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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Default Rules to using 'that' and 'when'

    Hi

    Was wondering if anyone has any comments or thoughts to add to this little problem.

    The sentence:

    This became the first time on record that a human had....
    To me 'that' is definitely the right word to use here, however I know 'when' is not technically wrong.

    My grammar books say:

    After the noun such as 'time' or 'place', we can use 'that' or zero that-clause, as well as 'when' or 'where'

    Another grammar book says - after common nouns referring to time, 'when' is often replaced by 'that' or dropped in an informal style.

    So....is this explanation accurate?

    In this sentence (refering to the example above) 'that' is used instead of the relavtive adverb 'when'.

    Or is it better and safer to put .... is often used instead of... or is commonly used instead of....

    Or does anyone have any other way of explaining this or any rules I have missed?

    Thanks
    Smiles
    Riceball

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    Default Re: Rules to using 'that' and 'when'

    Speakers often or commonly replace "when", "where", and "why" with "that" if they function as conjunctions. Below, "when" is redundant; it's a semantic mirror for the nominal phrase "the first time":

    ex: This became the first time when a human had ... <semantics>

    In that context, "when" is semantically superfluous, which means its function or contribution to the sentence is that of a conjunction: it joins two clauses. That's why it's possible to replace "when" with the conjunction "that" or even omit "when" altogether in this context:

    ex: This became the first time that a human had ... <structural>
    ex: This became the first time a human had ... <omitted>

    *******
    When in doubt, omit the conjunction.

    ex: This became the first time a human had ... <omitted>
    *******

    Other like examples:
    ex: Do you know the reason why Isabel isn't in class today? <semantic>
    ex: Do you know the reason that Isabel isn't in class today? <structural>
    ex: Do you know the reason Isabel isn't in class today? <omitted>


    Note that, the following examples do not house conjunctions; they house relative adverbs, which is why "that" doesn't work in these contexts:

    ex: My entire family worships in a church (which is) where my great grandfather used to be minister.
    ex: My entire family worships in a church (which is) that my great grandfather used to be minister.

    ex: My favorite month is always February, (which is) when we celebrate Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day.
    ex: My favorite month is always February, (which is) that we celebrate Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day.

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