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Recently I have encountered the following sentence:

Best wishes for your studies and research careers or whatever it is you choose to pursue.

I think "it is" is redundant. What do you think?

From another point of view, suppose that we are free to use "it is" in the sentence. In this case, I think the resulting sentence is not beautiful and something has changed the harmony of the sentence. Do you agree with me?

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    Did they put quotation marks in the original sentence? Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 18:19
  • no friend. i removed the quotations.
    – Arash2020
    Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 18:22
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    One could also argue that "your studies and research careers or" is redundant since "Best wishes for whatever you choose to pursue" will cover that. Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 18:24
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    Certainly the it is can be removed. Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 18:27
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    @Arash2020 - Yes. It's all about what the writer wanted to include. The additional words are not necessary and possibly redundant, but using them is not wrong and may be just individual style - like your choice of "with me" in "do you agree with me?". Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 19:17

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If we extract the relative clause from "whatever it is you choose to pursue" into a separate sentence, we get:

  1. It is X [that] you choose to pursue.

Removing the "it is," if we extract the relative clause from "whatever you choose to pursue" into a separate sentence, we get:

  1. You choose to pursue X.

The only difference between (1) and (2) is that (1) uses an it-cleft; this does not change the meaning and in this case effects at most a minor change in emphasis. The two are almost exactly equivalent.

In short: the "it is" is unnecessary, but the sentence is correct either way.

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This can be classed as a "syntactic expletive" and it's exactly what you're suggesting. They are parts of a sentence that you can remove without losing any meaning. "Do" is an illustrative example:

"I do think that is a good idea."

(What meaning is lost if you remove "do"?)

Personally, I think syntactic expletives add a stylistic flourish and sound "British" or more formal, in a way. They can add a bit more emphasis and intentionality in my opinion; on the other hand, they are essentially superfluous and to some it might come off as pretentious or wordy.

ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expletive_(linguistics)#Syntactic_expletive

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  • I think that while the semantic meaning of "I do think that is a good idea" is essentially the same as "I think that is a good idea," the pragmatic usage is different since the first would be interpreted more as confronting an opposing opinion, while the second would be more affirmative.
    – Graham H.
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 3:24
  • Graham, obviously I agree with you, as stated in my OP. You can check the ref if you're interested for more--there's even a section on the expletive "do" and apparently the famous poet Alexander Pope even wrote about expletive do's. I find myself using syntactic expletives all the time and I guess it depends on taste and context to some extent.
    – sat0ri
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 11:01

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