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Can I check I understand this correctly:

What + subject + verb + is/was + verb in matching verb form

Let me explain:

I enjoy going for a walk. (enjoy + gerund) What I enjoy is going for a walk.

I avoid using too much petrol. (avoid + gerund) What I avoid is using too much petrol.

She needs to go home now! (need + infinitive) What she needs is to go home now.

Is that correct or is it always the infinitive in this type of cleft sentence? Eg. What I avoid is to use too much petrol. What I enjoy is to cycle.

Basic grammar terms would be appreciated in answers. Thank you for any help!

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    Your examples with gerund-participial (ing) clauses are fine. Incidentally, unlike your examples with "what", the one with "all" is not a pseudo-cleft construction. .
    – BillJ
    Oct 3, 2023 at 16:24
  • I'm not sure the "cleft sentence" is relevant here. It's always I NEED to go home and I AVOID staying too late. Or with some verbs, either form is possible; I LIKE to watch movies and I LIKE watching movies are both fine - and that's still the case with What I like is to watch / watching movies Oct 3, 2023 at 16:26

3 Answers 3

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What I avoid is to use too much petrol. What I enjoy is to cycle.

I don't find these grammatical.

Like you explain, enjoy and avoid take a gerund as a compliment. It is also true in the WH-cleft construction. We can put an -ing verb in the Subject Noun Phrase to check. And if there is an -ing verb in the Subject Noun Phrase, the predicative complement should match it. Thus:

What I enjoy (doing) is going for a walk.

What I avoid (doing) is using too much petrol.

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The rules of what verb forms to use remain the same when you use a cleft sentence.

So if you need a gerund in the standard sentence form, you also need a gerund in the cleft form, and same goes for infinitives, base forms, and so on.

Forming a cleft sentence is just a matter of rearranging the original words around the necessary bits to make it cleft, not changing the forms.

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Either is acceptable. In everyday speech the gerund versions are probably more common.

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  • -1 Do you believe "What I avoid is to use too much petrol" and "What I enjoy is to cycle." are good grammar??
    – gotube
    Oct 3, 2023 at 21:42

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