I'm wondering whether "that it was all over" is a clausal object of "sigh" or an appositive clause attached to "relief."

She sighed with relief that it was all over.

  • I don't think that sigh can take a "that" clause, so it must be attached to relief. I would call it a complement (or "object", if you will) of relief.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 25 '21 at 12:42
  • The issue is actually more complex than it suggests at first glance. Can "with relief that . . ." be used with any other verb than "sigh"? If it forms a unit, can it occur sentence-initially, as most modifiers do?
    – Apollyon
    Apr 25 '21 at 13:00
  • It's nothing do with the verb or with "with". Relief can take a "that" clause. The iWeb corpus has 7633 instances of relief that, and by inspection most of them are this structure.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 25 '21 at 17:42
  • Can you show me another verb that can be used with "with relief that . . ."?
    – Apollyon
    Apr 25 '21 at 19:18
  • OK, I think I get where your'e coming from, @Apollyon. Most sequences of (verb) with relief that, the that will go with the "verb", for example He heard with relief that they had not gone. But this is because the heard readily takes that, so this is more easily read as heard ... that. Examples from the corpus where this is not so are sobbing with relief that their loved one survived, I was filled with relief that the car had held up all day, and laughs nervously but with relief that she finally made it. Where there is not another verb to grab the "that", relief takes it.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 25 '21 at 21:06

From a syntactic point of view, both are valid. This is borne out by this NGram graph, which shows that both "sighed that" and "with relief that" do occur, however "with relief that" is very much more common, and most of the instances of "sighed that" occur across sentence boundaries, for example "sighed. That". Here is one of the very few sentences where a that-clause does modify sigh.

A young Muslim man sighed that he had given away 300 dalasi as saliboo during Tobaski . -The Best Hand is the Hand that Always Gives, Marloes Janson 2002

Looking at the semantics, in your sentence it is clear that the sigh is because she is relieved, and the relief is because it is all over. The that-clause therefore relates to the relief, not to the sigh.

  • But can "with relief that . . ." be used with any other verb?
    – Apollyon
    Apr 25 '21 at 12:54
  • If it forms a unit, can it occur sentence-initially, as most modifiers do?
    – Apollyon
    Apr 25 '21 at 12:55
  • @Apollyon yes it can. You can use it with see, cry, weep, remember, realise.....
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 26 '21 at 11:38
  • It could in principle occur sentence- initially, but I have not seen any examples of that. It is possible to find examples without a that-clause, like this one: "With relief, he felt his muscles contract and release as he moved downhill."
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 26 '21 at 11:43
  • How about "Sarah called John with relief that she had passed the exam"?
    – Apollyon
    Apr 26 '21 at 11:46

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