Monday, September 15, 2008

Locative Inversion

‘... deep underground lies tonnes of contaminated waste’ (Today, 12 September 2008).

This is an example of ‘locative inversion’, meaning that the phrase indicating location is inverted with the subject.

When we convert the sentence into the default word order, we see that lies in the original sentence is wrong because the subject is plural: Tonnes of contaminated waste lie deep underground.

Hence: Deep underground lie tonnes of contaminated waste.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the use of a plural verb with a singular noun. It should be "This backlot of animal enclosures is" not "This backlot of animal enclosures are." "of animal enclosures" is a prepositional phrase modifying the actual noun "backlot." Definitely one of my pet peeves.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Yes, absolutely -- I'd noticed that but was more interested in the locative inversion part. It's such a common error in the Straits Times that one gets tired of pointing it out: spot a complex noun phrase in ST and, more often than not, the following verb is wrong. Even the word 'backlot' is problematic: it's not listed in most reputable dictionaries. Perhaps they meant 'backyard'?