Below is an example sentence from the entry for the verb "alter" in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.( <= Is this a correct sentence? I am not confident with this. Excuse me for an irrelevant additional question.)

He had altered so much I scarcely recognized him.

I have been taught that "that" is omitted between "so much" and "I" in the sentence.

What makes it happen or what makes it possible to happen? I would like to get an answer focused on the reason of it.

Any personal opinions are also greatly helpful to me. I will appreciate any explanations from you. Thank you.

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    It's called a reduced relative clause.
    – stangdon
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:45
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    It is possible because a lot of English speakers do it. It's as simple as that.
    – Mick
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:58
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    @stangdon I don't think there is a relative clause. I saw the webpage you linked thoroughly and I don't think here "that" is a relative pronoun. Nov 23, 2016 at 19:21
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    That can be employed as: a pronoun, adjective, adverb, and conjunction. Only when used as a conjunction (as in your case), sometimes it is possible to omit it. Please have a thorough look of its dictionary definitions and you'll certainly be able to get it. Nov 23, 2016 at 21:55
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    When some constructions are often used they tend to change because of usage due to efficiency or laziness. Small words like "that" tend to drop out if there is no loss of understanding.
    – Peter
    Dec 8, 2016 at 15:17

2 Answers 2


I scarcely recognized him, he had changed so much.

He had changed so much, I scarcely recognized him.

In the first sentence, there is an implicit because, by which I mean that "he had changed so much" is offered as the cause or reason. In the second sentence, there is an implicit therefore; "I scarcely recognized him" is presented as the result. We can infer the causal relationship from the sequence of clauses and do not require explicit conjunctions (e.g. because, therefore) .

The sentences could be said like this:

He had changed so much that I scarcely recognized him.

I scarcely recognized him for that he had changed so much.

that and for that introducing result-clause and cause-clause, respectively, although for that meaning 'because' has largely fallen out of use during the last 150-200 years or so, and was already something of an archaism in the 19th century.

However, I don't believe we could say that in the first set of examples the particular conjunctions that and for that have been omitted. All we can say is that the causal relationship is expressed without a conjunction.


Please consider that example in a different light; turn it right round.

I scarcely recognized him; he had altered so much.

Exactly how is that re-phrasing wrong? Since in my view that is by no means wrong, I feel wholly happy with dropping that from your original.

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