Glossary: cleft sentence/construction


Cleft sentences are used to highlight or foreground a particular part of a sentence. For example, if you want to highlight that Tim ate all the biscuits, as opposed to someone else, you can say: Don't accuse me of eating all the biscuits. It was Tim who ate all the biscuits! Ordinary cleft constructions conform to the pattern it + {form of the verb be} + Item in Focus + who/that. Here's another example:

  • It was in Brazil that I was so happy.

This is a cleft version of I was so happy in Brazil.

There's another cleft construction in English called the pseudocleft construction. This is typically introduced by what in the pattern what + Subject + Verb + {form of the verb be} + Item in Focus.

Example: What he likes is cream cakes.


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