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The dress which / that the movie star is wearing weighs about fifty pounds.

Can the relative pronoun be omitted or not ?

If it is possible to be omitted, please tell me why.

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  • which \ that can always be discarded in such ("defining") contexts. Jul 26, 2023 at 17:44
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    Does this answer your question? When can I remove the word "that" in a sentence? Jul 26, 2023 at 17:45
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    We can say "The dress the movie star is wearing weighs about fifty pounds" in conversation. In formal writing, it would be better to include which or that. Jul 26, 2023 at 18:05
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    @AhmadMohammad: You must pay closer attention to exactly what you write. Especially if you're going to start arguing in comments. I commented that your text But we can reduce as : The dress the movie star wearing weighs about fifty pounds is definitely incorrect, which is unquestionably true - and I'm quite certain you did NOT find any examples exactly like that online. No native speaker would ever make the mistake of omitting the verb there. It MUST be: The dress the movie star IS wearing weighs about fifty pounds. Your version could perhaps be "Indian English" though. Jul 27, 2023 at 13:12
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    @Ahmad Mohammad YES, the relative pronoun can be omitted there. That is the one-word answer. There is no other correct answer. If it feels strange to you, then you need to read more of the language so that you see more examples and it starts to feel better! Jul 27, 2023 at 14:13

4 Answers 4

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The dress which / that the movie star is wearing weighs about fifty pounds.

I add to what has been comprehensively explained in that post @FumbleFingers shared.

A relative pronoun as the object of a defining relative clause can be omitted, as in your example.

On the other hand, a relative pronoun cannot be omitted if it is the subject of a relative clause:

The dress which has accompanied the movie star for several shows weighs about fifty pounds.

*The dress has accompanied the movie star for several shows weighs about fifty pounds.

In another construction,

The dress in which the movie star looks best weighs about fifty pounds.

which as object of preposition can be omitted, but the preposition needs to be moved:

The dress the movie star looks best in weighs about fifty pounds.

As explained in several of the comments, relative pronouns/relativisers should be retained in formal writing.

Edit

I add this reference.

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  • @ Seowjooheng Singapore I agree with you and I admitted = object pronoun, but how to say it practically ( The dress the movie is wearing weights 50 pounds ) I see it is odd and here another teacher agreed with me tolearnenglish.com/forum/… Jul 27, 2023 at 15:22
  • No, that's not odd. I have added a reference to my answer. Jul 27, 2023 at 15:44
  • I want you answer the same question. Don't give additional examples Can we say : The dress which \ that the movie star is wearing weights 50 pounds Here someone teacher and native speaker did not agree tolearnenglish.com/forum/… Jul 27, 2023 at 15:44
  • @AhmadMohammad The other respondents in your link are not native English speakers at all. Lucille is a native French speaker. Jul 27, 2023 at 17:29
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    "As explained in several of the comments, relative pronouns/relativisers should be retained in formal writing" <--- This is incorrect. Jul 29, 2023 at 18:05
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Still there is another way to resolve the problem

The dress that \ which the movie star is wearing weighs 50 pounds.
= defining relative clause \ object pronoun

As I previously mentioned, I am not satisfied with the sentence omitting the relative pronoun

The dress the movie star is wearing weighs 50 pounds.

That sentence leads to confusion, I recommend rewriting it as :

The movie star is wearing a dress which \ that weighs 50 pounds.

Here = subject relative pronoun and it cannot be removed

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  • Note that weights is not a verb - it should be weighs. Also the final suggestion, “The movie star is wearing a dress weights 50 pounds” is incorrect; “that/which” must not be removed here.
    – Peter
    Jul 28, 2023 at 8:30
  • Your suggested sentences are both incorrect.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 28, 2023 at 10:06
  • @ Peter thank to remind me I corrected Jul 28, 2023 at 10:22
  • @ Billy Kerr WHY ? Jul 28, 2023 at 12:26
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This is also a message I received by email from Espresso team.

Jul 27 at 7:51 PM

I copied it as it is.

Let me first address "that" and "which":

The dress that the movie star is wearing weighs about fifty pounds. The dress, which the movie star is wearing, weighs about fifty pounds.

What pronoun is used will come down to the author's intention. If the description of the dress [the movie star is wearing it] is intended as a defining clause, the pronoun "that" is used. If the description of the dress is intended to be a non-defining clause [optional/incidental information], then "which" is used. Context is important here - what the reader already knows about the dress, whether the author wants to focus on the dress or bring attention to the fact the movie star is weighing it, and perhaps other factors will decide which pronoun is used.

Now, as to whether the pronoun can be omitted entirely, I agree with you that it should not. There is a trend in modern English to avoid overusing "that", and this trend has mistakenly removed "that" from sentences where it is technically needed. For example, the sentence below would be understood by most

The dress the movie star is wearing weighs about fifty pounds.

However, your analysis is correct - this is a particular dress, and the information about it [whether defining or non-defining] immediately follows. Furthermore, this clause is not preceded by a bridging verb or noun. So I must agree, a pronoun should be used in this sentence.

Best wishes, Andrew


Andrew MacDonald Assistant Teacher - EspressoEnglish.net

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suggestion

Why I suggest changing the sentence to a non-defining relative clause, because I still consider the outcome result is awkward a sentence or confusing.
The dress which \ that the movie star is wearing weighs 50 pounds. OK = object relative pronoun

The dress the movie star is wearing weighs 50 pounds.

I don't agree with this result for the following reasons:

It could be interpreted in different ways:

  • The dress that the movie star is currently wearing weighs 50 pounds.
  • The dress belonging to the movie star (but not necessarily the one they are wearing at the moment) weighs 50 pounds.

As well as being an awkward sentence. I searched dozens of books, say 200 books in Google books and could not find such an example.

Therefor, I suggest changing it to a non-defining relative clause:

  • The dress, which the movie star is wearing, weighs 50 pounds.

= There is only one dress and the movie star wears it.

Cannot be omitted, but we can remove the whole clause:

The dress weighs 50 pounds. = a meaningful sentence and no one could blame or say there is a mistake.

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