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Cleft sentences and inversion

English language gives its users, the liberty to express their thoughts in different ways. One such way is to invert the word orders in a sentence to give more emphasis on a particular prose or clause. Sometimes, inverted sentences take time to comprehend as the (auxiliary) verb comes before the subject. 

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  Ramya Shankar  —  Grammar Tips
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Inverted sentences

Consider the following example –

We have never seen this kind of support before.

Here, the subject is ‘We’, ‘have’ is the auxiliary verb.

Let us change the order now –

Never have we seen this kind of support before.

Notice that changing the order of sentences has changed the emphasis. The second sentence gives more importance to the information than the person.

Some more examples

They like pancakes for breakfast. à Pancakes is what they like for breakfast.

The task that was given to the students was daunting for the teachers as well à Given to the students was a task that was daunting for the teachers as well.

We got delayed because of the rains à It was the rains that caused us the delay.

Cleft sentences

It is the cleft sentences that we are going to talk about now! Do you get the air of it?

The above sentence can be re-written as – we are going to talk about cleft sentences now!

These sentences put the sentence which needs emphasis in a separate clause for clarity. The information that gets the emphasis is the new information.

There are 2 types of cleft sentences –

It-cleft sentences

The sentence is changed in such a way that it starts with it. The information that comes after ‘it is/was’ is the one that gets the emphasis. Examples

My phone broke yesterday à It was my phone that broke yesterday.

The Gryffindor team won the match yesterday. à It was the Gryffindor team that won the match yesterday.

Most of the times, these sentences are used in answering a question

a. Who was on the phone? à It was your sister on the phone.

b. You met my friend, haven’t you? à No, it was your cousin I met.

c. When are you getting married? à It is in September we are getting married.

 

Wh-cleft sentences

The 4 W’s is where we use these types of cleft sentences. Most of the times, what is used.

Example –

You look tired, do you need some water? à What is need now is some rest.

Where were you all this while? à Where I went is the place that has 5 lakes together.

There are many ways to change a sentence to make it a cleft sentence from a non-cleft based on the information we want to emphasise on. Here is one sentence which we will change in multiple ways to give more emphasis to certain part of the sentence.

Non-cleft sentenceMy grandfather was killed in an encounter during World War II.

Cleft-sentence 1 – It was my grandfather who was killed in an encounter during World War II.

Cleft-sentence 2 – It was in an encounter that my grandfather was killed during World War II.

Cleft-sentence 3 – It was in World War II that my grandfather was killed in an encounter.

Notice that all the four sentences mean the same but give emphasis on different parts of the sentence.

Cleft sentences are a great way to make sentences more expressive and put special emphasis on certain clauses.

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