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Other information structures - Putting something first: fronting


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Other information structures

Putting something first: fronting

92 In English, the first element in a declarative clause is usually the subject of the verb. However, if you want to emphasize another element, you can put that first instead.

Putting a word at the front of a clause for emphasis is called fronting. Sometimes when fronting takes place the normal order of subject and verb is changed. This is called inversion.

adjuncts 93 Adjuncts can often be put first. This is the normal position for sentence adjuncts (see paragraph 56), so they are not particularly emphatic in this position. Other adjuncts are sometimes placed first, usually for extra vividness in stories and accounts.

At eight o'clock I went down for my breakfast.

For years I'd had to hide what I was thinking.

Inversion often occurs after adjuncts of place and negative adjuncts.

She rang the bell for Sylvia. In came a girl she had not seen before.

On no account must they be let in.

Inversion does not occur when the subject is a pronoun.

With a sigh, he rose and walked away.

For general information on adjuncts, see Chapter Negative adjuncts are dealt with in Chapter

reported questions 94 When you are saying that you do not know something, you can put the reported question first.

What I'm going to do next I don't quite know.

How he escaped a fractured skull I can't imagine.

For more information on reported questions, see paragraphs 29 to 3

other clause elements 95 A complement can occasionally be put first, but this is not common.

Noreen, she was called. She came from the viltage.

Rare indeed is the individual who does not belong to one of these groups.

The object of a verb is sometimes put first, usually in formal or literary uses. Note that the subject still has to be mentioned.

One of the copies he folded into an envelope and sent to the Commissioner.

When they scented my fear, they would attack. This I knew.

Introducing your statement: prefacing structures

96 People often use structures which point forward to what they are going to say and classify or label it in some way. These are called prefacing structures or preface.

A preface usually introduces the second part of the same sentence, usually a 'that'-clause or a 'wh'-clause, but occasionally a non-finite clause or a noun group. However, you can use a whole sentence as the preface to another sentence (see paragraph 101).

prefaces to second part of sentence 97 A common prefacing structure is 'the' and a noun, followed by 'is'. The noun is sometimes modified or qualified. The nouns most commonly used in this structure are:














'The fact is', 'the point is', and 'the thing is' are used to indicate that what you are about to say is important.

The simple fact is that if you get ill, you may be unable to take the examination.

The point is to find out who was responsible.

The thing is, how are we to get her out?

98 Some of these nouns are used in prefaces to indicate what sort of thing you are about to say.

The rule is: if in doubt, dry clean.

Is medicine an art or a science? The answer is that it is both.

The inevitable conclusion is that man is not responsible for what he does.

99 Some of these nouns are used in prefaces to label what you are about to talk about.

The problem is that the demand for health care is unlimited.

The only solution is to approach each culture with an open mind.

The answer is planning, timing, and, above all, practical experience.

100 Cleft structures (see paragraphs 25 to 30) can be used in labelling.

What we need is law and order.

Impersonal 'it' structures with adjectives followed by a 'that'-clause are a less emphatic way of prefacing (see paragraph 42).

It is interesting that the impact of the computer revolution will be greatest in those areas.

You can use the sentence adjuncts 'at any rate', 'at least', and 'rather' as prefaces when you are slightly correcting a previous statement, often after 'or'.

This had saved her life; or at any rate her sanity.

'Anyway' can also be used, usually after the correction.

It is, for most of its length anyway, a painful romantic comedy.

101 A whole sentence can be used as a preface to the sentence or sentences that follow it. For example, a sentence containing an adjective like 'interesting', 'remarkable', or 'funny', or a general abstract word such as 'reason' of 'factor' (see paragraphs 19 to 23), is often used as a preface.

It was rather funny. There were two gentlemen that were standing-one was terribly elegant—and we were sitting there, a couple of interlopers.

This has had very interesting effects on different people.

Here were other factors, of course: I too was tired of London.

But there were problems. How could the eggs be prevented from drying out and how could tadpoles develop out of water?

Doing by saying: performative verbs

102 People sometimes explicitly say what function their statement is performing. They do this using 'I' and the simple present of a reporting verb such as 'admit' or 'promise' which refers to something that is done with words. For example, instead of saying 'I'll be there' you could say 'I promise I'll be there', which makes the statement stronger.

I suggest we draw up a document.

