20 Oct 2014

Emphatic structures (1): Cleft and pseudo-cleft sentences

Cleft sentence
Hi there!

Today we are going to be concerned with emphatic structures. English offers many different ways to give prominence to specific parts of the sentence and we'll explore all of them little by little.

In this entry we are going to focus on cleft and pseudo-cleft sentences, which allow us to emphasize different parts of the sentence by dividing it into two parts (these two parts will be marked with a double slash // )

Cleft sentences are formed with it is/it was + emphasized element + relative clause. Different parts of the sentence can be emphasised in this way:

1.     Dave lent me his car last week.
a.     It was Dave  // who/that lent me his car last week.
b.     It was his car  //  that/which Dave lent me last week.
c.     It was last week  //  that/when Dave lent me his car.

We can also find examples with because:
It was because he was angry  // that he didn't come to the cinema.
Pseudo-cleft sentences are introduced by what and the emphasis is postponed to the end (in cleft-sentences the emphasis is at the beginning):
Dave lent me his car last night --> What Dave lent me last night  //  was his car. 
I love rainy days --> What I love  //  are rainy days. 
You need a rest --> What you need  //  is a rest.
We can also emphasise events using the auxiliaries do/did:
Peter forgot his keys at the cinema --> What Peter did  //  was (to) forget his keys at the cinema.
We are destroying our planet --> What we are doing   //  is (to) destroy our planet.
Last but not least, we can also start a sentence with all to mean "the only thing".
I only need you --> All I need  //  is you

If you need more information, click on the following links on cleft sentences and pseudo-cleft sentences.

Finally, download the following document if you want some practise! (The answers are at the end of the document).

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