Cleft sentences (cleft – divided) are sentences in which special emphasis is given to one part. You can thus emphasise either the subject or the object of a sentence. Cleft sentences can be useful for putting stress in a sentence exactly where you want it, but they should be used sparingly, reserved for special occasions.
! There are two common ways of using cleft sentences. You either start the sentence with:
1) It is/was…that, or
2) What ……..is/was………..,
a) Adam saw the film.
b) It was Adam that saw the film.
Sentence b) gives special importance to Adam
a) I need more time. b) What I need is more time.
Sentence b) emphasizes more time
1) Cleft sentences with It is/was……that
Using this structure you can emphasize almost any part of the sentence.
Janek bought a cheap sweater at the bazaar yesterday.
1. It was Janek that bought a cheap sweater at the bazaar yesterday.
2. It was a cheap sweater that Janek bought at the bazaar yesterday.
3. It was yesterday that Janek bought a cheap sweater at the bazaar.
4. It was at the bazaar that Janek bought a cheap sweater yesterday.
When the subject is emphasized, it is possible to use who instead that:
It was Janek who bought a cheap sweater at the bazaar yesterday.
It was his daughter who went abroad last year.
It was in the street that John found the umbrella.
It was yesterday that you were supposed to hand in your essay.
It was only when she woke this morning that she realized where she actually was.
2) Cleft sentences with What … is/was
Using this structure you can emphasize the subject or object.
I like your smile vs. What I like is your smile.
What I hate about going to school is having to wake up very early.
The thing I can’t stand about Scotland is the weather.
The thing I find difficult about English is the spelling.
What I would really like to do is to go on holidays.
What we are trying to do is to find the means to employ her on a permanent basis.
What I want to do is to establish the facts.
What you need to do is find the missing words in the five paragraphs.
What they have to do is phone for help.
What you can’t do is produce advertising that is…
What we really want to do is help our patients manage their changing moods.
What I want to do is prove the business in Union…
What I want to do is to show the people there…
What I want to do is present the English theatre…
what I want to do is get a smile from people….
what I want to do is have the schools so good ….
what I want to do is I want to show the girl…
What I want to do is give them less taxes, less…
What I want to do is provide insurance to the…
The thing I was dreading the most was driving…
And now consider this:
She has painted Mark’s portrait.
1) What she’s done was paint Mark’s portrait.
2) What she’s done was to paint Mark’s portrait.
3) What she’s done was painted Mark’s portrait.
The central verb was can appear not only with an infinitive without to, but also with an infinitive with to, and also with participles.
What I am trying to tell you is that you should try to embellish the way you put thoughts into words, and using cleft sentences can be one of the ways you can achieve that objective.
So good luck!