The second sentence of the passage quoted below begins with a finite verb. The sentence seems in all other respects a normal declarative one.

La reprise des activités commerciales renfloua le trésor royal par le biais des droits de douane. Vinrent s’y ajouter les indemnités . . . (Histoire de l'Angleterre. Des origines à nos jours, Philippe Chassaigne)

I'm interested to know how common the usage is. (I think I've seen the device before, employing the verb rester.)

What effect is being sought?

Is it only employed with verbs being used impersonally?

  • Maybe next time you could include the reference of a quote when you make one. I could find it rather easily, but this is not always the case. Having a full context often helps. If the sentence add been Vinrent s’y ajouter les indemnités the inversion would not have been so necessary. I needed more than the ellipsis.
    – None
    Oct 23, 2021 at 14:24
  • @None: Yes, I should have provided more. My (deficient) understanding at the time of posting led me to think I had provided sufficient context.
    – justerman
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:02
  • If the sentence had been, but I suppose you got it. Grrr... can't help typing errors.
    – None
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:12
  • I omitted "I" in the previous sentence, which can be done in very relaxed speech in English, this is absolutely impossible in French.
    – None
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:20
  • This is just like an English inversion with a be verb. "Added thereto were indemnities" What is a finite verb? It's the passé simple, which is English is simple past.
    – Lambie
    Oct 23, 2021 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


That is a case of subject/verb inversion called "élaborative". It is mostly found when the subject is long.

Here we have a particularly long subject:

Vinrent s'y ajouter les indemnités qui accompagnèrent la signature des traités d'Étapes (1492), de Boulogne (1497) ou de Tournais (1514), par lesquels les deux premiers souverains Tudor conclurent les « chevauchées » françaises entreprises dans le plus pur style de la guerre de Cent Ans.

With a subject comprising two subordinate clauses the inversion comes naturally in this case. We must also notice that it is not only a subject/verb inversion since the object pronoun y also precedes the subject of the verb. Let's remark as well that the relative clause (qui accompagnèrent...) cannot be separated from indemnités. Had the subject come first we might have lost track of what y was for (i.e reprise des activités).

On Termium Plus you will find more about the subject/verb inversion in affirmative sentences.

I haven't answered that part of the question: "Is it only employed with verbs being used impersonally?" because I do not really understand what you mean since the verb is not used impersonally here. We can have subject verb inversions with impersonal verbs but I do not think they would be of the same nature/purpose.

  • Thank you for your response. You’ve increased my understanding of inversion. And I presume from your response that, in formal speech, the subject of a finite verb is never omitted.
    – justerman
    Oct 23, 2021 at 13:59
  • My dictionary tells me that venir can be used impersonally, e.g. “il vient beaucoup d’enfants”. That’s how I had read the passage: “There came to be added les indemnités”, albeit with the subject pronoun omitted. Would the passage work with “Ils” inserted at the beginning? Like inversion it allows “les indemnités” to be in the optimal position. Perhaps the verb would need to be singular.
    – justerman
    Oct 23, 2021 at 14:02
  • @justerman 1- The subject of a verb cannot be entirely omitted. It can in some cases not be repeated if expressed before. But this is not the case since indemnités had not been named expressed before. 2- I see now how you came to think venir was used with an impersonal subject. It's not a question of just having les indemnités at the beginning of the sentence because of the two depending subordinate clauses - and y. It would really need to be restructured. e.g. Des indemnités vinrent s'y ajouter ; indeminités qui accompagnèrent... This does not sound very nice. [...]
    – None
    Oct 23, 2021 at 14:15
  • Maybe having vinrent at the beginning sounds rather literary but it seems difficult to avoid the inversion. We could have À cela vinrent s'ajouter les indeminités qui ... vinrent is not at the beginning but we still have a subject inversion.
    – None
    Oct 23, 2021 at 14:18

Le sujet « les indemnités » est ici après le verbe « vinrent. » La phrase était aussi correcte écrite ainsi :

Les indemnités vinrent s’y ajouter ...

C’est une façon d’écrire (un peu style Yoda), qui permet de faire le lien avec ce dont on parle avant de manière plus efficace. Cela montre aussi que c’est fait « d’ajouter » qui est ici important.

  • Thank you for your response. I understand now.
    – justerman
    Oct 23, 2021 at 13:58

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