0

(Note: I'm a native English speaker, who is interested in learning English grammar, because I found that learning French became more interesting through learning French grammar)

Consider the following sentences, which behave similarly:

  • The fact that you yell at me everyday makes me not want to come to the office.
  • The thought that I actually looked up to you in the past makes me feel like a fool.

What is the grammar of the clause "that [contents of fact] " (or "that [contents of thought]") ? I note that this kind of clause is somehow modifying a noun, and explains the contents of that noun. I also note that you could remove the clause and the sentence still makes sense.

This use feels different than the following:

  • I know that you are going through a divorce, but you still have to treat your workers with respect.

where "that you are going through a divorce" acts as a direct object of a verb, and the only reason that removing it still allows the sentence to make sense, is because our brains hear an implied (but unstated) direct object in its place.

(Finally, I note that "The fact that [contents of the fact]", of course, is very different than a relative clause ("The fact that makes me feel the most unhappy is that I'm going through a divorce, too, and I need some kindness in my life right now.").)

The best analysis I can think of is that "that you yell at me everyday" is merely some modifier to the word "fact", the same way that in "The ugly fact", the word "ugly" is merely some modifier. But I'm unsure if this analysis is correct, because it doesn't seem to acknowledge that "that [contents of fact]" functions differently than the other two examples ("that ___" as a direct object, or "that ___" as a relative clause) ; and a person might say that the other two examples also are noun-modifiers in some way, too.

Is there a different, more illuminating analysis, that can be done? And can you give me other examples of "that __" clauses (or, indeed, other clauses or non-clauses) that function similarly to "The fact that [contents of fact]"?

0

In "the fact that X", where X is a clause, that X is an appositive to fact. The word fact sort of encapsulates the content of the clause that follows, in the form of a simple noun.

Here are some examples where using that X without the fact is awkward or ungrammatical: Collins "the fact that"
It uses the fact that healthy enamel and decay reflect light differently.
? It uses that healthy enamel and decay reflect light differently.

I've got used to the fact that it is the song people know me for.
? I've got used to that it is the song people know me for.

As we await results anxiously, we would like to know your views on the fact that different schools adopt different boards for the same subject.
? As we await results anxiously, we would like to know your views on that different schools adopt different boards for the same subject.

In your first example, without the fact, there is still a grammatical statement:
[The fact] That you yell at me everyday makes me not want to come to the office.

Even so, I think the statement is easier to understand with "the fact"; it sort of primes the listener/reader to take in the content of the following clause as equivalent to a noun, ready to be used as a subject or object.

Some uses of "the fact that", such as "due to the fact that" in place of "because", are needlessly wordy, but not all.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.