What does it mean when a word is put between brackets in a dictionary? Does it mean the sentence can be correct with or without it?

Here's an example: The government has conceded (that) the new tax policy has been a disaster.

Thank you.

2 Answers 2


In that case, it means the word "that" is grammatically optional. The relative clause can be formed both with an explicit relativiser "that" or without it.

Brackets () (or parentheses) are used to mark optional elements. Usually (but not in this case) phrases that give extra (but inessential) information.


There is a difference between parentheses and brackets.

Parentheses, ( ), are used to add extra information in text. So, yes. the sentence will be correct with or without that information. While brackets, [ ], are used mainly in quotations to add extra information that wasn't in the original quote.

It might be useful to note that some people refer to parentheses as "round brackets" and refer to brackets as "square brackets"

Here you can read more on this subject

  • 3
    In most English-speaking countries, an unqualified word "bracket" refers to the parenthesis (round bracket); in the United States, the square bracket. Jan 30, 2023 at 20:00
  • 1
    @MichaelHarvey That's also the opposite of how they're used in math and programming which is part of what makes talking about English on SE a bit trying :) Parentheses (round brackets), Braces {curly brackets}, Chevrons <angle brackets> Brackets [square brackets].
    – ColleenV
    Jan 30, 2023 at 20:31
  • @ColleenV When I learned to dictate a letter around 1970, I had to say 'open brackets' and 'close brackets'. Jan 30, 2023 at 20:44
  • 1
    Yes, @MichaelHarvey: when I was young (in England), "brackets" meant round ones - the only kind that were available on typewriters. I'm sure square brackets were available to printers, but ordinary people never had occasion to use or refer to them. Parenthesis was a scholar's word.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 30, 2023 at 23:04
  • Thank you, Mohammad.
    – LittleRay
    Jan 31, 2023 at 8:39

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