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Updated: Feb 21

- cleft = divided

- they are used to emphasise particular words and expressions

- it is done by putting everything into a special relative clause except the words we want to emphasize

- it is useful in writing to add emphasis instead of intonation which cannot be used in a written form



a. emphasising nouns: What I need is …

Nick bought Ferrari. -> What Nick bought was Ferrari.

Ferrari was what Nick bought.

They want some extra tasks. -> What they want is/are some extra tasks.

When we use this cleft sentence, we use a singular verb, but in an informal

style it is also possible to use a plural verb.

I am cooking a pheasant. What I am cooking is a pheasant. A pheasant is

what I am cooking.

b. emphasising verbs: What I did was …

Ema and Charles made a fortune by investing. -> What Ema and Charles did

was (to) make a fortune by investing.

What Ema and Charles did, they made a fortune by investing. (subject + verb

instead of an infinitive is used in an informal style)

2 It is/was … who/that

- a preparatory it is used and to join the emphasised words to the cleft sentence we

use that (or who if a personal subject is stressed).

My neighbour killed that woman living across the street. -> It was my neighbour who killed that woman living across the street.

Nick bought Ferrari. -> It was Nick who bought Ferrari.

It was Miss Novakova that complained about the noise. (Only she complained, not

somebody else.)

It was two days ago that I won in the lottery. (not another day)

3 All (that) … / the…thing

All I want is silence.

All (that) I did was (to) call him.

All you need is love.

The only thing you need is love.

The first thing I will do is to have a shower.

4 The place where …, the day when …, the person who/that …, the reason why …, the thing that

- these expressions emphasize different information:

Nick bought Ferrari. -> Nick was the person who bought Ferrari.

Nick bought Ferrari on holiday in Rome. -> The place where Nick bought his Ferrari was on holiday in Rome.

5 Other expressions:

It was not until I met you that I felt whole.

I was only when I heard the news that I started to cry.

This/That replacing emphasised here and there: This is where you wait for me. (You wait for me here.) That was where I was born. (There’s where I was born.)


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