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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. Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 11:47
  • @JanusBahsJacquet How about it's my wife I'm worried about?
    – Dunno
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 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. Commented Nov 10, 2013 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. Commented Nov 10, 2013 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
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 17:39

2 Answers 2

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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.

Adjective:

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. Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 18:02
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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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