Grammar in EAP

Cleft Sentence

cleft sentence consists of two parts, often starting with "it" or "wh-". For example "It was the lecturer who started the experiment."It-clefts are relatively frequent in acdemic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 959). Wh-clefts - "What I object to is violence on TV" are most common ion conversation.

For example:

The conservative government increased the taxes. (non-cleft)

It was the conservative government that increased the taxes. (it-cleft)

What the conservative government did was increase the taxes. (wh-cleft)

It-cleft sentences are common in academic writing. For example

It was this government which ruled Britain until May 1940, when yet another coalition, governed Britain until 1945.

Both continued to develop; but it was the commemoration of the martyrs that came to swamp the Christian calendar during the fourth century.

They are often used to link clauses:

For centuries, London had been growing as a commercial port of world importance. But it was in the north of England that industrial power brought new prosperity to the country.

OR:

For centuries, London had been growing as a commercial port of world importance. It was, however, in the north of England that industrial power brought new prosperity to the country.

The purpose of the cleft is to focus on or draw attention to one part of the clause, perhaps in contrast.

It was the conservative government that increased the taxes. (it-cleft)

What the conservative government did was increase the taxes. (wh-cleft)

It-cleft sentences consist of "it"as the subject of the clause, a form of the verb "BE", the focused item, with a relative clause appearing at the end.

It was this governmentwhich ruled Britain until May 1940, when yet another coalition, governed Britain until 1945.

Both continued to develop; but it was the commemoration of the martyrs that came to swamp the Christian calendar during the fourth century.

It is often the case that a number of different cleft sentences can be formed from the same basic sentence, depending on your focus:

The government increased the taxes in the budget last week.

  1. It was the government that increased the taxes.
  2. It was the taxes that the government increased in the budget.
  3. It was last week that the government increased the taxes.
  4. Iit was in the budget that the government increased the taxes.

The government

increased

the taxes

in the budget

last week.

S P C A A
  1. It was the government that increased the taxes.  - It BE S that  P C
  2. It was the taxes that the government increased in the budget. - It BE C that S P A
  3. It was last week that the government increased the taxes. It BE Athat  S P C
  4. It was in the budget that the government increased the taxes. It BE A that S C

Exercise

Exercise: Grammar: Cleft Sentences

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