The so-called “frase scissa” (that is “broken”) is basically a sentence that has been divided in two sentences. Therefore, the “frase scissa” is formed by:
– a subordinate clause introduced by CHE (that)
Why should we use a “frase scissa”?
Well, this procedure, apparently useless, is used to highlight, to emphasise one element of the sentence.
For example, let’s consider the sentence:
“Mangio la pasta” (I eat pasta)
In order to highlight the fact that what I am eating is pasta I’ll say:
“È la pasta che mangio” (It’s pasta that I am eating)
How to form the “frase scissa”?
The first step is to identify the element of the sentence that you want to highlight. Then, you have to identify the role that this element plays in the sentence.
If this element is the subject of the sentence, while creating the “frase scissa”, the verb “essere” should agree in gender and number with it.
Instead, if this element is not the subject, then the verb “essere” will always be conjugated at the 3rd person singular.
Let’s consider, for example, the sentence:
Domani io e Sofia andremo in aereo a Madrid. (Tomorrow Sofia and I will go to Madrid by plane)
If you want to emphasise the element “io e Sofia”, you should consider that this is the subject of the sentence, therefore the verb “to be” will be conjugated at the 1st person plural, in this case:
Siamo io e Sofia che domani andremo in aereo a Madrid! (It’s me and Sofia that tomorrow will go to Madrid by plane)
Instead, if you want to emphasise the element “domani”, you have to notice that it is not the subject, therefore the verb “to be” will be conjugated at the 3rd person singular:
È domani che io e Sofia andremo in aereo a Madrid. (It’s tomorrow that Sofia and I will go to Madrid by plane)
The same goes for the other elements of the sentence: “in aereo” or “a Madrid”:
È in aereo che domani io e Sofia andremo a Madrid. (It’s by plane that tomorrow Sofia and I will go to Madrid)
È a Madrid che domani io e Sofia andremo in aereo. (It’s to Madrid that tomorrow Sofia and I will go by plane)
Pay attention with the pronouns!
Do you know the Italian pronomi tonici (me, te, lui/lei, noi, voi, loro) and atoni (mi, ti, lo/la, ci, vi, li/le), don’t you? When you divide a sentence with the pronomi atoni, you must always use the tonici ones.
For example, the sentence “Ti ho chiamato” (I called you), as a frase scissa becomes “È te che ho chiamato” (It’s you that I called).
Or, the sentence “Mi ha visto” (She saw me) becomes “È me che ha visto” (It’s me that she saw).
Frase scissa – implicit form
You have to know that, when the subject of both sentences is the same, the frase scissa can get an implicit form, built using A + verb in the infinitive.
È mia madre che mangia (It’s my mother who is eating)
can also become
È mia madre a mangiare (It’s my mother who is eating)
Or, in the past:
Sono io che ho fatto la scelta (It’s me who made the choice)
can also become
Sono io ad aver fatto la scelta (It’s me who made the choice)
The so-called “frase pseudoscissa”
We have to add that there are some particular forms of the “frase scissa”, that are called “frasi pseudoscisse”! Here you are the 3 most important types:
1) CHI + verb (in the 1st clause) and verb “essere” + element to highlight (in the 2nd clause)
Chi vuole vederti è Alfredo (Alfredo is the person who wants to see you)
2) QUELLO CHE + verb (in the 1st clause) and verb “essere” + element to highlight (in the 2nd clause)
Quello che mi irrita è la violenza (What makes me angry is violence)
3) C’È + element to emphasise (in the 1st clause) and CHE + verb (in the 2nd clause)
C’è una persona che chiede di te (There’s someone who is asking for you)
C’è Marco che mangia in cucina (There’s Marco who is eating in the kitchen)