Is it permissible to omit words like "that" in relative clauses?

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In summary: It's not really a correction. It's a matter of style. Frankly, I think the "corrected" sentence sounds kind of...off.
  • #1
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I was looking at that other topic, and got to thinking about examples that I believe can be shortened without any general loss in meaning.

"During the election, she suspected (that) her opponent had engaged in foul play."
"She soon discovered (that) her opponent had done something (that) his supporters would not approve of."

Which of these instances of "that" can be safely omitted? I'd say that I could omit just the third, without letting the reader get too confused. Additionally, if the subject's opponent were female, how would I go about rephrasing the second sentence without introducing pronoun-antecedent ambiguity?

While we are discussing grammar, the second sample sentence ends in a preposition. If we correct for this, the third "that" becomes a non-issue: "She soon discovered that her opponent had done something of which his supporters would not approve.", assuming that the correction is valid, of course.
 
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  • #2
I learned that that can be omitted. But the spell checker regularly says otherwise.

You can see, it's a while ago I learned English grammar. To learn was irregular back then.
 
  • #3
Eclair_de_XII said:
"She soon discovered (that) her opponent had done something (that) his supporters would not approve of."
"She soon discovered her opponent had done something his supporters would not approve" works fine for me; "that/than" is the one (that) gives (me) the heeby-jeebies.
 
  • #4
"It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."
-Syme
 
  • #5
What about if "that" is used as a subordinating conjunction?

"She had heard (that) politics was a dirty business."
"But it was not until then (that) she realized what that meant."

I don't actually know how the second "that" is being used here, to be honest.
 
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  • #6
Eclair_de_XII said:
I don't actually know how the second "that" is being used here, to be honest.
Is it not equivalent to the use of "denn, auf Deutsch?" (That) It's there, but not necessary, as in "Was ist denn los," which translates literally as "what's wrong," but adds "emphasis;" as in "what the hell is wrong?"

I'll defer to fresh_42 on my understanding of colloquial Deutsch/German since I may have misunderstood/conflated my HS teacher's remarks on the topic, use of "denn."

Further, to DaveC's remark, "are there any real uses for 'that'?"
 
  • #7
Bystander said:
Is it not equivalent to the use of "denn, auf Deutsch?"
No. It is equivalent to "dass". I assume that it is even of the exact same origin. It's a relative pronoun in both languages used as a conjunction between a major and a minor sentence.

"It is true (that) it can be omitted." would be "Es ist wahr, dass es ausgelassen werden kann."
However, you cannot omit it in a German sentence. This might have to do with the opposite use of commata. Their usage is almost exactly the other way around. You cannot omit the comma either in the sentence above, and the English version already comes without this visible mark of a new sentence.
 
  • #8
Bystander said:
Further, to DaveC's remark, "are there any real uses for 'that'?"
That is the question!
 
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  • #9
PeroK said:
That is the question!
"'Tis just for the apiarists (beekeepers); the rest of we mere mortals below Asgard make do without the mead."
 
  • #11
Eclair_de_XII said:
"During the election, she suspected (that) her opponent had engaged in foul play."
"She soon discovered (that) her opponent had done something (that) his supporters would not approve of."

Which of these instances of "that" can be safely omitted? I'd say that I could omit just the third, without letting the reader get too confused.
From a usage note in The American Heritage Dictionary:

That can often be omitted in a relative clause when the subject of the clause is different from the word or phrase the clause refers to. Thus, one can say either the book that I was reading or the book I was reading. That can also be dropped when it introduces a subordinate clause: I think we should try again. That should be retained, 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 thatwere omitted, since the adverb eventually could then be construed as modifying either argues or will increase.
So in your examples, all instances of that could be omitted.

Eclair_de_XII said:
While we are discussing grammar, the second sample sentence ends in a preposition. If we correct for this, the third "that" becomes a non-issue: "She soon discovered that her opponent had done something of which his supporters would not approve.", assuming that the correction is valid, of course.

It's not really a correction. It's a matter of style. Frankly, I think the "corrected" sentence sounds kind of awkward.

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/youv...lutely-can-end-a-sentence-with-a-preposition/
 
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  • #12
That can often be omitted, unless its omission causes confusion; then put it in, for clarity.
 
  • #13
vela said:
So in your examples, all instances of that could be omitted.
Note that that is not the case when writing for a British audience (see #10). I wonder what the NY Times style guide says?
 
  • #14
Eclair_de_XII said:
While we are discussing grammar, the second sample sentence ends in a preposition.
A bogus rule created by Joshua Poole and popularized by John Dryden, and later, included by Noah Webster in his dictionary. Poole thought that English should mirror Latin, in which prepositions always appear before (get it? pre - position) the noun or adjective they're applied to. By the 20th Century, most grammarians concluded that there was nothing wrong with ending sentences with a preposition. See https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/prepositions-ending-a-sentence-with
vela said:
It's not really a correction. It's a matter of style. Frankly, I think the "corrected" sentence sounds kind of awkward.
Made me think of the likely apocryphal quote from Winston Churchill, regarding this preposition rule.
"This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put."
 
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vela said:
I don't see where on that page it says that it's grammatically incorrect to omit that. In fact, on one of the linked pages, it's noted that it's often left out.
It's noted that it is often left out after reporting verbs, especially in informal speaking and especially after guess, think, hope and reckon.

I don't think that that is incompatibile with my assertion that this 'zero-that' form should not be used when writing for a British audience.
 

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