I found this sentence today -

For the first time that anyone can remember the gate of the park was open to the general public.

What does the clause that anyone can remember modify? What is the meaning of that here?

Can you please analyze this sentence, I have problem with that anyone can remember part? I want to learn the construction of this type.

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    that anyone can remember modifies the first time (by implication, it's possible the gate of the park was open to the general public on some previous occasion - but if so, no-one can remember that). I suspect the example is from a non-native speaker, because native speakers wouldn't normally talk about a gate being "open to the general public" (that would normally be said of the park, not the gate). That actual word "that" is effectively an optional "pronoun" referencing "the first time", which would often be deleted (as it is after "remember" here). Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 16:35
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    @FumbleFingers why not post that as an answer instead of a comment? There's not much more to say. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 1:02
  • Are you talking about Arvind Kejiriwal's direct interaction with the public of Delhi which ultimately turned into chaos?
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 5:54
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    @Esoteric: It's not (yet?) clear to me why OP has difficulty parsing the highlighted text. Someone else (perhaps even a non-native speaker) may immediately recognise why it might appear "problematic", and thus be better equipped than me to clarify the issue. As you imply, I personally haven't got much more to say about it, because to me it's just "ordinary English". But I will say that my final point about a deleted "that" before "remember" was based on a hasty misreading of something more like "It was the first time anyone can remember [that] the gate was open." Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


As FumbleFingers tells you, that here is a relative pronoun, equivalent to which. It heads a relative clause, in which it stands for the object of the verb remember; that relative clause modifies the noun phrase the first time.

The NP + relative clause

the first time that anyone can remember

might thus be paraphrased as:

No one can remember an earlier time when the gate was open; this is the first such time.

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