I'll be back at one, I promise.

I was somewhat shocked, I admit, by these events.

The following verbs can be used in this way:






















For more detailed information about reporting verbs, see Chapter

103 Some other verbs which refer to doing something with words are used without a 'that'-clause after them. When used without a 'that'-clause, the use of the simple present with 'I' performs the function of a statement in itself, rather than commenting on another statement.

I apologize for any delay.

I congratulate you with all my heart.

I forgive you.

The following verbs are commonly used in this way:




























104 The verbs in the above lists are sometimes called performative verbs or performatives, because they perform the action they refer to.

USAGE NOTE 105 Some of these verbs are used with modals when people want to be emphatic, polite, or tentative.

I must apologize for Mayfield.

I would suggest these are about five in number.

She was very thoroughly checked, I can assure you.

May I congratulate you again on your excellent performance.


106 Exclamations are words and structures that express something emphatically. You usually show this in speech by your intonation and in writing by the use of an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence, although full stops are often used instead. If the exclamation is only a part of the sentence, it is separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

showing your reactions 107 There are various ways of showing your reaction to something that you are experiencing or looking at, or that you have just been told. One way is to use an exclamation such as 'bother', 'good heavens', 'oh dear', or 'ouch'.

Ow! That hurt.

'Margaret Ravenscroft may have been responsible for her sister's death.'—'Good heavens!' said Dr Willoughby.

'She died last autumn.'—'Oh dear, I'm so sorry.'

Some exclamations are only used to show reactions. Here is a list of some common ones:








good gracious

good grief

good heavens

good lord

goodness me





oh dear







well I never





you're joking


108 Other clause elements or clauses can be used in exclamations.

Noun groups can be used to show your reaction to something. Some nouns, for example 'rubbish' and 'nonsense', can be used on their own to express strong disagreement.

'Love's got to be built on trust.'—'Nonsense. Love grows where it grows.'

Predeterminers, especially 'what', are often used before the noun.

What a pleasant surprise!

Such an intelligent family!

Quite a show!

Qualitative adjectives can be used on their own, or with 'how' in front of them, usually to show a positive reaction to a statement.

'Do you think we could meet? Can you get free?'—'I might be able to.'—'Lovely!'

Oh! Look! How sweet!

A prepositional phrase with 'of' can be used to specify a person, and a 'to'-infinitive clause to refer to the action.

How nice of you to come!

How nice to see you.

Sentences with 'how' and an adjective or adverb, or 'what' and a noun group can also be used as exclamations. The adjective or noun group is the complement or object of the verb, even though it comes first.

How nice you look!

How cleverly you hid your feelings.

What an idiot I am

What morbid thoughts we're having.

'How' can be placed at the beginning of an ordinary sentence to indicate the intensity of a feeling or action.

How I hate posters.

How he talked!

109 People often use questions as a way of making a comment or exclamation. They do not expect an answer. Questions like this are called rhetorical questions.

You can use a negative 'yes/no'-question, if you want to encourage other people to agree with you.

Oh Albert, isn't she lovely?

Wouldn't it be awful with no Christmas!

In informal English, you can use a positive question.

'How much?'—'A hundred million.'—'Are you crazy?'

Have you no shame

'Wh'-questions, especially ones containing modals, are also used.

How the hell should I know?

Why must she be so nasty to me?

Why bother?

See Chapter 4 for more information about questions.

Making a statement into a question: question tags

110 This section deals with tags or question tags. A tag is a short structure that is added to the end of a statement to turn it into a question. This is usually done when you expert the person you are addressing to agree with you or confirm your statement. Tags are most often used in spoken English. The whole sentence, consisting of the statement and the tag, is called a tag question.

forming tags 111 Tags are formed using an auxiliary or a form of 'be' or 'do', followed by a personal pronoun referring to the subject.

If the main clause is in the affirmative, you use a negative tag. Negative tags are always contracted, except in old-fashioned or very formal English.

It is quite warm, isn't it?

If the main clause is in the negative, you use an affirmative tag.

You didn't know I was an artist, did you?

If the main clause of your statement has an auxiliary in it, you use the same auxiliary in the tag.

You will stay in touch, won't you?

If the main clause has the simple past or present form of 'be' as the main verb, you use this in the tag.

They are, aren't they?

