An ELT Glossary : Fronting

Think about it:

Example A

A : Which is the one you like?
B : It's the red one.

but :

Example B

A : Which one shall we buy?
B : The red one is cheapest
A : OK, the red one it is!

How would you explain the word order of the final sentence in example B?



This is an example of fronting  - ie  moving to initial clause position an element normally found in a later position, usually for emphasis.

From Leech and Svartvik (1975), A Communicative Grammar of English, Longman

Instead of the subject, you can make another element the topic, by moving it to the front of the clause or sentence. …. Fronting gives that element a kind of psychological prominence”.

In informal conversation, it is quite common for a speaker to front an element (particularly a complement) and to give it nuclear stress, thus giving it double emphasis.

In this case ‘the red one’ (the complement)is the most important thing as it's the choice the speakers have to make and the ordering of the elements is CSV: complement - subject - verb

Another example : in Up in the air went the kite the adverbial is fronted - compare the "normal" word order in The kite went up in the air

Fronting may involve Subject Verb inversion as in the example immediately above - Up in the air went the kite  However, notice that this does not always happen if the subject is a pronoun – Up in the air it went. 

Negative adverbs also cause SV inversion if fronted, but in this case the operator is inverted - not the main verb :

Never have I been so embarassed!
Rarely do you find examples of such good quality.
Hardly had he spoken, when....