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The mosquito moment is the part of the presentation people remember the most in the conference.

people remember the most is an adjective clause, so is placing that or which in front of it optional? And does the PP in the conference go with the adjective clause or say it's part of the adjective clause, is that right?

And what is the object of the verb remember, is it the phrase the mosquito moment (seems a bit far) or the phrase which precedes it the presentation?

I was told that adjective clause modifies the thing that precedes the clause, does that rule always apply?

  • (people remember the most) is not considered an adjective clause without a relative pronoun before it. And yes, which/that are optional for the phrase in your example. – Tasneem ZH Feb 7 at 5:48
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The mosquito moment is the part of the presentation [people remember the most in the conference].

The relativised element is object of the relative clause so, yes, it is omissible. The antecedent of the omitted relative word is the nominal “part of the presentation". The PP is an adjunct, an omissible element in the relative clause.

The object of “remember” is “part of the presentation”, which is co-referenced to the subject NP “mosquito moment”

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Starting with your last questions first:

The object of the verb "remember" is "part", "the part [of the presentation]", and "of the presentation" is a prepositional phrase used to modify "part" (clarifying what kind of part is meant). The second prepositional phrase in the sentence ("in the conference"), could either be considered part of the clause beginning with "people remember....", or it could be understood as a separate, additional modifier of "part". There really isn't much difference in meaning between those two interpretations.

As to your first question, about whether that or which is optional: in your sentence, "that" or "which" can be omitted before the clause "people remember the most". This is common in normal idiomatic English. Also, according to englishgrammar.org:

The relative pronoun that can be left out when it is the object in a relative clause. Here is the example they give,

This is the woman that we were talking about.

OR

This is the woman we were talking about.

Their example is analogous to the sentence about the mosquito moment, so we do not need to use "that" or "which".

It is true that the same website also states, as given in Zeeshan Ali's answer,

That cannot be dropped after nouns. (same source)

Since "woman" is a noun, I am confused by their apparently contradictory rules. I would go with common usage, and say that the sentence you quote is correct.

  • There is a difference between "This is the woman [that] we were talking about" and "He agreed with my opinion that we should start again". In the example where the word "that" isn't optional, it's an appositive. Both "my opinion" and "that we should start again" are separate references to the same referent. That isn't true of "the woman [that] we were talking about". You're right to say that that source is confusing. – Gary Botnovcan Feb 7 at 23:28
  • The source that @Zeeshan Ali gave is not confusing. The "that" which it talks about is the one which occurs with declarative content clauses, not the "that" which occurs in relative clauses. This is evident from their examples, especially "He agreed with my opinion [that we should start again]", where the bracketed element is not a relative clause but a declarative content clause serving, not as modifier, but as complement of "opinion". If you look at the end of the article, it briefly discusses "that" as a relative pronoun. – BillJ Feb 8 at 9:06
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That as a relative pronoun:

The relative pronoun that can be left out when it is the object in a relative clause.

This is the woman (that) we were talking about

And, therefore, your sentence need not include that/which as follows;

The mosquito moment is the part of the presentation (that) people remember the most in the conference.

The above sentence could have multiple contexts of which here are two;

  1. The mosquito moment is the thing (object of remember) which people remember the most.
  2. the part of the presentation is the thing (object of remember) which people remember the most.

An adjective clause modifies often the thing that precedes it, but there also the cases like linking verbs and Demonstrative Pronoun when that does not hold.

  • 1
    You mis-read the first source you gave. The "that" which it talks about is the one which occurs with declarative content clauses, not the "that" which occurs in relative clauses. This is clearly evident from the examples it gives, none of which contain relative clauses like the OP's. If you look at the end of the article, it briefly discusses "that" as a relative pronoun. – BillJ Feb 8 at 9:10
  • @BillJ, yeah, I got that wrong.. I have modified/corrected that part of my answer! ^^ – Zeeshan Ali Feb 8 at 13:16

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