Cleft sentences


Cleft Sentences

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 Basic vs. Cleft Clause

BASIC CLAUSE CLEFT CLAUSE

Sometimes, we want  to place emphasis (focus) on a particular part of a sentence. “We can emphasize particular words and expressions by putting everything into a kind of relative clause except the words we want to emphasize: this makes them stand out.” The words to be emphasized are joined to the relative clause by is or was.(Swan 130)              

What refers to and is a place holder for the information that has been moved (de-emphasized). In speech, “his energy” would receive emphasis intonation. A WH-cleft consists of a clause introduced by a wh-word (what) , a form of the verb be, and the focus element: a noun phrase, an infinitive clause, or a finite nominal clause.  (LGSWE   11.6.2) (CaGEL (16 §9.1-3)

SUBJECT

His energy

VERB

amazed

OBJECT

me. 

WHAT CLAUSE

What amazed  me

IS / WAS

was

OBJECT

his energy.

 

          What refers to info after verb (modifies) his energy            

 

SUBJECT

His energy    

IS / WAS

was 

WHAT CLAUSE

what amazed  me.

  

his energy 

refers to info after verbwhat           

      List of complements (adjectives & nouns) to What or That Clauses complement – a word, phrase or clause which is necessary in a sentence to complete its meaning   

 

 

 

Cleft (Extraposed) Clauses

Pronouns / Subordinators

 

 

What

BASIC CLAUSE CLEFT CLAUSE

Sometimes, we want  to place emphasis (focus) on a particular part of a sentence. “We can emphasize particular words and expressions by putting everything into a kind of relative clause except the words we want to emphasize: this makes them stand out.”(Swan 130)

What refers to and is a place holder for the information that has been moved (de-emphasized). Here again, is a tendency to move the “heavier” wording toward the end.

 

His attention to detail — was brilliant. 

WHAT – EMPHASIS ON SUBJECT

His attention to detail was what was brilliant.   (emphasis on subject, uncommon usage)                      refers to info after verb               

What was brilliant was his attention to detail.   (common usage)

 

 

 

Michael Jackson’s performance — exceeded our expectations.
exceed (v.) –                to go beyond, be better, be more              

WHAT – EMPHASIS ON VERB

What he did was exceed our expectations.  (emphasis on verb, common usage)                 refers to info after verb         

Exceed our expectations was what he did.   (emphasis on subject, uncommon usage)                                  

Related pages  That-Subject Clauses, What-Subject Clauses

 

It

BASIC CLASE IT–CLEFT CLAUSE

It is another pronoun that allows us to focus on (emphasize) a particular part of a sentence.

It refers to and is a place holder for the information that has been moved (de-emphasized).

BASIC (UNCLEFT) SENTENCE

That he had so much energy — amazed me.  (a clause as the subject)             He had so much energy.  It amazed me.

IT – CLEFT SENTENCE

It amazed me — that he had so much energy.  emphasis.               refers to info after verb

That he did his own choreography — is impressive.  (a clause as the subject)             He did his own choreography, which was impressive.

It is impressive — that he did his own choreography.                refers to info after verb       choreography – arrangement of dance steps              

That he is no longer with us — is a pity.  (“with us” – alive)             He is no longer with us.  It is a pity.  (loss)

It is  a pity — that he is no longer with us.            refers to info after verb                      

Related page It-Subject Clauses (CaGEL 16 §9.1-3), That-Clauses  (CaGel 11 §4.1)

 

 

Who, where, when, why

BASIC SENTENCE CLEFT  CLAUSE

Who, where, when, and why are other pronouns that allow us to focus on (emphasize) a particular part of a sentence.

Who, where, when, or why refers to and is a place holder for the information that has been moved (de-emphasized).

PERSON

Michael Jackson — could awe an audience.
awe (v.) – to have an overwhelming feeling of admiration and respect

WHO – CLEFT

A person who could awe an audience was Michael Jackson.                                   refers to info after verb Michael Jackson was a person who could awe an audience. (person is optional)              

              

PLACE

Michael Jackson lived on — the Neverland Valley Ranch.

WHERE – CLEFT

The place where where Michael Jackson lived was the Neverland Valley Ranch.                                                  refers to info after verb

The Neverland Valley Ranch was— the place where Michael Jackson lived.

 

TIME

Michael Jackson made “Thriller”  — in 1982.

WHEN – CLEFT

The year when Michael Jackson made “Thriller”  was   1982.                                      refers to info after verb

1982 was the year when Michael Jackson made “Thriller”.                       

REASON

Michael Jackson wrote songs — because he was inspired.  inspiration (n.)

WHY – CLEFT

The reason why Michael Jackson wrote songs was  because he was inspired.                                      refers to info after verb

Because he was inspired was the reason why Michael Jackson wrote songs.                                

Also see In/ On/ At–Which Clauses

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Resources

 

 

 

   

Biber et. al. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (1999) (LGSWE 11.6)

“Clefting is similar to dislocation in the sense that information that could be given in a single clause is broken up, in this case into two clauses, each with its own verb… There are two major types of cleft constructions…”

it-cleft: It’s a dog I want.

What-cleft: What I want is a dog.           

Huddleston et. al. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002) (CaGEL (16 § 9.1-4.2)

There are two main types of cleft clause, it-clefts and pseudo-clefts, with the latter category having basic and reversed versions.

a) I bought a dog.  [non-cleft] (16 § 9.2)           b)  It was a dog that I bought.  [cleft]         c)  What I bought was a dog. [pseudo-cleft]   (16 § 9.3)         d)  A dog was what I bought.  [reversed pseudo-cleft]

Swan, Michael. “Clefts sentences.” Practical English Usage (2009) (Swan 131.1-5)

“We can emphasize particular words and expressions by putting everything into a kind of relative clause except the words we want to emphasise: this makes them stand out.” (Swan gives several examples, some of which are paraphrased  below.)

i.   A dog is the thing I want.           ii.  The thing I was is a dog.         iii.  In the dog house is where the dog stays.          iv.   The place where the dog stays is in the dog house.         v.   What he did was bark all the time.         vi.  What happened was he barked all the time.         vii.  All I want is a non-barking dog.         viii. The only thing I remember is the constant barking.         

 

TREE DIAGRAM OF SIMPLE SENTENCE

His energy amazed me. 

simple sentence diagramClick to enlarge.     

TREE DIAGRAM OF (PSEUDO) CLEFT SENTENCE

His energy  was  what amazed me. 

subordinated what clause 

 

Clause; Subject / Predicate; Finite / Nonfinite; NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Det. – determiner

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