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Arash September 8, 2021 11:30

“It was her” or “it was she”, explaining cleft sentences

English grammar is quite challenging for beginners; even some of the native English speakers cannot write perfect grammar, like the one that talked about the correct use of former and latter in the sentence. However, one of the most confusing parts of English grammar is understanding cleft sentences.

Both “it was her” and “it was she” are correct.
english grammar

The former as spoken grammar and the latter as a subjective use in a cleft sentence. The main purpose of learning cleft sentences is to twist the sentence in such a way that we emphasize a certain word. Below are some examples.

  • Original sentence: Catherine missed the flight today.
    Cleft sentence: It was Catherine who missed the flight today.

In the original sentence, we still don’t know which part of the sentence is important, whether it is the flight, today, or the person. We emphasize Catherine in the cleft sentence because the point of the conversation is who missed the flight.

  • Original sentence: David took the money today.
    Cleft sentence: It was David who took the money today.

In the cleft sentence, we emphasize David, because who took the money is the point of the conversation. The cleft sentence structure in the examples above is as follows:

It + be verb + subject + who relative case.

For a subjective case, we can use (he, she, I, they, etc.), but as mentioned earlier in this article, using “her” in the sentence is correct as spoken grammar, which makes more sense during daily conversation. For that reason, you can say it was him or her who took the money. It is still acceptable to use "he" or "she," but it is less common.

At the end of the cleft clauses, there are only + subjects; you can use objects instead with the same sentence structure. For instance, you can say that “It was the rain that ruined our plan yesterday.” or “those were my expensive shoes that I lost yesterday.”

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