-ed form in cleft sentence

e2efour

Senior Member
UK English
Leafing through a grammar book (Börjars and Burris. Introducing English Grammar), I came across the sentence Their inventor has created a new bunch of cartoon losers with ‘Futurama’. (Futurama being a cartoon series). No problem here.

However, the book went on to create a cleft sentence starting with what:
“What their inventor has done is created a bunch of cartoon losers with ‘Futurama’.”

I have never met this construction before and would write is (to) create. On investigation (using the string has done is [v*]) I found about 25 examples in COCA and only 3 in BNC (spoken).
Example from the NY Times: “But I think the biggest thing he has done is made people look at golf differently.”

Am I right in thinking this is a difference between AE and BE, or is it acceptable in BE?
 
  • bennymix

    Senior Member
    Is your question: Do Brits avoid “But I think the biggest thing he has done is made people look at golf" (past tense)

    and strongly prefer, instead, to say, “But I think the biggest thing he has done is to make people look at golf " ? (infinitive).

    I'm not sure if either this example or your first one is a cleft sentence; the issue seems to be something else.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi e2efour

    For me, the most likely option would be "What their inventor has done is create...." with my second option being “What their inventor has done is to create....".

    But I suppose that "What their inventor has done is created...." can be seen as an abbreviated form of "What their inventor has done is that he has created....".

    I don't know if there's a BrE/AmE difference here: I await other comments with interest:D.
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    However, the book went on to create a cleft sentence starting with what:
    “What their inventor has done is created a bunch of cartoon losers with ‘Futurama’.”

    I have never met this construction before and would write is (to) create. On investigation (using the string has done is [v*]) I found about 25 examples in COCA and only 3 in BNC (spoken).
    Example from the NY Times: “But I think the biggest thing he has done is made people look at golf differently.”

    Am I right in thinking this is a difference between AE and BE, or is it acceptable in BE?
    To me (AE) these are editing errors, of the sort that occur when a writer recasts his sentence but doesn't finish making all the necessary adjustments.
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    I agree with Loob's "But I suppose..." The subject of 'created' is implied; but deleted as a kind of condensed form. As to whether Brits do this, or hate doing it, I have no idea.

    Do Brits have a problem with--

    “I think the biggest thing he has done is he's made people look at golf differently”?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ... Do Brits have a problem with--

    “I think the biggest thing he has done is he's made people look at golf differently”?
    No, I wouldn't have a problem with that in informal spoken English, benny, though if I was writing it I'd probably add a "that": I think the biggest thing he's done is that he's made people look at golf differently.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I've find a reference in Quirk (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language):

    (?) What he's done is spoilt the whole thing.
    This last type is, however, of doubtful acceptability, and instances of it may indeed be interpreted as ellipted forms of an alternative construction
    involving apposition: What he's done is ((this): he's) spoilt the whole thing.

    Congratulations to Loob and bennymix for providing a similar answer, although Quirk doesn't explain the phrase doubtful acceptability.
     
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