‘never before’ + past perfect inversion

In the English Grammar Profile, B2 point 68 in  PAST is defined as:

past perfect simple,  invert the subject and auxiliary verb after ‘never (before)’ to talk about a unique event, often in formal contexts.

This point also overlaps the categories of Negatives and Adverbs.


There are not many examples to find of ‘never before + inverted past perfect’.  We found these top 10 examples by searching in the iWeb corpus for: never before had _P _VVN

1 NEVER BEFORE HAD I SEEN 57

2 NEVER BEFORE HAD I FELT 19
3 NEVER BEFORE HAD WE SEEN 18
4 NEVER BEFORE HAD I EXPERIENCED 17
5 NEVER BEFORE HAD HE FELT 16
6 NEVER BEFORE HAD I HEARD 15
7 NEVER BEFORE HAD HE SEEN 14
8 NEVER BEFORE HAD THEY SEEN 9
9 NEVER BEFORE HAD I ENCOUNTERED 7
10 NEVER BEFORE HAD I THOUGHT 5


It seems even rarer with ‘before’ removed from our search:

We included full stops to make sure it is at the start of a sentence:

. never had _P _VVN

1 . NEVER HAD I FELT 24
2 . NEVER HAD I SEEN 23
3 . NEVER HAD HE SEEN 16
4 . NEVER HAD I IMAGINED 10
5 . NEVER HAD I HEARD 8