preparatory it

446 preparatory it (1): subject

It can be used in 'cleft sentences' with who- and that-clauses to emphasise one part of a sentence.

  • It was my aunt who took Peter to London yesterday, not my mother.
  • It was Peter that my aunt took to London yesterday, not Lucy.

131 cleft sentences (2): it was my secretary who ...

1. preparatory it
We can use preparatory it in cleft sentences. The words to be emphasised are usually joined to the relative clause by that.


My secretary sent the bill to Mr Harding yesterday.
  • It was my secretary that sent the bill to Mr Harding yesterday. (not somebody else)
  • It was the bill that my secretary sent to mr Harding yesterday. (not something else)
  • It was Mr Harding that my secretary sent the bill to yesterday. (not somebody else)
  • It was yesterday that my secretary sent the bill to Mr Harding. (not another day)

Negative structures are also possible.
  • It wasn't my husband that sent the bill ...

Who is possible instead of that when a personal subject is empahsised.
  • It was my secretary who sent ...

When a plural subject is emphasised, the verb is plural.
  • It was the students that were angry ... 

The verb cannot be emphasised with this structure: we cannot say
  • It was sent that my secretary the bill ...

p. 412

John wore a white suit at the dance last night.

It was JOHN who/that wore a white suit at the dance last night. (S)
It was a white SUIT (that) John wore at the dance last night. (O: direct)
It was last night (that) John wore a white suit at the dance. (A: time)
It was at the dance that John wore a white suit last night. (A: position)
It was the dance (that) John wore a white suit at last night. (informal)

It was me he gave the book to. (O: indirect)
It was to me that he gave the book. 

It's dark green that we've painted the kitchen. (C: object)

?It's ver tall you are. (C: subject)
It was a doctor that he eventually became (C: subject)

It was ?her that gave the signal.

시제는 맞추고, question 가능.
(Greenbaum, S., & Quirt, R. (1990). A student's grammar of the English language. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.

p. 615.
An it-cleft is a specially marked construction that puts some constituent, typically an NP, into focus. The construction implies contrast. 

John wants a car.
It's a car that John wants. (not a hose)

The manager mows the lawn.
It's the manager who mows the lawn. (not  gardener).

It is difficult to formulate a rule that would generate all it-clefts since many different constituents such as subject NPs, object NPs, and even prepositional phrases and adverbial clauses can be put into the focus slot that follows it + be.

It's the teacher who corrects the papers (not the aide).
It's power that the president wants (not money).
It's in the kitchen that I study (not in the den).
It was because he was jealous that Bobby lied about his sister's prize. (not for some other reason).

It's not the gardener who mows the lawn (but the manager).

S -> It + AUX be + (Not) + [focused constituent] {who/that} S (minus focus constituent)

It might be Marty who stole the money.
It must be the butler who killed Mr. Smith.

It can't be Peter who wrote this book.

Celce-Murcia, M., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999). The grammar book (2nd Ed.). ........