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This is the second World Cup in succession that Germany have failed to get out of their group, suffering the same fate in Russia in 2018.

This is from a BBC sports article: World Cup 2022: 'Germany exit as a fallen giant of world football'

I learnt that you can use "where" instead of "in which," but that you can't use "that", except for some exceptions such as "place". These are examples.

  1. Sydney is the city in which I was born.
  2. Sydney is the city where I was born.
  3. Sydney is the city that I was born.

I learnt that 1 and 2 are possible while 3 is ungrammatical, but that the word, "place", on the other hand, is one of the exceptions, which makes all four below possible.

  1. Sydney is the place in which I was born.
  2. Sydney is the place where I was born.
  3. Sydney is the place that I was born.
  4. Sydney is the place I was born.

This is what I have learnt so far at school.

Germany have failed to get out of their group in the World Cup. So, I believe the sentence should be either

  • This is the second World Cup in succession in which Germany have failed to get out of their group, suffering the same fate in Russia in 2018.

or

  • This is the second World Cup in succession where Germany have failed to get out of their group, suffering the same fate in Russia in 2018.

The first sentence I found in BBC does not accord with what I learnt at school. Is it grammatically correct to say that this is the second World Cup in succession that Germany have failed to get out of their group?

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  • I would not expect to hear “the city that I was born” without a final “in”. Jan 6, 2023 at 4:13
  • The BBC's sentence is a slightly odd use of "that" in a restrictive sense - "the world cup that Germany failed to progress in" is restrictive and unremarkable (if there was only one); but "one of two world cup that Germany failed to progress in" is a bit weirder as a restrictive clause as you have to think about exactly what is being restricted, although you could still make a case for it being grammatical.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 12, 2023 at 10:19
  • Hm, could football fans help me? I had a long answer about how "World Cup" was being used not as an event but as a trophy and by extension a victory... but I suspect "get out of their group" means "advance beyond some kind of bracket," and the sentence does not mean "they failed to get a World Cup." Rats. Feb 8 at 17:46
  • @AndyBonner The teams in World Cup are divided into groups, and then advance out of their group to compete with the teams that advanced out of the group they were placed in... Here's an illustration of how it works... fifa.com/fifaplus/en/tournaments/mens/worldcup/qatar2022/… Don't ask me how the groups get decided or anything... Not really a sports-ball fan :)
    – ColleenV
    Feb 8 at 19:35

4 Answers 4

1

It is wrong.

We use 'that' for defining clauses. In your example, the World Cup event is the subject, so to say this is an event 'that' Germany "failed to get out of their group" is nonsensical. Germany didn't get the event out of their group; it was their team that failed, and the event was where this took place.

Even the BBC make mistakes. Especially sports writers.

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  • I would expect the world cup to be a time, as in "the second time that something has happened". That said shouldn't the "have" be "has" instead, with Germany being a singular team/country?
    – Imus
    Feb 13 at 8:14
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EDIT: I wrote an answer below which I think is actually incorrect. I'll leave it as it could be generally helpful. If the sentence had ended at the word "get," it would be a reasonable reading.

Instead, I think the only possible answer is that the tone of the article is casual. It has a lot of one-sentence paragraphs and a generally chatty tone as sports writing often does. In this casual context, this usage does sometimes happen; I could imagine it with "days" or "weeks" and it would feel less odd than with a named event like the World Cup:

This is the second day in a row that I've been late for work.
This is the second week that the park has been closed.
This is the day that I finally stand up to that bully.

This parallels usages like "The park will be closed this week" (no prepositions), or "Last Christmas I gave you my heart."

And yes, in more formal writing, it would be better to say "This is the second week in which the park has been closed.

Earlier answer:

I think the distinction here is that you're thinking of the "World Cup," as we often do, as an event or a destination. But don't forget it's an actual cup—or at least, started as one (even if today's trophy is not cup-shaped). The source is speaking of it as a prize to be attained. Sports reporters sometimes do this, speaking of the physical trophy as a proxy for the intangible victory: "This is Mr. Boxer's chance to win back the belt from the current defending champion." So in this construction it's not a place at all, but a thing, much like an Olympic gold medal. You could replace "that" with "which" rather than "in which."

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  • I think that leaving mistaken answers and explaining the mistake is a good thing. I did that in this answer of mine and it turned out to be one of my more appreciated ones :)
    – ColleenV
    Feb 8 at 18:06
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+100

One is born in a place.
Where was she born? She was born in India. Based on that, we look at the samples:

Sydney is the place in which I was born.[okay, awkward] Sydney is the place where I was born. [okay] Sydney is the place that I was born. [okay] Sydney was the place I was born. [okay, see reason below]

You can say: The place I was born was Sydney. OR Sydney was the place I was born.

You can always take a predicate with be and reformulate using the predicate: The boy [who] I like was Tom. Tom was the boy I like.

Also, when the who or that is the direct object, it can be omitted. As it is above.
or here: *Sydney is the place (that) I like the most.

A restrictive relative clause in the sentence has to clarify the antecedent.

Relative pronouns used as a subject of a restrictive relative clause cannot be omitted:

This is the house that had a great Christmas decoration.

A relative pronoun used as the object of a restrictive clause can be omitted. Sydney is the place (that) I was born.

Relative pronouns

Now, this one:

This is the second World Cup in succession/ that Germany have failed to get out of their group/, suffering the same fate in Russia in 2018.

that is a subject pronoun. The problem is not with that. What makes the sentence awkward is the place in the sentence of their group.

This is the second World Cup group in succession/ that Germany have failed to get out of/, suffering the same fate in Russia in 2018.

OR BETTER: Twice in succession Germany have failed to get out of their group in the World Cup, suffering the same fate in Russia in 2018.

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Why relative adverb? You wanted to mean relative pronoun since World Cup is a noun or subject but not a place, I think. That is probably the most versatile relative pronoun for informal situations, but remember: it can't follow a preposition and usually can't introduce non-restrictive clauses. Look at these examples:

It was a service for which I'll be grateful

The train, which was an hour late, has broken down.

Would be incorrect to replace which with that. None of these two situations take place in your example, so it's OK the use of that. You can find more details on the Cambridge Dictionary site:

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  • I'm sorry, but "The train, that was an hour late, had broken down." Is OK. the Cambridge article doesn't preclude it. Jan 5, 2023 at 1:08
  • It does. Read in the 'typical errors' section, or read the table at the beginning where it's clearly stated that that isn't allowed for non-defining clauses
    – tac
    Jan 5, 2023 at 1:31

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