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  1. #1
    Richard Togher is offline Junior Member
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    Default Include or omit "That"

    How do I know whether to include or omit the word "that" (or "which") in the following types of sentences:

    "He told me (THAT) I should leave"

    "They did not like the work (THAT) we had done"

    Is the inclusion of "that" a matter of formal english instead of informal english

    When i am unsure, i usually include the word as i feel i could never be wrong to do so. Am i right to think this?

    Many thanks, forum members!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Include or omit "That"

    Hi Richard

    One way is to look for the subject. If that comes before the subject, then you can omit that.

    When that isn't required
    "He told me (that) I should leave"
    "They did not like the work (that) we had done"

    When that is required
    "I am looking for a book that is easy to read."

    Some people would say (that) using "that" is formal because the closer the language is to its orginal form, the more formal it is believed to be.

    Yes, it's a good rule of thumb to keep that in a sentence, especially if you don't yet know its patterns.

    There's more here:

    omitting that. You can omit that in a relative clause when the subject of the clause is different from the word or phrase the clause refers to. Thus, you can say either the book that I was reading or the book I was reading. You can also omit that when it introduces a subordinate clause: I think we should try again. You should not omit that, however, when the subordinate clause begins with an adverbial phrase or anything other than the subject: She said that under no circumstances would she allow us to skip the meeting. The book argues that eventually the housing supply will increase. This last sentence would be ambiguous if that were omitted, since the adverb eventually could then be construed as modifying either argues or will increase.

    Source: § 62. that. 1. Grammar. The American Heritage Book of English Usage. 1996

  3. #3
    Richard Togher is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Include or omit "That"

    Dear Soup,

    Thank you very much for your reply!

    This should have clarified the matter, except that i have noticed an entry in THE CASSELL GUIDE TO COMMON ERRORS IN ENGLISH which insists that the word THAT should sometimes come BEFORE THE SUBJECT, for the sake of "clarity as well as of elegance:"

    "The legislation is aimed at ensuring THAT these threatened animals are not taken from the wild"

    "Elaine was setting up her cassette recorder and checking THAT she had her tape ready"

    Do you agree that omitting THAT in the above two sentences would result in lack of clarity - i am not convinced; even without THAT the sentence seems to have a clear meaning, because the following would not make sense:

    "The legislation was aimed at ensuring these animals."

    "Elaine was checking she."

    The same book also insists that the verb DEMAND must be followed by THAT:

    "She demanded THAT i should cease to see them"

    The book argues that the sentence "She demanded i stop seeing them" is incorrect because DEMAND requirs a DIRECT OBJECT and "I stop seeing them" cannot function as such.

    Could you clarify what you think the direct object is. Is it the whole clause "i should cease to see them"? Why does "i stop seeing them" not count as the direct object - is it too grammatically incorrect?

    I know this is rather a long request, but i would be very grateful if your were to consider my questions!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Include or omit "That"

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Togher View Post
    This should have clarified the matter, except that i have noticed an entry in THE CASSELL GUIDE TO COMMON ERRORS IN ENGLISH which insists that the word THAT should sometimes come BEFORE THE SUBJECT, for the sake of "clarity as well as of elegance:"
    All too true, indeed.

  5. #5
    Richard Togher is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Include or omit "That"

    Dear Soup,

    Please forgive me, i'm not sure what you're referring to when you say "its all too true" - was it that the request was too long, or that the guidance given in the book is correct?

    Many thanks!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Include or omit "That"

    Hi Richard

    Sorry about that. More clearly, I agree with the text you quoted. It's a valid point: the deeper embedded the conjuction that is in a sentence, the more it is required as it helps the reader/listener navigate/process the structure of the sentence with much more ease.


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