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Dr Grammar

prep phrase in cleft sentence

Posted by peter   23 Feb 2014 12 44 am

Hi Alex,

I've got another question... it's about cleft sentences with 'it clause'.

There is an example in BBC website:

Example sentence from BBC (original):
My brother bought his new car from our next-door neighbour last Saturday.

They show another example in Cleft sentence structure:
It was our next-door neighbour that my brother bought his new car **from** last Saturday.

My question is... should we move the preposition 'from' to the front? As in my understanding, 'from our next-door neighbour' is a prepositional phrase and they should not break apart.

--> It was **from** our next-door neighbour that my brother bought his new car last Saturday.

Many Thanks!


Posted by alex stringer   24 Feb 2014 2 58 pm

Hi Peter

No, we break off prepositions and put them at the ends of sentences and clauses quite happily these days, especially in everyday spoken English:

Who did you give the book to?
That's the hotel we stayed in.

There was once an idea, apparently taken from Latin, that English sentences should not end with a preposition.
There is also a (possibly apocryphal) story that Winston Churchill, a writer as well as a politician, once had one of his sentences corrected by an editor who objected to a preposition at the end of a sentence.

Churchill is supposed to have replied, 'this is the kind of pedantry up with which I will not put.'

Whether true or not, since the Second World War we've been fairly comfortable with prepositions at the ends of clauses and sentences.

However, if the preposition is separated from the rest of the phrase by a lot of other words, we would find another way to express the sentence:

...that my brother has bought most of his large collection of vintage cars and motorcycles from. This would be clumsy and awkward to read.


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