Little did he know

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Hello, would you please explain the grammar? I vaguely know that 'little did he know' means 'he had no idea', but I have no idea of the grammar:

"Later that afternoon, Harold's watch stopped working while he was waiting for the bus. Harold reset his watch to a time given by a bystander. Little did he know, that this simple, seemingly innocuous act, would result in his imminent death."

Thanks.
Full Member359
What do you want to know about the grammar? To break the phrase doen into parts of speach/tense etc seems to be more complicated than you ever need unless you are studying to teach English.
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Dave PhillipsWhat do you want to know about the grammar? To break the phrase doen into parts of speach/tense etc seems to be more complicated than you ever need unless you are studying to teach English.
It could even be considered a "fixed phrase".
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A fixed phrase? I see. Thanks.
The phrase 'little did I/you/he/she/we/they know (that) is a very commonly used phrase.

The grammar of the phrase:
There is inversion of the subject and verb since the phrase begins with the word 'little'.
Inversion is commonly used when a sentence begins with negative or restrictive adverbial words/phrases:

- Never again will I offer to help him.

- Not only did he break the window, but he lied to me about it as well.

- Only rarely did he speak in class.
- Under no circumstances should he be given the combination to the safe.
- Not until the next day did she realize she had been robbed.
- Rarely does prolonged discussion improve such a situation.
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Anonymous:
Dave, that's a very defeatist answer! Why discourage someone from learning?

Anyway, it's a turn of phrase - an idiom, I suppose - in which the normal syntax of English is inverted. It's characteristic of story-telling, and usually indicates that there is going to be some consequence for an actor - something is 'lying in wait', so to speak - so ESLbeginner's example is perfect.

What's important is that this word order isn't just an alternative to 'he knew little'. It belongs to a particular type of context.
AnonymousDave, that's a very defeatist answer! Why discourage someone from learning?
It wasn't meant to stop somebody from learning, as it wouldn't anyway! It was meant to not throw lots of information at somebody who then was discouraged from then asking in the future. Questions aren't always phrased to suit the needs of the poster, so a clarification of what was wanted in order to give the person what they wanted.

Perhaps if you decided to not be anonymous and start answering questions on a regular basis where people can criticise every word that you type in an effort to help, then you might understand why I take offence to your comments, particularly after the thread is over a year old and therefore not likely to assist in anyway at all!
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Anonymous:
I will take CAE soon and the more examples the better! Thanks Dave! Angelica
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