I am finding difficulty to understand this rule

the relative pronoun is generally omitted when it would be in the accusative case as:

Few and short were the prayers ^ we said.

Men must reap the thing ^ they sow.

1 Answer 1


I would be cautious in taking this as a "hard" rule...think of it more as a style guideline. In informal speech, it's true the relative pronoun is frequently omitted. In formal writing, it may or may not be included. I had an English professor who said "cross out all the unnecessary thats!" It might have seemed like overkill, but he was trying to teach us how to write succinctly.

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    The criterion is not whether the clause tells about "the man" (all relative clauses do so - that is their purpose), but whether the relative pronoun would be the object of the relative clause. Anshul Negi nearly nailed the distinction, but it is not "accusative case" (which hardly exists in English) but being the object. It can be a direct or indirect object: "that" is usually omitted in both "The man [that] I saw" and "The place [that] I went to".
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 31, 2016 at 7:58
  • @ColinFine True...I've removed that part of my answer; I think your explanation is less confusing.
    – Margaret
    Mar 31, 2016 at 8:06

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