Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Pseudo-Cleft Sentence


A pseudo-cleft sentence is a kind of cleft sentence in which the subordinated clause is a relative clause headed by an interrogative pro-form. In English they are of the form:

  • wh-relative clause + be + X

X can be a constituent of one of many varieties.

The so-called 'inverted' pseudo-cleft sentence reverses the order of the two constituents:

  •  X + be + wh-relative clause
Pseudo-cleft Inverted pseudo-cleft
What John gave to Mary were flowers Flowers were what John gave to Mary.