All he had to do... pseudocleft?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by itchycoo, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. itchycoo New Member

    Is the first part of a sentence such as: "All he had to do was smile and everything would be alright" considered a pseudo-cleft construction?

    If so, what would be the underlying sentence? "He had to smile and everything would be alright" ?
    I guess I have the feeling that the meaning changes with the paraphrase and that's why I'm not sure if it actually is a pseudocleft (while something like: All he wanted to do was leave - He wanted to leave is s pretty straightforward pseudocleft)
  2. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    "He had only to smile and everything would be all right"

    But most English people don't understand the word pseudocleft.
  3. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    You have an interesting example of an 'all'-cleft. Let's look at a few simple examples:

    All I saw was the wall.
    All I took was £20.
    All I did was yawn.
    All I could do was phone the police. :)cross:All I could was . . .)
    All I wanted to do was go to sleep.
    All I had been doing was surfing the net. :)cross:All I had been was . . .)

    So we see that when there's an auxiliary of some kind we need a full set of verbs, possibly ending with 'do'.

    Separately from that, 'and' can connect various kinds of clauses. The first can be imperative:

    Smile, and the world smiles with you.
    Say that again, and I punch you in the face.
    Do that again, and say good bye to your job.

    What I think you have is an 'all'-cleft with a shift to a different kind of clause after 'and'.
  4. itchycoo New Member

    Thank you, now I can finally move on with my syntactic analysis :)

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