4

I have often read people using sentences like...

Assume you are given a ball.

in place of

Assume that you are given a ball.

While both sound correct while speaking, the first sentence does not sound quite right while writing. Is it correct to use the first sentence in writing?

4

If you're adopting a relatively formal written style, especially an academic style, it makes sense to choose to include that. But it is not required by the rules of grammar.


In examples like yours, that is a subordinator marking a content clause. It lets the reader know that the clause they're reading is subordinate and not a main clause.

Most of the time, that can be omitted from content clauses. That's because the reader can figure out from the structure of the sentence whether it's a subordinate clause or not.

In your example it's fine either way:

  1a.  Assume [ that you are given a ball ].
  1b.  Assume [ that you are given a ball ].

The reader knows assume must be the main clause verb, so you are given a ball must be a subordinate clause. There's no other possibility, so that is an unnecessary signal.

However, if the subordinator that comes before the main clause verb, it cannot be omitted:

  2a.  [ That you are given a ball ] can be safely assumed.
  2b. *[ That you are given a ball ] can be safely assumed.

At the beginning of a sentence, you need that to let the reader know they're reading a subordinate clause and not a main clause. As a result, sentence 2b is ungrammatical.

0

Both are correct because "that" can be implied when necessary, under certain circumstances. This is one of those circumstances and being in written form does not change this.

There is nothing wrong with leaving out the "that" in written or spoken form, but if you think it looks/sounds better with "that" in there, by all means leave it in!

  • Odd; this is certainly less detailed than snailplane's answer, but how is it incorrect or downvote-worthy? – Alexander May 22 '14 at 14:36
  • Is it the "certain-circumstances" part? Because I thought the OP demonstrated he already knew what those circumstances were, just not if you could use them in written form. – Alexander May 22 '14 at 14:42
  • I don't know. I just upvoted because it looks fine to me :-) – snailcar May 22 '14 at 14:55
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In the meaning of to think or accept that something is true but without having proof of it the conjunction that is optional. OALD defines it.

assume - to think or accept that something is true but without having proof of it.

assume (that)… It is reasonable to assume (that) the economy will continue to improve.

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