If the main clause does not have an auxiliary or verb 'be', you use 'do', 'does', or 'did' in the tag.

After a couple of years the heat gets too much, doesn't it?

He played for Ireland, didn't he?

Note that the negative tag with 'I' is 'aren't I', when 'am' is the auxiliary or main verb in the main clause.

I'm controlling it, aren't I?

checking statement 112 If you have an opinion or belief about something and you want to check that it is true or to find out if someone agrees with you, you can make a statement and add a tag after it to make it into a question.

If you making an affirmative statement and you want to check that it is true, you use a negative tag.

You like Ralph a lot, don't you?

They are beautiful places, aren't they?

If you are making a negative statement and want to check that it is true, you use an affirmative tag.

It doesn't work, does it?

You won't tell anyone else all this, will you?

You can also use an affirmative tag if your statement contains a broad negative, a negative adverb, or a negative pronoun.

That hardly counts, does it?

You've never been to Benidorm, have you?

Nobody had bothered to plant new ones, had they?

113 The person you are speaking to replies to the content of your statement rather than to the tag, and confirms an affirmative statement with 'yes' and a negative statement with 'no'.

'It became stronger, didn't it?'—'Yes it did.'

'You didn't know that, did you?'—'No.'

114 If you are making a statement about yourself and you want to check if the person you are talking to has the same opinion or feeling, you can put a tag with 'you' after your statement.

I think this is the best thing, don't you?

I love tea, don't you?

Tags can also be used to show your reaction to something that someone has just said or implied, for example to show interest, surprise, or anger. Note that you use an affirmative tag after an affirmative statement.

You fell on your back, did you?

You've been to North America before, have you?

Oh, he wants us to make films as well, does he?

When using 'let's' to suggest doing something, you can add the tag 'shall we' to check that the people you are talking to agree with you.

Let's forget it, shall we?

If you are suggesting that you do something and you want to check that the person you are speaking to agrees, you can add the tag 'shall I?'

I'll tell you roughly, shall I?

If you are telling someone to do something and you want to make your order sound less forceful, you can do so by adding a tag. The tag is usually 'will you', but 'won't you' and 'can't you' are also used.

Come into the kitchen, will you?

Look at that, will you?

See that she gets safely back, won't you?

When you are using a negative imperative, you can only use 'will you' as a tag.

Don't tell Howard, will you?

Addressing people: vocatives

115 When you are talking to people, you sometimes address them using their own name or title, or a word like 'darling' or 'idiot'. Words used like this are called vocatives.

Vocatives are not used in British English as commonly as in some other languages, of even in American English. Some are used only in formal contexts, some only in informal ones. Look in a Cobuild dictionary for more detailed information.

position of vocatives 116 Vocatives are often used at the end of a sentence or clause, in writing, they are usually preceded by a comma.

Where are you staying, Mr Swallow?

Thanks, love.

You can put them at the beginning of a science in order to attract someone's attention before speaking to them.

John, how long have you been at the university?

Dad, why have you got that suit on?

titles 117 When you address someone in a fairly formal way, you use their title and surname. Information about titles is given in 1.56 to 1.5

Goodbye, Dr Kirk.

Thank you, Mr Jones.

How old are you, Miss Flewin?

Titles indicating a special qualification, rank, or job can be used on their own.

What's wrong, Doctor?

Well, professor?

WARNING 118 The titles 'Mr', 'Mrs', 'Miss', and 'Ms' are used only with a surname. To address people formally without their surname, 'sir' and 'madam' are used, especially by employees to customers or clients.

Yes, sir.

What is that, madam?

other vocatives 119 You can use noun groups to show your opinion of someone. Those which show dislike or contempt are often used with 'you' in front of them.

No, you fool, the other way.

Shut your big mouth, you stupid idiot.

Vocatives showing affection are usually used by themselves, but 'my' can be used in more old-fashioned or humorous contexts.

Goodbye, darling.

We've got to go, my dear.

Nouns that refer to family or social relationships can be used as vocatives.

Someone's got to do it, mum.

Sorry, Grandma.

She'll be all right, mate.

Trust me, kid.

Vocatives are occasionally used in the plural.

Sit down, kids.

Come on, you know what I mean, you idiots.

Note that 'ladies', 'gentlemen', and 'children' are only used in the plural.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming.

Politica de confidentialitate



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