I am confused with the role of "that" and the clause that follows in the passage below. Is the "that-clause" grammatical here? If no, how should it be put in a grammatical manner? If yes, what is the grammatical role of "that" (like complementizer, relative pronoun? ) and how to analyze the structure of the clause?

"[...] In 2005, Iceland’s pay gap showed that women were, on average, still being paid only 64.15% of what men earned. So, on the thirtieth anniversary of the Women’s Day Off, women organized another strike and left work at 2:08 p.m., shortening their workday by the exact percentage that their salaries were lower than men’s. In 2016, women in Iceland again left work early, this time at 2:38 p.m. [...]"

Your help and clarification are much appreciated! 😇


1 Answer 1


It is not how I would express it. I would say the exact percentage by which their salaries were lower than men's.

However, "by which" is somewhat formal, and people will often prefer to turn it round, and leave the preposition at the end of the relative clause:

the man to whom I was talking -> the man [who/whom/that] I was talking to

If you do that in this case, you get

the exact percentage that their salaries were lower than men's by.

which is nearly what you quoted. But they left out the final "by" - I suspect that is because of the "by" just before what I quoted.

So I would say that the text is grammatically defective; but that is (as it often is) a complementizer in a relative clause without explicit relative pronoun.

  • But what about the sentences like "If you helped boost sales, for example, what was the percentage that the sales increased?" , or " To find the percentage that the original price decreased, use the following relation", or "I need to create a measure to calculate the percentage that the total Sales value increased " from the internet? I still could not figure out how to treat "that" and how to analyze the structure that it takes in terms of their syntactic roles.... Oct 21, 2022 at 2:50
  • 1
    @StephenLai: I find both those examples defective, because they are missing a "by", just like the original sentence. My analysis applies to them too.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 21, 2022 at 9:55
  • IMHO part of the problem here is that a lot of native speakers have been erroneously told that you "can't end a sentence in a preposition," so they delete the trailing "by" and assume the result will still make sense.
    – Kevin
    Dec 4, 2022 at 19:39
  • 1
    @Kevin: that might be a factor, but I don't think it's the main one. I think that by the time you get to the end of that rather complex sentence, you've probably forgotten what the construction was.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 4, 2022 at 20:22

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