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I think I understand what he wants to say, but cannot figure out the sentence structure or I just don't know such a phrasal verb.

"I thought of the Lake Como what I had thought of Lugano."

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The sentence you write means "I thought of Lake Como that which I had thought of Lugano." Follow the link to find out about cleft sentences.

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Right. What I had thought of Lugano (which looks like an embedded question) is actually what's called a Headless Relative Clause, and is equivalent to that (thought) which I had thought of Lugano. Headless relatives function as noun phrases, not as adjectives, because they have swallowed their coreferential head indefinite pronoun. Isn't English syntax fun? – John Lawler Feb 5 '12 at 18:29
@JohnLawler: Absolutely. One of the reasons I fell in love with the English language. – Irene Feb 5 '12 at 18:34
Oh, just noticed. This isn't actually a Cleft; it's at best an aberrant Pseudo-Cleft. There are other problems with the sentence, too, like article use and excessively complex structure. – John Lawler Feb 5 '12 at 18:39
@JohnLawler: Oops, I hadn't noticed the article use. I'll edit my answer. Thank you. I agree with your (more) accurate definition, too. Why don't you post your own answer? I'll be happy to upvote you. – Irene Feb 5 '12 at 18:54

To figure it out, substitute "I thought of the Lake Como" with "this was". E.g;

This was what I had thought of Lugano

There is a kind of comparison between the lakes.

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One meaning of the phrasal verb to think of is to have an opinion about. So the sentence you quote means: I had the same opinion about Lake Como as I did about Lugano. The next sentence follows the same structure:

  • I ate yesterday what I had eaten the day before.
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