This is Everyday Grammar.
Today, I want to begin by asking you to listen to two sentences and compare their meanings. Are the meanings the same or different? Here are the sentences:
So, what did you decide?
This is the answer: The first sentence, "Sammy ate the pizza," is just a simple statement of fact. The speaker isn't trying to emphasize or, call attention to – anything special here.
But in the second sentence, "It was Sammy who ate the pizza," the speaker is emphasizing that Sammy did the action, not some other person. It is an example of a cleft sentence.
Cleft sentences are one of many ways English speakers use to emphasize part of a sentence. On today's program, we will talk about the most common type of cleft sentences: the it-cleft.
What's the difference between "Sammy ate the pizza" and "It was Sammy who ate the pizza"? Let's find out.
What is a cleft sentence?
The word "cleft" means partially divided or split. Cleft sentences are "divided" into two parts to emphasize something.
We use a cleft sentence to add new or important information to what the listener already knows. They are especially useful in written form because, in writing, we can't show stresswith our voices.
However, some types of clefts, such as the it-cleft, are also common in speaking.
Now that you have a basic understanding, let's explore it-clefts.
The structure of these sentences tells us exactly what word or words we are supposed to pay attention to. The structure is:
It + BE verb + emphasized information + who/that/when +
A tale of two clauses
It-cleft sentences are usually made of two clauses. You may remember that a clause is a part of a sentence that has its own subject and verb.
Some clauses can be complete sentences on their own. They are independent clauses. Some cannot be complete sentences. They are dependent clauses.
It-cleft sentences have both an independent clause and a dependent clause. It + BE verb is the independent clause. The rest of the sentence is a dependent clause.
Sound complex? Not to worry! You can learn more about clauses in other Everyday Grammar programs.
More about it-clefts
Wow, I've said a mouthful already! But I want to briefly tell you one more thing: Cleft sentences often take other forms in everyday speech and writing.
For example, they can take a question form, like this:
Was it the girls who won the top science prize yesterday?
They can also take a negative form, like this:
It wasn't the girls who won the top science prize yesterday.
Words in This Story：
emphasize - n.to give special importance or attention given to something (synonym of stress)
type - n. a particular kind or group of things or people
stress - n. special importance or attention that is given to something (synonym of emphasis)
Same Old Song and Dance' Is Not Fun
Words and Their Stories: Number One