Emphatic Sentence Structure

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Sometime to emphasize and sometime, perhaps to contradict what someone else has said or for dramatic effect, we use emphatic sentence structure. We do this either by splitting one sentence into two parts (cleft sentences) or by bringing the element we want to emphasize to the beginning (fronting), and inversion techniques.

1. Cleft sentence

 ‘Cleft’ means divided. In a cleft sentence, information which could be given in one clause is divided into two parts, each with its own verb:-

Technology has made the greatest impact.It is technology that has made the greatest impact.

This gives extra emphasis to technology. We often use this pattern to emphasise some piece of new information, to give explanations or to make a contrast with a previous statement (the emphasized information is in bold). There are two ways to do this:-

  1. Using it cleft sentences
    1. Using wh cleft

It cleft

Structure it + a form of be (+ not and/or adverb) + emphasised word/phrase + that /which/ who clause

We can use this pattern to emphasise the subject or the object of a simple sentence, or an adverbial phrase, or a prepositional phrase:-

sentence                                                       China suffered the greatest loss on July.
emphasising the subject                        It was China who suffered the greatest loss on July.
emphasising the action                        It was the greatest loss that China suffered on July. (Wrong)? We will discuss soon.
emphasising the adverbial                   It was on July that China suffered on July.

Note: We cannot use it clefts to highlight the action or a verb complement in a sentence. We use wh- clefts to do this.

Wh- cleft sentences

We can use this pattern to highlight the action in a sentence. For example, if we want to highlight

Structure wh- clause + a form of be + emphasised word or phrase
sentence                                                       China suffered the greatest loss on July.
emphasising the action                        What china suffered on Julywas the greatest loss.


Fronting objects and complements

In Spoken and Written English we sometimes want to make a strong contrast with something in a previous statement. We can do this with objects and complements by ‘fronting’ them (moving them to the front of the clause), which makes them more emphatic:-

This may be one solution but this is not all in all. I disagree with that.One solution this may be, but all in all it is not.                             That I disagree with.

Fronting adjective phrases; also and such

When we want to start a sentence with known information or we want to make an emphatic comparison with information in a previous sentence, we can use a comparative or superlative phrase at the beginning. We use a form of the verb be followed by the subject :

Members of the royal family attended the funeral. Also at the service were several ambassadors.They led a life of abject poverty. Such is the fate of most illegitimate children in this province.

Fronting adverbials and infinitives; as and though

We can put known information at the beginning of a sentence by putting adverbial phrases describing position or place (e.g. At the back of the house), verbs of position and movement (e.g. stand, attach, lie) and to + infinitive forms in the front position, with inversion of the subject and verb be:-

He said he would arrive on time. And he did (arrive on time).Battered though he was, he never lost his will to succeed.


subject-verb inversion

We sometimes put a verb or verb phrase in front of the subject after adverbs of place (e.g. on, in, here, there, outside, opposite) and adverbs of time (e.g. next, then, first, now, finally). We can use a form of be or verbs of place and movement (e.g. stand, sit, lie, come, go, climb, run. sail, fly) before the subject. We often use this pattern to form a link with the information in the previous sentence, and it is common in formal English:-

There was a beautiful rambling rose on the wall.On one wall there was a beautiful rambling rose

Subject-auxiliary inversion

We sometimes put an auxiliary (do. have, should, can, etc.) before the subject in statements; the rest of the verb phrase follows the subject. We use this pattern of inversion for emphasis in the following cases:-

after adverbs with ‘restrictive’/Little did we realize the true extent of his involvement.
negative meaning (e.g. hardly,Never have I seen such a disturbing sight,
only + time expression or                               prepositional phraseOnly later did he manage to get permission.
scarcely, rarely, little, never)Hardly had I arrived when Suzy collared me.  

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