The original sentence is "The Spaniards brought horses to the Americas." I recently have made a final-term test question like this: Q: Where did the Spaniards brought horses? A: ______________________________________(Make sure to use the 'it-cleft')

Not a few students answered like this: "It was the Americas that the Spaniards brought horses to." But, I think that only "to the Americas" is a right answer. Does the preposition 'to' need to be next to the noun? So, Separating 'to' and 'the Americas' seems to be awkward.
What do you think about it? I'd really appreciate it if you could help me...

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  • Why would you think it is not correct? – nohat Jul 1 '15 at 8:07
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    To quote an expert on these matters, "It's grammatical, but that's the only good thing you can say about it." Unless you're say correcting 'The Spaniards introduced horses to The Philippines.' – Edwin Ashworth Jul 1 '15 at 9:15
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    This is an It-Cleft sentence formed from the sentence Spaniards brought horses to the Americas, which deadrat mentions in the answer. A cleft sentence takes one element, separates it from the rest of the sentence, marks the sentence (here with it and was), and emphasizes it. There are a lot of different kinds of cleft constructions in English. Another one is the Wh-Cleft, which would produce What the Spaniards introduced horses to was the Americas. Both clefts also invite the inference that there are no other cases of interest, as @Edwin points out. – John Lawler Jul 1 '15 at 12:17
  • It may be grammatical, but at least as a single sentence one has the feeling the wrong word (Americas) is emphasized. One would expect the weight on the Spaniards. – rogermue Jul 1 '15 at 13:20
  • That's a different cleft: It was the Spaniards that brought horses to the Americas. Clefts can emphasize many different NPs, in many different ways. – John Lawler Jul 1 '15 at 14:16

Ordinarily you would say, "Spaniards brought horses to the Americas." Subject-Verb-Object, with the ordinary emphasis on the subject, first in line. But you may change the word order to change the emphasis.

You might have wanted to emphasize the horses: "It was horses that Spaniards brought to the Americas." Now the previously-important Spaniards have been relegated to a following relative clause, and the horses appear first.

However, you want to emphasize neither the transporters (Spaniards) not the cargo (horses), but rather the destination (the Americas), so you have put the destination first. There's no rule against ending a sentence with a preposition, but the "to" is a long way from its object, and there's a natural place for it up front: "It was to the Americas that Spaniards brought horses."

Note that you had to change the grammatical structure of the sentence using "It was" to make the change in emphasis.

  • 1
    But: "It was the Americas that Spaniards brought horses to" implies that the Americas were the only places Spaniards took horses to. Is that what is meant? – Margana Jul 1 '15 at 8:31
  • That's what I infer. – deadrat Jul 1 '15 at 8:51

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