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Definition

In English grammar, a "that"-clause is a subordinate clause that usually begins with


the word that. Also known as a declarative content clause or a "that"-complement
clause.

A nominal that-clause can function as a subject, object,complement,


or appositive in a declarative sentence. Chalker and Weiner point out that relative
clauses beginning with that(e.g., "What's all this nonsense that you're repeating")
are "not always included in this category" (Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar).
In some circumstances (especially in less formal speech or writing), that may be
omitted from a that-clause. Such a construction is called a "zero that."

Examples and Observations


 "The two restrictions of the form of the that-clause are that it may not be
a question (*that does coffee grow in Brazil) and it may not be an imperative (*that
buy some Brazilian coffee!). In other words, there may be no disruption of the
normal

"In all cases, the that-clause has a nominal function; it is functioning as


an NP would: it answers the question 'what?' In fact, that-clauses may serve
virtually all of the functions served by NPs."
(Laurel J. Brinton, The Structure of Modern English: A Linguistic Introduction. John
Benjamins, 2000)

 That both defendants were lying was obvious to everyone in the courtroom.

- "But this does not necessarily mean that both defendants were lying."
(Oskar Garstein, Rome and the Counter-Reformation in Scandinavia. E.J. Brill,
1992)

- Because some people looked like they were lying didn't necessarily mean they
were lying.

 "He denied that we had come to the end of our conversation and the end of the
relationship."
(Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman. Random House, 1981)

 "Anorexic individuals may deny that they are ill, deny that they are thin, deny that
they want to be thin, and deny that they are afraid of gaining weight."
(K. Bemis-Vitousek, "Developing Motivation for Change in Individuals With Eating
Disorders."Challenge the Body Culture Conference Proceedings. Queensland
University of Technology, 1997)

 "I keep thinking that she's in trouble somewhere."


(John Connolly, Dark Hollow. Simon & Schuster, 2001)

- "He tells me to sit down on the couch. Of course, at first I'm thinking I'm in trouble
as usual."
(Tim Tharp, Badd. Knopf, 2011)

 "[S]ince the judge had made it clear that he didn't find any of the key witnesses
believable, there seemed to be little ground for appeal."
(Mary Lou Finlay, The As It Happens Files: Radio That May Contain Nuts. Alfred A.
Knopf, 2009)

- "He had made it clear he would like to be physically separated from the rest of the
firm."
(Barton Biggs, Hedgehogging. John Wiley & Sons, 2006)

 "In general, you need to be sure that you understand the repercussions of renting
out your home."
(Danielle Babb, The Accidental Landlord. Alpha Books, 2008)

 "We were so sure of the printer's capabilities that we voided the warranty on our
$126,000 Iris by hacksawing off the heads."
(Photography and the Art of Digital Printing. New Riders, 2007)

 Adjective + That-Clause Patterns


"The search results from the British National Corpus show that two constructions
are possible as exemplified in (1) and (2).
(1) We need to be sure that they respect us and trust us. (CEF 981)
(2) We're so sure about the reliability of our washing machines that we've given
them a full 5-year parts guarantee. (CFS 1672)
In both examples the adjective sure is followed by a that-clause. The difference is in
that (1) there is no adverb that precedes the adjective sure whereas in (2) the
adjective sure is preceded by the adverb so. The latter construction has been
recognised in grammars as the so . . . that structure but will be referred to in this
study as the resultative construction. The that-clause depicts a result in relation to
the matrix clause. In contrast, the that-clause in (1) provides an explanation in
relation to the matrix clause. This type of construction will be referred to here as
the explanative construction."
(Ilka Mindt, Adjective Complementation: An Empirical Analysis of Adjectives
Followed by That-Clauses. John Benjamin, 2011)

 Reporting Statements With That-Clauses


"When we report statements, we often use a that-clause in the reported clause:
- He said (that) he was enjoying his work.
- The members of the Security Council warned that further action may be taken.
After the more common reporting verbs such as agree, mention, notice, promise, say,
and think, we often leave out that, particularly in informal speech. However, it is not
usually left out--
- after less common reporting verbs such as complain, confide, deny, grumble,
speculate, warn (and after the common reporting verbs answer, argue and reply)
- in formal writing
- if the that-clause doesn't immediately follow the verb . . .."
(Martin Hewings, Advanced Grammar in Use, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press,
2005)

 Extraposition and End Weight


- "In the following example, the subject (in bold) has been extraposed: It is
likely that you will also become interested in film making. The subject of the
sentence is the that-clause, but placing this element first (in order to maintain the
canonical SVC [Subject-Verb-Complement] order of clause elements in
a declarative) results in a sentence which is quite difficult to process: That you will
also become interested in film making is likely. Therefore, the lengthy clausal
subject is placed after the complement (likely) and the empty subject position is
filled with dummy it."
(Michael Pearce, The Routledge Dictionary of English Language Studies.
Routledge, 2007)

- "Although that-clause complements can work well in subject position, there is a


tendency . . . to avoid placing long, 'heavy' clauses in this position. This reflects a
more general preference for . . .end weight. Instead, it is very common to move
a that-clause to a place later in the construction--a process generally known
as extraposing (or postposing or heavy shifting)."
(Martin J. Endley, Linguistic Perspectives on English Grammar: A Guide for EFL
Teachers. Information Age Publishing, 2010)
Question: What Is an Appositive?
Answer:
An appositive--a noun or noun phrase that identifies or renames another noun--is a
handy way of adding details to a sentence. The term comes from the Latin word for
"placing close by," and an appositive usually appears right after the word or phrase
that it renames.
You've just seen one example of an appositive--in the first sentence of this article.
Here, from the opening of George Orwell's essay "A Hanging," are two more:
 We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double
bars, like small animal cages.
 He was a Hindu, a puny wisp of a man, with a shaven head and vague liquid eyes.
A few paragraphs later, Orwell lines up a pair of appositives to identify another
character:

Francis, [1]the head jailer, [2]a fat Dravidian in a white drill suit and gold
spectacles, waved his black hand.

In each of Orwell's sentences, the appositive could be substituted for the noun it
renames (cells, Hindu, Francis).
Or it could be deleted without changing the basic meaning of the sentence. Set off
by commas, such appositives are said to be nonrestrictive.
In some cases, an appositive might be thought of as a simplified adjective
clause (a word group beginning with who or which). This next sentence, for
example, relies on an adjective clause to identify the subject, hangman:
The hangman, who was a gray-haired convict in the white uniform of the prison,
was waiting beside the machine.
Now look at George Orwell's original version of the sentence, with the adjective
clause reduced to a more concise appositive:

The hangman, a gray-haired convict in the white uniform of the prison, was waiting
beside the machine.

Viewed this way, appositives offer a way to cut the clutter in our writing. And that,
you'll have to admit, makes it a handy little device--a compact grammatical
structure.