I have been working through a grammar book, and I have learned a lot. However, I have trouble when it comes to question type sentences.

My best guess is that

"What is it about cheetahs" is a noun phrase?

"that makes them so fast" is another phrase?

I feel like the main verb is "makes", but I'm not sure about "is"

Also I'm not sure about the role of "that" does it just join the two phrases? It almost seems that there are 2 dependent phrases but that doesn't sound like it would make sense.

I'm just looking for help breaking this sentence down into its parts.

  • 1
    Well, "is" is a simple linking verb. And in this case "that" is used to connect the two clauses (they are dependent clauses because neither is complete by itself). "Makes" is the main verb and "so fast" are adverbs that modify that verb. "Them" is a pronoun which describes "Cheetahs".
    – Kace36
    Jul 19, 2017 at 4:33
  • @Kace36 Well, "them" could refer to whatever the cheetahs are chasing :P . But them=cheetahs would be the natural reading.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 19, 2017 at 5:30
  • "It" is the subject and "what" is predicative complement; it licenses the content clause "that makes them so fast" introduced by the clause subordinator "that" The declarative counterpart would be "It is x about cheetahs that makes them so fast". The matrix verb is "be", and "make" is the subordinate clause verb.
    – BillJ
    Jul 19, 2017 at 7:30

1 Answer 1


I think "What is it about cheetahs" is questioning clause and "that makes them so fast" is the clause to describe the "what".

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