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Sometimes I tend to use multiple relative clauses (especially with the relative pronoun 'that') after the same antecedent to provide a chain of information. However, I don't know if it sounds natural to a native speaker. For example, please tell me if the sentence below is grammatically sound.

Earlier in the morning, the first bus that arrived that I catch drove straight past my stop.

Would a native speaker use that kind of phrasing to give more information while keeping the sentence as short as possible? What I wanted to express is that the bus in question wasn't the first bus that arrived, but the first of the bus route I take to arrive.

If it's too jarring, how can I rephrase the sentence without increasing its length too much?

Many thanks.

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  • The usual bus I catch arrived and drove straight past my stop.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 23:02
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    A similar construction would be possible, but especially when written it's very confusing (when spoken your intonation and pauses would help). Putting the that clauses at the end of the sentence or otherwise breaking it up into multiple sentences or with dummy pronouns would be better. I'd also use "can/could catch" rather than just "catch" to indicate it's a bus you can get, not necessarily one you did get. In casual speech you could say something like: "Earlier in the morning, the first bus that came that I could catch, it/he drove straight past the stop." With emphasis on "could catch".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:04
  • Earlier in the morning, the first bus I usually catch drove straight past my stop.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 19:28

2 Answers 2

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You don't always need to use "that", it's often dropped to lighten the sentence. You can say:

The first bus I catch

instead of

The first bus that I catch

You can't always remove "that". I'd say you can drop it when the subject is different ("The bus that I catch" => "The bus I catch"): the noun before "that" is the complement. When it's a subject ("The bus that arrives") you have to leave it.

When there are two clause and you drop "that" in one of them, you have to put it in first place:

The first bus I catch that arrives

That's for the general stuff. Again, I think your sentence needs fixing, "to catch a bus" means you don't miss it, and in both cases it's kind of redundant with "arrives".

(Also this needs confirmation, but I'm pretty sure you can say "a bus drove...". A person can drive a bus, or drive past your stop (implicitly in their bus) but a bus itself can't drive.)

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  • Yeah, sorry about the tense inconsistency. I have corrected them. The past tense is what I meant to use, as I am referring to what happened earlier. To put it in context, it was 'the bus...that I catch' means that it is the bus route I take in the morning and not just any bus route. For example, I catch number 45, and this first 45 to arrive drove past me, and now I have to wait for the second 45. To say 'the first bus I catch' can imply that I catch more than one bus in the morning, which isn't true. Which is why I used two relative clauses in a row.
    – JUNCINATOR
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 10:49
  • @JUNCINATOR Ok, nice. I edited my answer. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 11:00
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You say in a comment: "To put it in context, it was 'the bus...that I catch' means that it is the bus route I take in the morning and not just any bus route.". This means that your sentence is simply incorrect. As others have said, if you catch a bus it means that you actually boarded it. So you cannot say "I catch number 45". Instead you say "I take bus number 45." What you want to say is:

  The first bus that I wanted to take/catch drove straight past my stop.

Then it is clear that it had arrived and you wanted to take it but it drove past.

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