that they take on a pompous persona either of their own invention or a real person. Encourage them to make up and use such phrases throughout the lesson and do so yourself, too. If your students are good actors or role players, you can encourage them to use gestures.

One word about students laughing at others’ use of language – I think care needs to be taken here. Your student used a sentence that is perfectly correct grammatically. He or she should be praised for this; if (s)he intended it as a joke, laughter is an appropriate reaction but it is still important to add a positive comment. If your student didn’t intend it as a joke, then you should be telling the others that you don’t tolerate them laughing at other people’s efforts.

Best wishes,


Return to “TEFL Help Desk”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests