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Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that it would be harder to study chemistry or physics without a teacher's guidance than painting.

I've always thought that I should say like "it seems to me that / it would be...", but I find some native English speakers clearly say "it seems to me / that it would be...".

Are there any solid rules on this pause?

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    I don't think there needs to be a pause there at all. But you are free to add a pause or take a breath as you see fit. English is not that inflexible!
    – Billy Kerr
    May 29, 2023 at 19:29
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    Some extra perspective (by no means a contradiction of the accepted answer): voca.ro/1hyccwekEcwp May 31, 2023 at 2:51

2 Answers 2

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In normal rapid speech, there's no noticeable pause at all around "that", but if you do take a pause, it's much more natural before "that".

The word "that" is the head of the phrase, "that it would be harder to study chemistry or physics without a teacher's guidance than painting", so we'd need a compelling reason to insert a pause after "that".

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    I agree that the word that is the head of the subordinate clause. But such syntactic details seldom feature in how English is actually spoken by living, breathing native speakers. Plenty of people will insert pauses wherever, and do so without concern about compelling reasons. May 29, 2023 at 16:14
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    @PaulTanenbaum If you analyze where native speakers insert pauses, it aligns quite closely with constituent phrases. It's certainly not "wherever". While we don't consciously think about the constituent phrase boundaries, we do follow them instinctively, same as the rest of the rules we follow without being aware they even exist.
    – gotube
    May 29, 2023 at 17:25
  • It may well be that we generally insert pauses in alignment with constituent phrases, but there are common exceptions to this, such as that heading subordinate clauses. It is every bit as natural (to me, in fact, it’s more natural) to pause after it than before it, particularly if the following clause is a long one; this is similar to conjunctions like and and but. In prepared speech, the pause is more likely to align with constituents, but in impromptu speech, where we’re making the sentences up as we go along, it’s perfectly normal to pause elsewhere. May 30, 2023 at 8:29
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    I feel like the OP thinks of "it seems to me that" as a set phrase, rather than "that" being the head of the subordinate clause. Which may not be unreasonable, as you can replace it with "I feel like" (in fact, I made that substitution at the beginning of my comment).
    – Barmar
    May 30, 2023 at 14:00
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    One non-grammatical reason why you might hear a pause after "that" would be if the speaker was considering how to complete the phrase, maybe even repeating as filler: "it seems to me that ... that ... er ... that it would be harder"
    – IMSoP
    May 30, 2023 at 14:01
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As a native BrE speaker, I would not pause at all except after the comma following "wrong", or possibly just after "guidance".

Maybe I'm wrong, / but it seems to me that it would be harder to study chemistry or physics without a teacher's guidance {/?} than [to study] painting.

It could also be a matter of preference or merely the speaker needs to draw some more breath before completing the sentence. I know of no rules on the subject.

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