Improve your English grammar with the BBC. Use the word ‘what’ in English to emphasise something you want to say! ‘What’ we want to say is:Watch this free online English lesson to find out how to use ‘what’ for emphasis.

For more, visit our website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/towards-advanced/unit-14/session-1

Transcript:
Hi, Sian here for BBC Learning English. In this video, we’re going to look at some more ways to give emphasis.

Now, I’ve just got back from holiday and I’m going to tell you all about it. But I’m going to give you two versions of this story. Version number one will have normal sentence structure. Then version number 2 – I’m going to add more emphasis. I’ll do this by adding cleft sentences with ‘what’. Listen carefully to the two versions of the story. How are they different? We’ll find out afterwards.

Version one: normal sentence structure

I had the worst holiday. We got to our hotel and realised that our room had been double booked, so they moved us to a different hotel in a different town. It was horrible, noisy and dirty and there were insects everywhere. And the bathroom was awful. I touched the shower and it exploded and flooded the room.

I went to complain to the manager and he offered us another week there for free. I need a real holiday.

Version two – emphasis using ‘what’

I had the worst holiday. So what happened was we got to the hotel and realised that our room had been double booked, so what they did was move us to another hotel in another town. It was horrible, noisy and dirty, but what I hated most was the insects everywhere. And in the bathroom, all I did was touch the shower and it exploded, flooding the room. I went to complain to the manager and what he did was offer us another week there for free! What I need now is a holiday!

How to emphasise the noun

OK, so when I emphasise nouns, I use this structure:

What + understood information + is was + emphasis

So, for example, instead of “I hated the insects,” in the second version I said, “What I hated most was the insects everywhere.”

Notice that even though it’s plural, we use – normally use – ‘was’ here because we’re saying ‘the thing that I hated most was the insects everywhere.’

Again, instead of “I need a holiday,” to emphasise, I said, “What I need now is a holiday.”

Finally, you can also replace ‘what’ with ‘all’ meaning ‘the only thing’. For example in the famous song, “All I want for Christmas is You.”

How to emphasise the verb

To emphasise a verb, I use this structure:

What/All + subject + do/does/did + is/was + verb

So, instead of saying, “They moved us to another town,” I said, “What they did was move us to another town.” So that highlights the verb. Again, we can use ‘all’ instead of ‘what’ to say ‘the only thing.’ So for example, “I touched the shower and it broke,” I emphasise using, “All I did was touch the shower and it broke.”

How to emphasise the whole sentence

Finally, to emphasise the whole sentence, we can use this structure:

What happens/happened + is/was + clause

For example, I started my story with, “What happened was we got to the hotel and realised that our room had been double booked.

Useful when writing and speaking. But remember to use STRESS when speaking.

OK, so this structure is really useful when you’re writing because when we’re writing, we can’t stress or give intonation. It’s also used a lot when we’re speaking. But remember to stress the key information. So not, “What I need now is a holiday,” but, “What I NEED now is a HOLIDAY.”

So go back, watch the video again and practise copying the sentences with stress. Now, what you need now is practice. So go to our website bbclearningenglish.com to practise the structure. Goodbye!

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