Verb-Second in English

Apr 23, 2010 by

In yesterday’s posting, I asked whether English has any Verb-Second (V2) effects, namely any types of sentences in which the conjugated/finite verb must appear in the second position, even if the subject does not appear in the first position. In other words, we are looking for sentences with the order: XP-Verb-Subject… where XP is anything but the subject.

I used one such sentence in the text of yesterday’s posting: [Only a few Icelandic sounds] would an English speaker have trouble pronouncing. The bracketed portion is the XP in the first position, which happens to be a deeply embedded object of the sentence (“An English speaker would have trouble pronouncing [only a few Icelandic sounds]”). Note that the verb would, an auxiliary appears in the second position — before the subject an English speaker.

In general, V2 occurs in English in sentences that start with only-phrases and negatives:

[Only under certain circumstances] would the verb appear second in English.
[Never] had English lost its Germanic roots.

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