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What is the function of "that" in the following sentences?

  1. I don't regret having been the jerk that I was.
  2. Was it me that you said that to? (only the first "that")
  3. It feels like just yesterday that winter break started.

Also, is it possible for phrases to be inverted within sentences and keep the same meaning?

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  • There's a specific term for this part of speech which I don't know, but essentially it sets off a subordinate phrase that acts like an adjective to modify the previous noun, "the jerk (that I was)", "... yesterday (that winter break started)". Similar are other terms like "who", "which", etc. "She is the girl (who I first loved)" – Andrew Jan 10 '17 at 5:56
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    It's a relative pronoun used to introduce a clause, especially a restrictive one. For more information, see this question on EL&U. – Robusto Jan 10 '17 at 6:07
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    It is not a relative pronoun, though it has a similar function. In your particular examples, "that" is a subordinator introducing integrated (restrictive) relative clauses. Its function is that of marker. Can you give an example of what you mean by "inverted"? – BillJ Jan 10 '17 at 9:11
  • For example, The reason I left is that your parents showed up. -> That your parents showed up is the reason I left. – Chang Baek Jan 11 '17 at 7:51
  • Ah, I see. In the case of specifying predicative complements (PCs), the order can be reversed but it changes the functions: In The reason I left is that your parents showed up, "that your parents showed up" is predicative complement, but in That your parents showed up is the reason I left, it becomes the subject. – BillJ Jan 12 '17 at 20:27
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Reference:

Multi clause sentances

I don't regret having been the jerk that I was.

Used as a Relative Pronoun (to be used with the subject). The noun is "jerk" and the restrictive clause is "that I was", this restricts jerk and explains the specific type of jerk

Note that "that" as a Relative Pronoun is used with the subject, not the object. If the noun was the object then "which" would be used in place of "that".

Was it me, that you said it to?

Used as a Subordinate Conjunction. The main clause is "was it me", the conjunction is "that" and the relative clause is "that you said it to"

It feels like just yesterday that winter break started.

Used as a Subordinate Conjunction but the other way round. The main clause is "winter break started", the conjunction is "that" and the subordinate clause is "It feels like just yesterday"

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  • Oh dear, Isobella! "That" belongs to the same category in all three examples, i.e. that of 'subordinator', though most people call it a relative pronoun. In I don't regret being the jerk that I was, "that" is not the subject of the relative clause, but the predicative complement of "was" ("I was the jerk" ). And "that" most certainly can be object of a relative clause, as in I have the key that she found, where "that" is the object of "found". In Was it me that you said it to?" (no comma required, btw), "that" is object of the preposition "to". – BillJ Jan 12 '17 at 19:39
  • In the third example, the subordinate relative clause is that winter break started, where "that" is the object of "started". – BillJ Jan 12 '17 at 19:47

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