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the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, page 1493, example 35i:
(1) I tend to favour the opinion that when young men do well it is because of their parents, and when they do badly it is because of themselves.

The book says this example belongs to the it-cleft construction.

As far as I know, the structure of an it-cleft sentence is:
it's + antecedent + relative clause beginning with "that" or "who".
So I can't find the it-cleft construction in (1).
Could you explain to me please where it is and why it can be called so here?

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  • Perhaps this could be considered a truncated it-cleft as discussed on p. 1417. "When they do badly it is because of themselves [that they do badly]."
    – nschneid
    Commented Jan 1 at 4:32
  • An it-cleft begins with nonreferential it (the "cleft pronoun"), which is typically followed by a copula (i.e., a form of the verb be), a noun phrase, and a relative clause. The cited example has a "dummy" it (nonreferential) and copula (is) as specified, and there's nothing in that definition requiring "who", "that", or whatever. They're just typically present in many examples. Commented Jan 1 at 4:42
  • @nschneid I think you could write it as an answer.
    – Loviii
    Commented Jan 2 at 4:13

2 Answers 2

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Perhaps this could be considered a truncated it-cleft as discussed on p. 1417. "When they do badly it is because of themselves [that they do badly]." The relative clause is not explicit but its meaning can be inferred from context.

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I tend to favour the opinion that when young men do well it is because of their parents, and when they do badly it is because of themselves.

Let's extract the opinion and reverse the order:

It is because of their parents when young men do well, and it is because of themselves when they do badly.

They're not requiring it to precede the clause for which it is a semantic proxy; the moving of the independent clause introduced by it to initial position in the sentence is a frequent feature of such constructions, but not an essential characteristic.

And they're allowing a clause introduced by when:

"We regret when our students require disciplining" said the headmaster, gripping an ancient mace.

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  • Sorry, I couldn't understand how your post answers the original question. Maybe you want to say that "It is because of their parents when young men do well, and it is because of themselves when they do badly" is an it-cleft sentence to you?
    – Loviii
    Commented Jan 1 at 23:12
  • Please re-read the sentence that begins "They're [i.e. CGEL] not requiring..."
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 2 at 0:03
  • Ok. The only conclusion I can draw from what you wrote is that you confuse extraposition with it-cleft construction.
    – Loviii
    Commented Jan 2 at 0:53
  • non-cleft version: They do well because of their parents. cleft-version: It is because of their parents they do well.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 2 at 1:10
  • "It is because of their parents (that, when) they do well." Cleft-version with the clauses reversed: When they do well it is because of their parents.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 2 at 1:32

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