I am trying to improve my English writing skills. I want to say the following sentence to my friend on phone. Is the below sentence grammatically and logically correct?

Yesterday late night rain made the playing area so wet that umpires have to call off today’s play.

Is "umpires have to call off today’s play" considered a subordinate clause? Will the clause starting from relative pronoun is always used as an adjective clause?

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    You're talking about something that happened in the past, so you need to say umpires had to call off...
    – Schwale
    Jul 17, 2016 at 18:36
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    @Ustanak That's probably what OP means; but it's also possible that this is being said at the very time the umpires are winding up their inspection of the ground. Jul 17, 2016 at 19:08
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    "Yesterday late night" is not idiomatic. We don't say "yesterday night" but "last night"; so you want "late last night".
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 17, 2016 at 19:29
  • @Colin: If we accept They still prefer the cooling night rain to the bright, hot glare of the sun as a reasonable usage, I can't see why late night rain shouldn't be equally acceptable. But this is probably just a potentially confusing rather than helpful observation in the context of learners. Jul 17, 2016 at 20:50
  • @ColinFine Many persons actually do say "yesterday night," cf "yesterday week," "tomorrow fortnight," etc. But of course that is not the meaning here, which is "Yesterday, late at night, rain made the playing area wet." Jul 17, 2016 at 21:22

2 Answers 2

  1. You are correct in identifying that umpires have to call off today’s play as a subordinate clause.

  2. It is not, however, a relative clause. This that is not a relative pronoun; if it were, it could be replaced with which. It is, rather, a marker of subordination (a subordinating conjunction in traditional grammar, or subordinator in the neo-traditionalist approach of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language). That has at least three different uses: as a relative pronoun (but CGEL denies that that is a relative pronoun), as a subordinator, and as a demonstrative pronoun, and you can only tell which one is play by the context. Here it marks the clause which completes the so ... that ... comparative construction, so it might be called a complementizer, too.

  3. A clause launched by a relative pronoun may act as an adjectival or a nominal:

    ADJ: The word which you want is on page 238.
    NOM: You have to decide which word you want.

    It's an open question whether these relatives are the same words as the identical forms employed as interrogatives:

    Which word do you want?

    Clauses launched by other relatives (e.g., where, when, whether, why, how*) may act as nominals, adjectivals or adverbials—or, if your grammatical sect permits, interrogatives.


In your example that is a conjunction and introduces a circumstantial or modal subordinate clause. The pattern so + adjective/adverb + that typically expresses a cause and effect relationship.

Note that the that is optional.

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    I think this is a comparative construction rather than an adverbial of purpose. Jul 17, 2016 at 19:22
  • I disagree, @StoneyB. There is an implied comparison, yes, but the that clause is not the standard of comparison, but the action justified by the comparison.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 17, 2016 at 19:34
  • @ColinFine W e l l ... I'd say that the that clause is the measure of ADJ. In any case, what I'm concerned with is that so ADJ that S not be misconstrued as a variant of so that S. (I hate writing about that; it always seems to involve so many thats that are not the that I'm writing about.) Jul 17, 2016 at 19:39
  • I see what you mean, @StoneyB. But in that sentence it strongly implies that they actual did call off (or are calling off) play, so pragmatically it is much more than a measure.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 17, 2016 at 19:44

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