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Why is the following example (A) correct as a cleft sentence, but not sentence (B)?

As I have learned, we can only use 'pronoun, noun, gerund, or infinitive', not the base form of verb (help) after noun clause. I get confused.

A "All (that) I did was touch the window, and it broke."

B "What makes me feel happy is help the poor."


Are these following sentences correct grammatically and logically?

All (that) I did was (to) touch the window, and it broke.

All (that) I did was touch the window, and it broke.

All (that) I did was touching the window, and it broke.


What makes me feel happy is to help the poor.

What makes me feel happy is helping the poor.

What makes me feel happy is help the poor.

  • With "do" pseudo-cleft sentences the -ing form will only be possible if "do" is in the progressive form: "All I was doing was touching the window." – Gustavson Feb 28 '17 at 14:37
  • Your examples commencing with "All"- are not genuine pseudo clefts, though their structure is related. – BillJ Feb 28 '17 at 15:31
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Because the bare infinitive help is not understood to be a nominal (which goes with what I like) but an action. What I want to do is help the poor. What makes me happy is to help|helping the poor.

I like look out the window. ungrammatical

I like looking out the window. grammatical

I like to look out the window. grammatical

Cleft:

What I like is look out the window.ungrammatical

What I like is looking out the window. grammatical

What I like is to look out the window. grammatical

Normal: I touched the window.
Cleft: What I did was touch the window.

The predicate complement of the cleft must supply either a nominal or an action according to the needs of the verb in the cleft.

Here, that verb is did, and it is looking for an action. When did has the meaning "performed an action" it wants an action complement. The bare infinitive is an action:

I did shop. grammatical
I did eat. grammatical
I did play. grammatical
I did sky. ungrammatical

Thus:

What I did was touch the window. grammatical

What I did was to touch the window. ungrammatical [some might say marginal]

What I did was touching the window. ungrammatical

  • Is your following explanation true about "All (that)" or it is only true about "What" ? Because the bare infinitive help is not understood to be a nominal (which goes with what) but an action. – Mickey Mouse Feb 28 '17 at 13:57
  • All I said was lie. or All I said was to lie. or All I said was lying. – Mickey Mouse Feb 28 '17 at 13:59
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    "All that" alone is not enough. All that I want and all that I did take different predicate complements. The verb is important. "All I said" has its own complicated licensing. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 28 '17 at 14:02
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    Please supply a verb, not just "all". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 28 '17 at 14:08
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    I will enlarge upon the answer. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 28 '17 at 20:05
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Cleft sentences and Wh-Cleft sentences have different forms and different rules. They don't work the same way, even though they're often used for the same purposes -- to point out the important part of a sentence.

There are several different kinds of cleft sentences, but all of them isolate some aspect of the sentence in a special construction, on one side of a special word that's inserted by the clefting rule to separate the important part from the identification part. It's called the fulcrum of cleavage (boldfaced below):

  • I ordered a chocolate malt ==> It was a chocolate malt that I ordered.
    An It-Cleft

It-Cleft sentences have a dummy it is/was followed by the extracted item with a restrictive relative clause identifying it. The relative pronoun (that in the example above) is the fulcrum of cleavage. Note that these sentences are not reversible, like Wh-Clefts.

  • I ordered a chocolate malt ==> What I ordered was a chocolate malt.
    A Wh-Cleft

Wh-cleft sentences have an embedded question subordinate clause on one side of a form of auxiliary be that acts as a fulcrum (was in the example above). Since the fulcrum forms an equational sentence, Wh-cleft sentences are reversible in most cases:

  • I ordered a chocolate malt ==> A chocolate malt was what I ordered .
    Another Wh-Cleft

As far as the complements are concerned, clefts like What/All I did was ... should be followed by an infinitive clause what/all I did was (to) touch it, with or without to, because do takes an infinitive complement. But clefts like What I like is ... can be followed by a gerund clause what I like is touching it because like can take a gerund complement. Like can also take an infinitive (I like reading/to read), so what I like is to touch it is also OK.

Basically, the kind of complement clause is governed by the verb, not by what construction the verb occurs in. Verbs determine almost everything.

  • Thanks for your help and informative information. When we use 'All-Cleft' , where do we have to use 'that'? All (that) I did was touch the window, and it broke or All that I did was that touch the window, and it broke or All I did was touch the window, and it broke. Why do we use 'that' immediately after 'all'? Is it kind of that-clause or not? I don't know where I should put 'that'.For example in the sentence 'It is a pity that he is no longer with us.' I know where I should use 'that' but in All-cleft it is confusing. – Mickey Mouse Mar 1 '17 at 8:23
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    It's a relative clause, so that can be deleted whenever it's allowed in a relative -- i.e, whenever it's not the subject of the relative clause. All I did was ... and All that I did was ... are both OK because that isn't the subject of did. All that happened was ... is OK, but not *All happened was .... – John Lawler Mar 1 '17 at 14:36
  • Are these sentences correct? All that I need is to study hard. All that I need is a good meal. All that I need is that I should improve my English. All that I need to do is play guitar at the moment. All that I like is going swimming now. All that I like is to go swimming now. All that I have to remember is that she is so dangerous. All that I have difficulty is (in) solving the puzzle. These two are confusing: All that I did is describing ALL. All that I did is to describe or describe ALL. – Mickey Mouse Mar 1 '17 at 19:24
  • Some are and some aren't. Why do you need to know? – John Lawler Mar 1 '17 at 21:38
  • I want to know how much I 've learned this type of grammar.I wrote all of them by myself. – Mickey Mouse Mar 2 '17 at 4:28

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