In the following sentence, is it better to use or omit the word 'that'?

They called and told me (that?) I will need to take a helicopter.

After reading Can we say "He is a friend of mine I love" instead of "He is a friend of mine who/that I love"?, I see that it is technically required in very formal writing, but not required for general conversation.

What about in common business writing, or on StackExchange, such in the previous sentence?

  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica Thank you, but not quite. I edited my question to reveal why. Oct 21, 2020 at 18:02
  • There is no clear rule as to its use or omission. The British broadcasters increasingly tend to omit it, both from formal news bulletins and correspondents' reports. The same is true for the big online news organisations. My suggestion, when in doubt, is to use it, particularly when its omission leads to ambiguity. Oct 21, 2020 at 18:22
  • @RonaldSole Thanks Ronald. If I'm understanding you correctly, your examples are referring to speech, whereas I am referring to writing. Oct 21, 2020 at 18:24
  • @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket. It is equally true for both. You only have to look at the online text reports of such news organisations as the BBC, Sky and CNN. Oct 21, 2020 at 18:31
  • @RonaldSole Thanks. Why do you recommend using 'that' when the trend is to omit it? My English skills allow me to recognize when it is absolutely required. Oct 21, 2020 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


@Ronald Sole. Though I agree with you wholeheartedly, I must point out the irony of your explanation example sentence in which you have attempted to clarify ambiguity:

@RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket You are less likely to go wrong by inserting it than omitting it. Its omission frequently jars on my ears and can easily lead to ambiguity. It's a question of context and preference. Note the avoidable ambiguity in statements such as He said twice that day he had fallen down. – Ronald Sole 1 hour ago

Did he say it twice or did he fall twice?

I believe the OP is leaning more toward the use of superfluous pronouns, such as (borrowing your sentence here):

He said twice that day that he had fallen down.

  • Or He said twice that that day he had fallen down. Always perfectly grammatical - and in some contexts, perfectly idiomatic too. Oct 22, 2020 at 12:08

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