Various simple sentences occur in English that I can't explain precisely.

"In we went!" "Off he goes!"

Is this an arcane idiom from an earlier grammar, or is there a general rule that can be abstracted here?

Edit: initially I thought "in" was a preposition but I realise now this is a behaviour of particles.

"Up he looked" Although for transitive verbs this seems to not work: *"Up he picked"

It seems that the particle may move to the immediate left of the subject but no further, for example:

*Up, Mary saw John eat

Additionally it isn't possible to substitute it for a normal VP:

*Mary saw up John eat.

Has this been investigated further?

  • 2
    I think this question is good; it is asking about a systematic property of grammar (the topicalisation of particles). Apr 3 '19 at 9:03
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    "I realise now this is a behaviour of particles" ... I'm not sure. Consider a phrase like "Up the stairs we go" or "Today we will take a look at ...". These are cases of adverbial fronting.
    – OmarL
    Apr 3 '19 at 13:07
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    @Tim Foster. Clearly what it doesn't mean is equivalent to "Mary saw John eat up". By moving 'up' beyond the subject the entire sentence falls apart, which is why I prefixed it with *
    – mseddon
    Apr 3 '19 at 20:42
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    At the time I had my Advanced English course (as a foreign language) this type of construct was presented to us by our teachers as an "emphatic inversion". Googling for this term might bring more info (I haven't tried yet).
    – tum_
    Apr 3 '19 at 23:14
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    FYI - Up, John ate is also not good. It's well documented that the construction only works when the 'literal' meaning of the particle is used (i.e. *up can only refer to the direction). I'll write a full answer if I find time. Apr 4 '19 at 7:59

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