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Lưu ý: Cleft sentence có hai cấu trúc: (1) It-cleft sentence, và (2) Wh-cleft sentence. Bên dưới là một vài so sánh sơ lược. Tuy nhiên, chỉ là sơ lược, chi tiết cụ thể có thể có điểm khác.
- It-cleft sentence: Về mặt “hành văn”, kiểu câu It-cleft sentence khá giống với kiểu câu Loose/Cumulative Sentence, ở chỗ: nhấn mạnh ở đầu câu, đưa thông tin chính lên đầu câu, sau đó bổ sung thông tin phụ trợ ở phần tiếp theo.
Xem thêm bài: Phép điệp trong tiếng Anh – Loose/cumulative sentences
- Wh-cleft sentence: Về mặt “hành văn”, kiểu câu Wh-cleft sentence khá giống với kiểu câu Periodic Sentence, ở chỗ: dành thông tin mới đến cuối câu mới bung ra, nhằm tạo hiệu ứng tâm lý chờ đợi, bùng nổ, giống như thủ pháp thắt nút – cởi nút.
Xem thêm bài: Phép đảo trong tiếng Anh – Periodic sentences
Why do we use cleft sentences?
We use cleft sentences, especially in speaking, to connect what is already understood to what is new to the listener. In a cleft sentence, a single message is divided (cleft) into two clauses. This allows us to focus on the new information.
1. It-cleft sentences
It-clauses are the most common type of cleft clause. The information that comes after “it” is emphasised for the listener. The clause which follows the it-clause is connected using that and it contains information that is already understood. We often omit that in informal situations when it is the object of the verb:
A: Sharon’s car got broken into yesterday, did it?
B: No. It was Nina’s car that got broken into!
Focus (new information): it was Nina’s car
Understood already (old information): a car got broken into
A: You’ve met my mother, haven’t you?
B: No, it was your sister (that) I met!
Focus (new information): it was your sister
Understood already (old information): I met someone in your family
Is it August that you are going on holiday?
Focus (new information): the month August?
Understood already (old information): you are going on holiday
When a personal subject is the focus, we can use who instead of that. We often omit who in informal situations when it is the object of the verb:
It was my husband who (or that) you spoke to on the phone. (or It was my husband you spoke to on the phone.)
When a plural subject is the focus, we use a plural verb but It + be remains singular:
It’s the parents who were protesting most.
We can use negative structures in the it-clause:
It wasn’t the Greek student who phoned.
2. Wh-cleft sentences
Wh-cleft sentences are most often introduced by what, but we can also use why, where, how, etc. The information in the wh-clause is typically old or understood information, while the information in the following clause is new and in focus:
A: I don’t know what to cook for them? I don’t know what they like.
B: What they like is smoked salmon.
Understood already (old information): we are talking about what they like to eat
Focus (new information): they like smoked salmon
A: This remote control isn’t working.
B: What we need to do is get new batteries for it.
Understood already (old information): there is something that we need to do to fix the remote control.
Focus (new information): we need to buy new batteries