I read other questions like When can I omit "that" in a sentence?, but my knowledge of English's grammar is lacking and I couldn't apply the rules explained there to this specific case.

Is "Test it works" correct? Or should it be "Test that it works"?

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    I would recommend including it in writing. I have developed a bad habit of leaving out complementizers in cases where I would elide them in speech and professors have consistently marked this in red pen. – Tyler James Young May 7 '14 at 16:29
  • You could say "test to be sure it works" as well but I'm not sure that's the point of your question. – sraboy May 7 '14 at 18:50
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    Picky and perhaps prescriptivist professors, as @TylerJamesYoung mentions, may always mark empty or implied complementizers as an error, but they are common in speech and writing. The problem is that it there seems to be no consistent pattern to when they sound natural and when they are jarring and confusing. For example, “ensure it works” sounds fine to me (although I would write “ensure that it works”), but “test it works” is confusing and looks like a typo. Thus it’s probably best and clearest to always include the complementizer. – musicinmybrain May 8 '14 at 13:48

No, you can't leave the "that" out.

There are two distinct verbs in the sentence: "test" and "works". And so, to put it simply, you need to do something to show the relationship between the two verbs. In this case, you need to say what you are testing. The word "that" indicates that what follows is the thing that the verb "test" applies to.

There are other words that could fit in this place. You could say, "Test when it works" or "Test why it works" or "Test how it works", all of which change the meaning of the sentence. "Test that it works" indicates that the expected result will be yes or no, it works or it does not. "Test when it works" would lead to a description of the time or circumstances. Etc.

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Your example "Test it works" is technically grammatically fine, but sounds a little off. It's not idiomatic to leave out the "that". The "that" helps orient the reader (well, it helped orient this reader) that the sentence is in the imperative. It took me a moment to parse without it.

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  • I don't think "Test it works." is actually grammatical. – snailplane May 7 '14 at 22:47
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    @snailplane, don't you mean "I don't think that 'Test it works.' is actually grammatical"? (coff) – Codeswitcher May 7 '14 at 23:05
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    No. Both sentences are different. Your job as a writer of answers is to explain why. – snailplane May 8 '14 at 3:09
  • I don't think they are. So no it's not. – Codeswitcher May 8 '14 at 4:30

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