In my everyday English, I frequently use the "What I like about something" structure. However, I'm not certain whether it can be complemented with both forms: "is that" and "is".

Let me illustrate my question with the following example:

What I love about New York is that it's so big and vibrant.
What I love about New York is it's so big and vibrant.


What I love about the US is that you can feel comfortable saying what you want.
What I love about the US is you can feel comfortable saying what you want.

For some reason the sentences with the word "that" sound better to my ear than the ones without it. Is it just me, or does the version withouth "that" sound a bit off? What is your opinion on the matter? Are both forms gramatically correct? Is it just a matter of style?

  • 1
    There are rules about when "that" is obligatory/inadmissible/optional. When it's optional it is generally more likely to be omitted in informal than in formal style, and after shorter and common verbs. In your example, it's optional, so if you feel more comfortable including "that", (like I would here) then go ahead and use it.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 10:50

2 Answers 2


Either is fine. In sentences like this "that" is optional, and implied if omitted.

What I like about ELL is (that) people ask a variety of questions.

What I really like about her is (that) she knows how to have fun.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe "that" serves as little more than a marker to delineate different elements in the sentences, but otherwise serves no semantic purpose. In English, words that add no meaning to a sentence, and which wouldn't be missed if omitted, are optional.

In a conversation, if you omit "that" you might insert a slight pause between "is" and the rest of the sentence to help the listener distinguish what you are saying.

The best thing about the movie was (...) it wasn't very long.

  • Somebody told me that, an independent clause cannot be a complement of a linking verb so that is needed as a subordinator. But I dont really believe him, what do you think about that? Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 2:42
  • 1
    I think it's a nice idea to start out following the rules, but eventually pay attention to native speakers and imitate what they do. The subordinator or marker (or whatever it's called) can be useful, and certainly should be used when it helps break the sentence into pieces that can be more easily parsed. But like many other things, once you get used to the pattern, you can start to gloss over the details and pay more attention to the meaning and flow of a sentence.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 3:23

This is strange and I haven't referred any book for this. This is purely from my experience and observation.

When the sentence is long and you need to explain what you love, you need 'that'. I mean if you need to have a 'clause', you may require 'that'.

What I love about NYC is that it is so big and vibrant

You explained it with a string.

On the other hand, if you don't require any explanation and you are talking about something directly, you may drop 'that'.

What I love about NYC is its people.

In all the examples, I feel that 'that' is required.

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