I just read a sentence:

My employees got furious that new features were not being added as fast as they wanted.

Can I replace "that" with because here? Also, I want to confirm what is the function of the clause preceded by "that".

My first thought was that the clause in the above sentence is an adverbial clause which tells the reason that the employees got furious, but I did find any evidence to prove it. Since mostly, because or since would be normally to precede an adverbial clause.

Second, I though this clause worked as the object of furious, is that right?

  • 1
    No, it's not adverbial. Finite subordinate clauses are generally complements, not adjuncts (adverbials). The clause "that new features were not being added as fast as they wanted" is complement to the adjective "furious"; it completes the adjective phrase by explaining what it was that your employees got furious about. If you replace "that" with "because", you change the syntax; it becomes a preposition phrase function instead of a clause and its function becomes an adjunct of reason explaining why they were furious. Btw, it can't be object since "furious" is not a verb.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


As Andrew says, replacing that with because leaves the meaning unchanged; but the syntax is quite different.

  • The because version is classified by traditional grammar as an 'adverbial' modifying the verb got, and more contemporary syntacticians regard it as a preposition phrase modifying the clause My employees got furious.
  • In this sort of context contemporary syntacticians tend to regard 'content' clauses, finite clauses optionally introduced by that, as complements of the adjective rather than as modifiers of either the verb or the clause.

The notion of complement is somewhat loose, but it will usually be applied when a particular lexical or syntactic element is 'selected' (required or permitted) by a particular term. In your example, the content clause is selected by the adjective furious, which licenses

  1. content clauses —

    furious (that) new features were not being added

  2. some preposition phrases, particularly those headed by over and at, and for some speakers about

    furious over our failure to add new features
    furious at our failure to add new features
    ?furious about our failure to add new features

  3. infinitivals having the entity modified by furious as their implied subject —

    furious to find new features were not being added

But it does not license other infinitivals and preposition phrases, or gerund-participle clauses:

*furious to not add new features
*furious for us to not add new features
*furious for our failing to add new features
*furious our omitting new features

  • When you say "syntax", are you referring to something other than the common definition? I ask because the two sentences "I got mad because it was raining" and "I got mad that it was raining" would seem to be syntactically equivalent -- in this context the two words are interchangeable. From what you say, the only difference seems to be what professional linguists call them related to how they function in general.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 17:15
  • 1
    The sentences are semantically equivalent--a matter of meaning--but syntax is the (study of) rules governing grammatical structure--how words of various classes are combined in meaningful constructions. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 17:22

Yes, you can replace "that" with "because" without any change in meaning.

"My employees got furious" is the base sentence: Subject (employees) Verb (got/became) Object (furious). The rest of the sentence is an adverbial clause to explain why they were upset. :

I was frustrated (that he never took off his muddy boots outside the house).

They were restless (since their lunch was late again).

  • They became restless because lunch was late seems fine to me, but I don't much like that in that context, and no-one would accept They were/became hungry that lunch was late. So whereas constructions like I'm glad that X and He's sorry that X seem pretty flexible about exactly what kind of assertion X might be, that doesn't seem to be suitable for all contexts where the 'base sentence' could be linked to X with because, when, after etc. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:54
  • @FumbleFingers I wanted to show similar examples of base sentence + reason, using different strucures, but I can see it is confusing. Edited to fix.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 16:22
  • Well, as a native speaker I don't really have a problem in this area, even though I couldn't summarise a set of rules re acceptable "Subordinating Conjunction" use (it just took me over a minute to identify that term, which only goes to show how little I need such concepts). For any given case I'd usually be fairly quick to identify which such conjunctions work, and which don't, but explaining why is a whole nother ball game. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 16:36
  • But Andrew, "furious" is an adjective, not a noun, so it can hardly be the object of "got" can it? "Got" works like "became" here, so it's actually a subjective predicative complement relating to "my employees" (cf. "My employees became angry").
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 17:06

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