What Are That-clauses?
In English, there are two types of clauses that are introduced with "that." One type is a noun clause. The other type is a restrictive relative clause, which is an adjectival clause that modifies a noun, rather than a nominal clause. In this lesson, we will focus on the first type.
that-clauses are introduced by 'that' and are finite sentences, which means they have a tense. For example:
I told him
As already mentioned, that-clauses act as a noun; therefore, they can be:
That-clause as a 'Direct Object'
A "that-clause" can function as a direct object in a sentence. Many types of verbs in English need a that-clause as their direct objects. There are two categories of main verbs that can be followed by a that-clause:
- Reporting verbs: say, tell, report, explain, mention, describe, inform, claim, reply, suggest, repeat, argue and comment
- Cognition verbs: think, believe, know, consider, understand, realize, remember, imagine, suppose, expect, guess, accept, discover, insist, admit, hope, doubt, announce, assume, pretend, show, remark, check, find (out), state, promise, forget, complain, confirm, decide and feel
- Perception verbs: hear, see, observe, notice, recognize and perceive
There are two types of usage of 'that-clause' as a direct object:
- Direct object with mono-transitive verbs: A mono-transitive verb takes a single direct object. For example:
As you can see, the 'that-clause' (that you are honest) serves as the direct object of the verb "believe", which is a mono-transitive verb.
As you can see, the 'that-clause' serves as the direct object of the mono-transitive verb "agree".
You promised me
Here, this verb is followed by an indirect object plus a that-clause acting as the direct object.
She reminded her daughter
Omission of 'That'
You can omit 'that' in that-clauses which serve as a direct object without causing any ambiguity. This omission is more common in informal speech and writing. However, 'that' cannot be removed after verbs like 'reply' and 'shout'. For example:
Some reporting verbs can take a prepositional phrase as their indirect object and a that-clause as their direct object. Take a look at some examples:
Thank you for explaining to me
He mentioned to John
That-clause as a 'Complement'
A "that-clause" can function as a complement in a sentence when it provides additional information about the subject or the adjective and helps complete the meaning of the sentence. These are the three primary roles for "that-clauses" when used as complements:
- Subject complement: That-clauses can be used as subject complements (also called predicate nominatives or predicate nouns). We cannot omit 'that' in this usage. Examples of that-clauses as subject complements include the following:
The fact is
The problem is
- Adjective complement: A 'that-clause' can also function as an adjective complement when it provides additional information about the adjective. In this case, you can omit 'that' without causing ambiguity or loss of clarity. For example:
I am happy
I was angry
- Noun complement: That-clauses can serve as complements to nouns, typically appearing immediately after the noun they complement. You will frequently encounter them following reporting nouns such as 'comment,' 'remark,' 'statement,' 'claim,' 'argument,' 'response,' and more. For example:
We cannot use that-clauses directly after prepositions. If we have to put a that-clause after a preposition, we use the expression 'the fact' before 'that'. For example:
I'm not interested in
I am sure of
That-clause as a 'Subject'
Using that-clauses as subjects is somewhat uncommon in English because English speakers tend to place the verb early in the sentence, and long subjects like that-clauses are usually placed at the end or replaced with the dummy pronoun "it". For example:
Or we can say:
It is perhaps not surprising
In this case, we cannot omit 'that', because 'that' marks the clause as subordinate and prevents the listener from interpreting it as the main clause.
he's only 17 was shocking to me.')
Verbs Allowing That-clause as Subjects
Verbs that allow a that-clause as subjects include:
- Descriptive verbs: be + expressive adjectives, such as, clear, alarming, disgusting, etc.
- Expressive Verbs: amaze, amuse, anger, disgust, disturb, etc.
Take a look at some examples:
A singular that-clause needs a singular verb. Two (or more) that-clauses coordinated by 'and' need plural verbs.
That we are losing social values
That we are losing social values and that young people need to appreciate values
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