3

I can't clear up to which type of adjective clause the following refers.

I can't say I'm the best challenger that has ever applied for this aid.

In object clauses we are able to omit "that" or other adjective pronouns.

I've just found the example:

I'm a student that needs a car.

It has the same meaning.

So, I understand it correctly, don't I?

Furthermore, if this is so, I should had written:

I can't say that I'm the best challenger that has ever applied for this aid.

Am I right?

  • 1
    You can't omit that here, the sentence would then make no sense. Also, /the best challenger who has ever applied/ is better. – Lambie Apr 18 '17 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Lambie: Google Books claims many written instances of the first ever asked. Pedants might complain about missing that, and some might think it's a bit "dialectal", but I don't think you can say it "makes no sense". – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '17 at 18:07
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers That phrase cannot be put into the OP's sentence and have it retain the meaning he is looking for. The sentence needs who (formal grammar) or that (informal, "how people talk"). – Lambie Apr 19 '17 at 13:31
  • 1
    @Lambie: I don't know about your who/that formal/informal distinction, but in my vernacular it's fine to say, for example, You're the first person ever objected to this construction. You might say it's dialectal and/or "sloppy", but it's common enough. And easily understood even if you wouldn't use it yourself. – FumbleFingers Apr 19 '17 at 14:16
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers That frankly strikes me as speaking without thinking. Like the sheriff getting on camera for the first time and making a sloppy delivery. It passes the "but people say it test" but it does not pass the "give advice to ELL learners" test. Finally, you might want to direct your remarks at SteveES's answer rather than at me. I was just pointing out the who thing, which is merely standard and therefore might interest Anthony. – Lambie Apr 19 '17 at 15:14
3

In your first two examples, the included "that"s are being used in a relative clause. In a relative clause, the relativizer (that, which, who e.t.c) can safely be omitted when the relative clause has a non-subject gap. But with a subject gap, it's not possible. Thus, in your example, the "that" cannot be omitted because the relative clause has a subject gap(which I mark with strike).

I'm a student that[a student needs a car.] (The gap is in the subject position, so the relativizer cannot be omitted).

The omission of the relativer is possible with a non-subject(object or compement of a preposition) gap.

The money (that) [you are looking for the money] (The gap or missing constituent is the complement of the preposition "for". So the relativizer is optional.)

The earrings (that) [my mom wore the earrings] (Again, the relativizer is optional because the gap is in the position of the direct object)

In the final example:

I can't say that I'm the best challenger that has ever applied for this aid.

The first that (which you omit from the first example) can be included or omitted. This is an example of a reporting verb + that clause, where the "that" can be omitted, especially in speech or informally. In more formal English, you should probably keep the first "that".


Some further reading on omitting "that"s may be found here.

  • 2
    @AnthonyVoronkov Not so complete. "that" can omitted when the relative clause has a non-subject gap. So that means, it can also be omitted when it's an obj of preposition. "The fact (that) you were talking about". – user178049 Apr 18 '17 at 15:48
  • 1
    Thanks for editing. I haven't upvoted yet. The simpler way to explain it is that the gap is in the position of the preposition's compelement(which is after "for"). That-omision is possible with this kind of gap. – user178049 Apr 18 '17 at 16:15
  • 1
    @user178049 Sorry, I misunderstood your comment and didn't really think enough about it! As far as I understand, your example is following the rule, as that is an object in it (so can be left out), not the subject? Or are you saying that "that" becomes the object in a relative clause when there is a non-subject gap? – SteveES Apr 18 '17 at 16:25
  • 1
    @SteveES No, the relativizer doesn't become the obj. It just stands for it. So filling the gap will be redundant. *"The fact (that) you told the fact to me". Actually, there is no answer to "why that can be omitted". It's just a relativizer in a relative clause with a non-subject gap can be omitted – user178049 Apr 18 '17 at 16:36
  • 1
    Why not say relative pronoun instead of relativizer which really isn't even a word. What do you mean the gap IS the subject?? – Lambie Apr 18 '17 at 17:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.