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Fronting, Cleft and Pseudo-cleft Sentences


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I was thinking about emphasis lately and I thought it would be nice to mention some emphatic structures. Of course, there´s the so called do-emphasis:

We do read our books!

I do play the piano!

If the tense isn´t present/past simple, then the operator takes the emphasis:

We have done it.

She had gone upstairs.

However, there are also structures on the level of the clause (these were phrasal).

Three most comnmon are fronting, cleft and pseudo-cleft sentences.


Simon studied French last year.

This is a simple sentence without emphasis. If we wish to put emphasis on one element, then the structure changes.

This sentence can have three variants:

It was Simon who studied French last year. (not Jane)

It was French that Simon studied last year. (not Spanish)

It was last year that Simon studied French. (not two years ago)

In cleft sentences the original sentence is divided/cleft into two clauses in order to emphasize one element of the original sentence (often as a way of excluding other possibilities).


Pseudo-cleft sentences have a similar purpose, but the emphasized part comes at the end:

What I want is a good sleep.


Fronting occurs when we move one of the sentence elements from its usual position to the beginning of the sentence (it gives special emphasis):

He wants ice cream becomes Ice cream he wants!

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I use this kind of phrases very often, maybe more often than I should ;)  Things like: What I truly need now is a good night of sleep or a good glass of wine.  That sentence structure must be one of the most useful ones out there, I tend to pay a lot attention to the written emphasis of some sentences, whether some people are aware they're putting  emphasis or not ;)

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So do I! I love these constructions as well. I´d always considered the emphasis as something on the verb (He HAS done his homework). I´d never thought that there are other ways of putting emphasis such as cleft/ pseudo-cleft sentences. They work very well. And they´re neat. :)

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