Relative pronoun that is usually preceded by its own object
For instance - All that glitters is not gold.
But if I say All is not gold that glitters
It seems to me a bit odd, is it?

  • It is somewhat archaic, or perhaps jocular. Btw, "that" is a subordinator, not a relative pronoun.
    – BillJ
    Dec 28, 2018 at 8:11

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't recommend using Shakespeare quotes as a guide for what is and isn't acceptable use in modern English. The language has changed in the last 500 years, and his writing was more poetic than directly clear even when it was first written down; he's using an unusual reversed syntax in this particular phrase.

Both of the constructions you have here are equally valid and equally confusing; we're just familiar with one of them as a set phrase.

"All is not gold that glitters" might be slightly more confusing only because it introduces ambiguity about what 'that' means -- it could be read with 'that' acting like a 'which', marking the clause as giving more information about the previous noun. That is to say, it kind of reads like "All is not [gold, which glitters]", which would just mean "not everything is gold".

If you wanted to say it naturally in modern English you'd just say, "Not all that glitters is gold."

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