It's in London that he met his wife - I've got this sentence in my grammar book under cleft sentences. It's just one of many.

I was wondering if it's possible to use to be verb (I've got no single example). It's from London that I am. Would that be correct?

I know it's not how people usually say something like that but I'm asking about cleft sentences and the way they work

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    It is not grammatically incorrect, but as you surmise, it is quite an awkward sentence. I would say it's grammatically dubious: there is no real rule that prohibits it, but it is so uncommon and rare that it is likely to be fairly jarring to any native speaker. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 10 '13 at 11:47
  • @JanusBahsJacquet How about it's my wife I'm worried about? – Dunno Nov 10 '13 at 11:50
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    "It's my wife I'm worried about" is fine. "It's from London that I am" is grammatically questionable. – Peter Shor Nov 10 '13 at 11:52
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    Those are both stilted and not very natural, but not as jarring as “It’s from London that I am”. When there's a predicative after the copula, it works; when the predicative is the bit that's fronted by cleaving the sentence, things start to get shaky. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 10 '13 at 12:58
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    Yoda might say It's from Dagobah that I am, but most of the rest of us would say it not. – bib Nov 10 '13 at 17:39

English has two be’s, equative and predicative, and both of them seem uniformly to be bad with it-clefts. Compare:

Noun phrase:

Susan is president / a president / the president.

?? It’s (a/the) president that Susan is.


Susan is horsy.

?? It’s horsy that Susan is.

Prepositional phrase:

Susan is under the table.

?? It’s under the table that Susan is.

And for something truly appalling, a wh-phrase:

Susan is who you should ask.

?? It’s who you should ask that Susan is.

This seems to be a fact about the interaction of it-clefts with be, rather than just be by itself though, as many of these sentences are fine with wh-clefts; for instance:

What Susan is is the president.

What Susan is is horsy.

Where Susan is is under the table.

My guess is some clever linguist specializing in the semantics of it-clefts will have to unravel this nice catch of a conundrum.

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  • Strictly speaking, there's auxiliary be too, but it's leaving that aside that I was. – Daniel Harbour Nov 22 '13 at 18:02

It is an interesting question. I tried to give a comment on this, but for some reason, I can not post it above.

I think the following expressions could be alternative ways for them.

It's London where he met his wife. It's London where I am from.

I am not sure that those are cleft sentences (maybe not), but you can put some stress on London more than the plain expressions--he met his wife in London, and I am from London.

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