Cleft Sentences


When you don't know grammar terminology, a term can be off-putting to the point of being intimidating. Luckily, grammar terms are fun to learn. Here's one from the Oxford English Grammar to add to your mental jargon folder.

Cleft sentence: a sentence that is cleft (split) so as to put the focus on one part of it. The cleft sentence is introduced by 'it,' which is followed by a verb phrase whose main verb is generally 'be.' The focused part comes next, and then the rest of the sentence is introduced by a relative pronoun, relative determiner, or relative adverb. If we take the sentence 'Tom felt a sharp pain after lunch,' two possible cleft sentences formed from it are 'It was Tom who felt a sharp pain after lunch' and 'It was after lunch that Tom felt a sharp pain.'

In other words, structures like "It was he who" or "It was the (noun) that" are cleft sentences.

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