“It is that you come home from India on what is called the leave—what we can call en permission?”
(Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie)

Why is it written in an 'it is that' structure? It's not even a cleft sentence.

below is the context

“Ah! my dear old friend,” he said, “you see I have become what they call the snob! The first class, I feel it should be attended to before the second class. Next, I think, we will interview the good-looking Colonel Arbuthnot.” Finding the Colonel’s French to be of a severely limited description, Poirot conducted his interrogatory in English. Arbuthnot’s name, age, home address and exact military standing were all ascertained. Poirot proceeded:
“It is that you come home from India on what is called the leave—what we can call en permission?”
Colonel Arbuthnot, uninterested in what a pack of foreigners called anything, replied with true British brevity, “Yes.”
“But you do not come home on the P. & O. boat?”
“Why not?”

  • Statements in English can be spoken as questions. if there is rising intonition. However, what stands out here is come instead of came. Also, the determiner the with leave as someone below pointed out.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 25 at 18:57
  • [Why is X written as Y]
    – Lambie
    Commented May 25 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


Poirot is a French-speaking Belgian, and the author (Agatha Christie) writes his dialogue in such a way as to appear "foreign", as he is speaking with an accent.

The "It is that" would appear to be influenced by the translation of "Est ce que", the French way of forming questions, and used by Christie to mark his dialogue as having an accent. I can't say why Poirot phrases this as a statement. And we may never know, it may just be an idiosyncracy.

  • Oh right, thank you so much for your answer.
    – inviolable
    Commented May 25 at 5:42
  • Note that "on the leave" is also a non-idiomatic use of "the", again to show that Poirot has a French accent. More of a mystery is what Arbuthnot means by a "rail convoy car", as this expression seems not to appear in any other book or context.
    – James K
    Commented May 25 at 6:22
  • @JamesK - I have stared at the OP's question for some while, and I cannot see any mention (by anyone) of a "rail convoy car". Is it present in a copy of the book that you have to hand? Commented May 25 at 7:39
  • 2
    ... which might be close to "C'est que ..." in French as the start of a statement rather than of a question.
    – Henry
    Commented May 25 at 18:18
  • 1
    Whatever the justification for this particular construction, the point is that Poirot is not a fluent speaker of English, is it not? He is a fictional character and this is the way the author has written him.
    – David K
    Commented May 26 at 14:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .