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Hello, everyone,

1. It was he that(who) signed autographs for the fans after the show.

2. It was him that(who) signed autographs for the fans after the show. (acceptable in informal style)

3. It was him signing autographs for the fans after the show.

While I understand the ‘him’ in no.2 above is acceptable in an informal style of a cleft sentence, I’ve heard a few local persons here insist that no.3 is also acceptable, since ‘the subjective relative plus a verb’ could be reduced into ‘-ing’ form.

For the issue - whether this reduced cleft sentence in no.3 as a variant is in fact being accepted by natives recently in informal or conversation style, I would invite your opinions.

Last edited by deepcosmos
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@deepcosmos posted:


3. It was him signing autographs for the fans after the show.

. . . I’ve heard a few local persons here insist that no.3 is also acceptable, since ‘the subjective relative plus a verb’ could be reduced into ‘-ing’ form.

For the issue - whether this reduced cleft sentence in no.3 as a variant is in fact being accepted by natives recently in informal or conversation style, I would invite your opinions.

Hi, Deepcosmos—I don't think I've ever seen anybody ask about the construction you have used in (3) or anything published about it.  It's a very interesting construction. You seem to think that it is recent, informal, and only accepted in conversation by some native speakers, and that it is a cleft sentence involving a reduced relative clause.

I agree with your notion that the sentence is a cleft, or that it is cleft-like; however, I disagree with your notions that it is informal, that it is only appropriate in conversational English, and that it is recent. I think that the construction is longstanding and acceptable in any register, formal or informal. As to whether it has a reduced relative clause, I do not wish to decide.

There are three observations I wish to make about the construction in (3). First, it is not incompatible with the choice to use "he" instead of "him." Second, the construction requires that the noun phrase following the copula and preceding the -ing clause be stressed: "It was HIM/HE signing autographs for the fans after the show." Third, the construction is not well suited to -ed reduced relatives:

(4) It was John kicked by the donkey.

While I do not find (4) ungrammatical, the reduction (assuming a reduction is involved) is ambiguous; consequently, the sentence unclear, at least with no context. We cannot tell whether "kicked by the donkey" is a reduction of "who was kicked by the donkey" (--> "The donkey kicked John") or a reduction of "who had been kicked by the donkey" (--> "The donkey had kicked John").

Last edited by David, Moderator

Hi, David,  really appreciate your explanations.

You seem to think that it is recent, informal, and only accepted in conversation by some native speakers, and that it is a cleft sentence involving a reduced relative clause.

Yes, exactly.

however, I disagree with your notions that it is informal, that it is only appropriate in conversational English, and that it is recent. I think that the construction is longstanding and acceptable in any register, formal or informal. As to whether it has a reduced relative clause, I do not wish to decide.

I didn't know this construction with a reduced form is longstanding and acceptable in both registers.

There are three observations I wish to make about the construction in (3).

Noted with thanks.

(4) It was John kicked by the donkey.

While I do not find (4) ungrammatical, the reduction (assuming a reduction is involved) is ambiguous;

This is an unexpected information extended far beyond my imagination.

Last edited by deepcosmos

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