"Zootopia" around 00:40:49/01:48:32

Scene 17: Running the Plate

[Judy and Nick leave the Oasis; Nick turns to Judy, straightening his tie]

Nick Wilde: Well, I had a ball. You are welcome for the clue, and seeing as how any moron can run a plate, I will take that pen and bid you adieu. [holds out his hand for the pen]

Judy Hopps: The plate. I can't run a plate. Ooh... I'm not in the system yet.

Nick Wilde: [impatient] Give me the pen, please...

Judy Hopps: [turns to Nick, smiling slyly] What was it you said? "Any moron can run a plate"? Gosh, if only there were a moron around who were up to the task.


Is "you said" the (by the way, should I use "an" instead of "the"?) appositive clause of "it"?

Or is "it" introductory and "you said" the logical subject?

How about "What was it what you said?"?


4 Answers 4


What was it you said?

It's tricky!

This is an it-cleft construction where the foregrounded element is questioned. "It" is the subject of the matrix be clause, with the relative clause appearing in extranuclear position at the end.

"It" is just a place-holder for the variable, which is defined in the relative clause, though the latter is not syntactically part of the subject.

  • Interestingly enough, the words can be rearranged to: "You said what?" which has roughly the same meaning, although not quite the same nuance.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 18:01
  • 1
    And I think there's an implicit "that", or at least a "that" could be included: "What was it that you said?" Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 19:53

Technically, "a noun clause" can't refer to "a pronoun". So, we can't say that there is a bridge between the pronoun "it" and "you said".

I think that there is an omitted "that" there.

What was it that you said?

You can use "that" in this way.

What do you like that I don't like?

What do you know that I should know?

  • "What do you like that I don't like?" "What do you know that I should know?" Both of the two that-clauses are relative clauses of "what", am I right?
    – Zhang Jian
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 2:11


That is all the money he has.

he has is a restrictive clause defining the money.

That is all the money he has in the world. [his "net worth"]

That is all the money he has with him at the moment. [on his person now]


The "missing relativiser" is What was it that you said?. For most contexts this would be exactly equivalent to What did you say? - but in this specific "rhetorical question" context the longer version is probably more suitable. The shorter one is commonly used as a genuine request for something to be repeated (because the speaker didn't hear, or has forgotten), but there's no suggestion of that here. It's just sarcasm.

{transcribed from an earlier comment}

  • 2
    What was it you said, something about pigs flying? can be a request for something to be repeated verbatim.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 18:19

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