What is a cleft sentence
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What is a cleft sentence?. A cleft sentence is derived from a simple sentence by dividing it into two clauses e.g. John broke the window. (simple sentence) → It was John who broke the window. (cleft) → It was the window that John broke. (cleft)

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What is a cleft sentence?

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What is a cleft sentence

What is a cleft sentence?

A cleft sentence is derived from a simple sentence by dividing it into twoclauses

e.g. John broke the window. (simple sentence)

→ It was John who broke the window. (cleft)

→ It was the window that John broke. (cleft)

Clefts have the following structure:

It + part of the verb to be (sing.)+ …. + who/that


Singular form of verb to be

Singular form of verb to be

Note that the verb is always singular (agreeing with subject it), even if the complement is plural.

  • It was the king who cried.

  • It was the children who cried.

  • It was me who knocked at the door.

  • It was us who knocked at the door.


Highlighting a specific element

Highlighting a specific element

  • Clefts offer the writer/speaker the possibility of giving prominence to specific elements in the sentence.

  • It was the king who cried.

  • It was the children who cried.

  • It was me/I who knocked at the door.

  • It was us/we who knocked at the door.


Other examples of highlighted elements

Other examples of highlighted elements

  • It was John who broke the window.

  • It was the window that John broke.

  • It was in the bank that the bomb went off.

  • It is red that she likes best.

  • It is a lie that you are telling me.

  • It was in 1998 that she got married.


What is a cleft sentence

Pseudo-cleft

  • relative clause (subject) + part of the verb to be + complement

    What I saw + was + a bright light.


What is a cleft sentence

  • Like clefts, pseudo-clefts give the writer/speaker the possibility of highlighting a particular item - the complement.

  • The structure allows different complements to be formed from the same unmarked simple sentence.


An example

An example

  • John gave his mother a necklace. (unmarked simple sentence)

    possible pseudo-clefts (highlighted elements in bold)

  • What John did was give his mother a necklace.

  • What John gave his mother was a necklace.

  • The person/one whom John gave a necklace was his mother.

  • The person/one who gave a necklace to his mother was John.


Nominal relative clauses

Nominal relative clauses

  • A nominal relative clause is usually introduced by a wh- element.

  • what/who/where/whoever/whatever/

    why/how

    A relative clause has a finite verb.


Examples of nominal relative clauses

Examples of nominal relative clauses

  • what/who/where/whoever/whatever/

    why/how

  • What John did was break a window.

  • Who John will see is a neurologist.

  • Where John went was Naples.

  • Whoever broke the window is a liar.

  • Why John broke the window is a mystery.

  • How John broke the window is a mystery.


Paraphrases of wh elements

Paraphrases of wh- elements

  • But there are numerous “paraphrases” of the pseudo-cleft construction involving noun phrases of general reference in place of the wh-item.

  • e.g. the person who, the one who, the people who, the thing(s) that, the place that, the reason why etc.


Substitution of wh elements

Substitution of wh-elements

  • What (The thing that) John did was break a window.

  • Who (The person whom) John will see is a neurologist.

  • Where (The place to which) John went was Naples.

  • Whoever (The person/one who) broke the window is a liar.

  • Why (The reason why) John broke the window is a mystery.

  • How (The way in which) John broke the window is a mystery.


Pseudo clefts highlight the complement

Pseudo-clefts highlight the complement

  • What John did was break a window.

  • Whom John will see is a neurologist.

  • Where John went is a secret.

  • Whoever broke the window will be sorry.

  • Whatever John wants will be his.

  • Why John broke the window is a mystery.

  • How John broke the window is not clear.


Pseud clefts are also equatives

Pseud-clefts are also equatives

  • A pseudo-cleft is a sort of equation, with the verb be equating the subject with the complement.

  • e.g. What John did was give his mother a necklace.

  • The act of giving his mother a necklace is equated with being what the duke did.

  • The sentence could, theoretically, be written in two ways.

  • What John did was give his mother a necklace.

  • Give his mother a necklace was what John did.


Other examples

Other examples

1 i. What the students will study was grammar structure.

ii. Grammar structure is what the students will study.

2. i. The person who arrived late was Mr Jones.

ii. Mr Jones was the person who arrived late.

3. i. Where they got married is Prague.

ii. Prague is where they got married.

(Do Exs. II b.)


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