It's a good thing what/that you've done ("Lo que")

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by CuervoGold, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. CuervoGold

    CuervoGold Senior Member

    Spain
    Spanish
    Hi!

    I'm a bit confused about what they call "cleft sentences" and what they call "preparatory it". I think I mix them up, because we always use "lo que" in Spanish. Here are two examples (extracted from BBC Grammar website):

    1) PREPARATORY IT (it + be + adj + what clause): It is quite immaterial WHAT you think about it. (Here we use "what" after the adjective)

    2) CLEFT SENTENCE: It was a new car THAT my brother bought. (Here we must use "that", never what).


    But I don't understand if I should use "what" or "that" in sentences like "It's a good thing or It's no surprise / THAT?/WHAT? you've done", because "a good thing" or "no surprise" is not an adjective but a noun. Is that a cleft sentence or an example of preparatory it?

    Thank you!
     
  2. j0n1$ Junior Member

    Español (España)
    Hola,

    Yo no lo veo de una manera u otra porque vaya después de un adjetivo o un nombre. Depende más de si tienes un complemento directo o la frase continúa.

    It is quite immaterial WHAT you think about it. Es completamente irrelevante lo que pienses (sobre ello).
    It is quite immaterial THAT you think about flowers. Es completamente irrelevante que pienses en flores.

    It was a new car THAT my brother bought. Fue/era un coche nuevo que compró mi hermano.
    It was a new car WHAT my brother bought. Fue/era un coche nuevo lo que compró mi hermano.

    En definitiva, prueba traduciendo what como "lo que" y that como "que" en unas cuantas frases y mira a ver si te sirve el truco hasta que lo veas más claramente.
     
  3. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    It was a new car WHAT my brother bought. :cross:
    What my brother bought was a new car. :tick:

    Word order ...
     
  4. j0n1$ Junior Member

    Español (España)
    Hi k-in-sc,

    I tried to use the same way of the sentence posted before. I like more that one, but is the other totally wrong? I thought you could exchange them.
     
  5. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    (I tried to use the same format as the previous sentence. I like that one better, but is the other (one) totally wrong? I thought they were interchangeable.)

    No, "It was a new car what my brother bought" is not a good construction.
     
  6. j0n1$ Junior Member

    Español (España)
    Thank you very much!
     
  7. j0n1$ Junior Member

    Español (España)
    Then I have a doubt.

    Wouldn't it happen the same thing to the first sentence?

    "What you think about it is quite immaterial/It is quite immaterial that you think about it" instead of "It is quite immaterial WHAT you think about it"?

    I have seen in one book a sentence written as following:

    What I really want is a cup of tea= It is a cup of tea that I really want.

    In both cases I would translate "what" and "that" by "lo que", so the rule I made up doesn't work. Can we think then that starting with "It is"... you necessarily need to write "..that" or start the sentence with "What.." to write the other way around?
     
  8. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    (Then I have a question: Wouldn't the same thing happen with the first sentence?)

    Can we think then that starting with "It is"... you necessarily need to write "..that" or start the sentence with "What.." to write the other way around?

    Yes, I think that's the rule. It doesn't apply in the first example because there you are changing the meaning (what you (may) think/lo que pienses vs. the fact that you think/que pienses).

    http://www.pitt.edu/~atteberr/comp/0150/grammar/nounclauses.html

    More about noun clauses as subject complements
     
  9. j0n1$ Junior Member

    Español (España)
    The first website doesn't clarify me so much the thing, but thanks anyway!;)
     
  10. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    A cleft sentence is a simple sentence that has been turned complex to emphasize a certain element. The new complex sentence has the same meaning as the original simple sentence. For example, the simple sentence my brother bought a car becomes complex in it was a new car that my brother bought to emphasize the element "a new car." A cleft sentence always has a preparatory "it" (which is also known as a dummy subject). "It" stands in for the actual subject, which comes later in the sentence. So, in "it was a new car that my brother bought," "it" is the preparatory subject, and the actual subject of "was" is "a new car."

    But not every sentence that has a preparatory "it" is a cleft sentence. How can you tell if a preparatory it sentence is a cleft sentence? Try to see if you can turn that sentence into a simple sentence, always preserving the same meaning (as we did with "it was a new car that my brother bought" ~ "my brother bought a new car"):
    It is quite immaterial what you think about it
    Can we extract a simple sentence that has the same meaning?
    What you think about it (???)
    You think about what (???)
    Think about it (???)
    You think about immaterial (???)
    etc.
    None of these structures give us a simple sentence that has the same meaning as the complex sentence, so we don't have a cleft sentence.
    Let's try:
    It is a good thing that you've done
    Can we find a simple sentence with the same meaning? Yes:
    You've done a good thing
    So, this is a cleft sentence, and it has a preparatory "it" subject (and "it" stands for "a good thing," the actual subject of "is").
    Let's compare it to:
    It is a good thing what you've done
    At first sight, we might think that we see a simple sentence: you've done a good thing. So, can we call this a cleft sentence that uses a preparatory "it"? Actually, no. This gets a little complicated. Notice that in "it's a good thing that you've done," we can drop "that" to get to our simple sentence you've done a good thing. However, here, we can't drop "what;" "what" belongs with "you've done." (More precisely, "what" is fused with "you've done" to form the structure "what you've done," which can't be separated.) That's why we can turn this sentence around eliminating "it:" what you've done is a good thing. By contrast, we can't do the same with "it's a good thing that you've done" (that you've done is a good thing ???). The bottom line is that it is a good thing what you've done is called a pseudo-cleft sentence because it looks like a cleft sentence, but it really isn't one.
    Cheers
     
  11. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    Also it's not very idiomatic.
     
  12. CuervoGold

    CuervoGold Senior Member

    Spain
    Spanish
    Thank you all! So I understand that both constructions are correct but maybe they have a slightly different meaning:

    1) It is a good thing, what you've done (You've done something and we described it as "a good thing"; it's better to put a comma, isn't it?)

    2) It is a good thing that you've done (You've done a good thing, not a bad thing)

    Am I right?
     
  13. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    The meanings are more or less the same. You would use the first construction only if you had some reason for wanting to reverse the normal word order (what you've done is a good thing).
     
  14. j0n1$ Junior Member

    Español (España)
    Thank you!!

    I've understood the difference in English, but could you give a couple more of examples with their translation in Spanish?
     
  15. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

  16. j0n1$ Junior Member

    Español (España)
    Well, I just wanted to see another two examples with "that" and "what" using the same sentence and see their translation into Spanish. But thanks, I'll figure it out how it works via Google.
     
  17. CuervoGold

    CuervoGold Senior Member

    Spain
    Spanish
    Sí, es algo complicado para los nativos españoles, ya que siempre usamos "lo que".

    K-in-sc, I would like to know, however, if it does sound idiomatic when, instead of a noun, you use and adjective: It's good what you've done. Or does it sound strange too?

    And what about "It's no surprise what you've done" (It seems to me that "no surprise" acts as an adjective). Could you say "It's no surprise that you've done"?
     
  18. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    "It's good what you've done" is not the usual way to say it. Natives might use it for effect, but non-natives are best off using the standard ways ("what you've done is good/a good thing," "it's a good thing (what) you've done (here/there)," etc.).
    "It's no surprise what you've done" also sounds backward (standard order: "what you've done is no surprise").
    "It's no surprise that you've done" would be translated with "que" rather than "lo que" and makes no sense to me.
     

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