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The 4-year-olds often chose to look at the marshmallows while waiting, a strategy that was not terribly effective.

Can I omit "that was" in the sentence above?

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    Yes: you can. The AdjP "not very effective" would then be a post-head modifier of "strategy". – BillJ Apr 19 '19 at 9:55
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The 4-year-olds often chose to look at the marshmallows while waiting, a strategy not terribly effective.

That sounds perfectly fine and concise.

From what I understand, usually you drop a relative pronoun when it's followed by a present/past participle, or when it is the object in the second clause:

  • [It was a strategy.] [It was needing some adjustments.] = It was a strategy (that was) needing some adjustments.
  • [It was a strategy.] [It was devised by Tom.] = It was a strategy (that was) devised by Tom.
  • [It was a strategy.] [She didn't like it.] = It was a strategy (that) she didn't like.

Those make sense...

But for some reason you can drop it in your example when it's the subject, yet not followed by a present/past participle:

  • [It was a strategy.] [It was not terribly effective.] = It was a strategy (that was) not terribly effective.

I would NOT say "The 4-year-olds often chose to look at the marshmallows while waiting, a strategy not effective." (I would just say "... an ineffective strategy.") So perhaps it's a phrasal thing? I'm honestly not sure. For some reason the "not terribly effective" part sounds a bit British to me.

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Absolutely not, the sentence would not make sense without. If you really want to drop that was then try:

... a not terribly effective strategy.

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    The sentence makes perfect sense without "that was". – Michael Harvey Apr 19 '19 at 10:39
  • @MichaelHarvey While vaguely intelligible, I cannot see any way to regard it as grammatically correct, and would challenge you to show any native speaker doing so. – Mike Brockington Apr 19 '19 at 12:13
  • @MichaelHarvey None of those example have the same structure as the OP's post. – Mike Brockington Apr 19 '19 at 13:50
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    @MikeBrockington The word is spelled sentence, not sentance. – Ronald Sole Apr 19 '19 at 14:56

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