Here are five things about friendships that some people believe are true.

This sentence looks fine to me but I find it hard to explain to people what sentence structure this is. It seems like there are two relative clauses using one relative pronoun. I am really confused. Can someone explain this to me?

  • 1
    Note to would-be answerers: please do not answer in comments. Write an answer. Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 13:44
  • What are the two relative clauses that you see? I can see only one.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 14:09
  • 1
    @BillJ The comment box is not for answers. Comments are ephemeral and can be deleted by anyone at any time. And done. Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


Here are five things about friendships that some people believe [ __ are true].

I can see only one relative clause, i.e. the one in bold.

There is a further subordinate clause, bracketed, within the relative clause, but it is a content clause, not a relative one.

The subject of the embedded clause, represented by the gap notation '___' is linked to the relative phrase "that", which derives its interpretation from its antecedent "things about friendship".

Note that in accordance with much traditional grammar I have classified "that" as a relative pronoun. Some modern scholarly grammars, however, treat it as a subordinator.

  • I am not sure If I am right. You mean "that" is not a relative pronoun for the relative clause some people believe ___, but a subordinator for the object clause. I thought "that" in object clauses is not important as I could say I think that she likes me or I think she likes me.
    – ZHEN YU
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 16:44
  • No, the embedded clause "__ are true" cannot possibly have "that". What I mean is that some people treat "that" as a subordinator. I wouldn't worry too much about that point; it's not important at this stage of your studies.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 17:16

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