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US English "that" - puzzling grammatical structure

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 01, 2003

In Reply to: US English "that" - puzzling grammatical structure posted by ESC on November 30, 2003

: : "That," it seems to me, is used more often in US English than in British English. We have the colloquial "that" where grammarians would have preferred "which." That is, in the non-defining relative clause. Then there is another type of "that" with which I would like your help, as I don't know what to make of it. E.g.: "It's recognizable enough that most people understand what you mean, but it's just out-of-date enough (and silly sounding) to elicit a smile." (Word Spy defining "tomfoolery"). Thus, we have "enough . . . that". The sentence could also have been rendered "It's recognizable enough FOR most people TO understand what you mean . . ." Would you say the latter is more formal, or more British (or both)? In addition to "enough . . . that", we may of course have "sufficient . . . that" etc. Can you think of any other examples? Can you say, for instance, "The price is just right, THAT people will want to buy it"? If so, then what's this tricky "that" called (or the grammatical structure of which this type of "that" is part)? Is it colloquial usage in all instances? Oh, I've got an idea! Maybe it's just that "so" before "that" has been omitted?
: : Thanks
: : Anders

: That/which is a mystery to me. I don't understand it even when I read the rule. So when faced with a choice, I just e-mail one of my grammarian friends. Sorry.

If Anders has found some examples of non-restrictive clauses introduced by the relative pronoun "that," would he please give us some actual printed examples? Although I can easily imagine worse sins than using "that" instead of "which" in this kind of clause, still, I don't remember ever having seen it done. And why, Anders, do you think Americans abuse "that"? It's a very hard word to abuse, and no more colloquial than "it." True, its syntax sometimes seems less than obvious. This highly useful word can be a demonstrative pronoun and a demonstrative adjective, as well as a relative pronoun, as in the examples that he gives. In "sufficient that" and "enough that," "that" is a relative pronoun introducing an adverbial clause. His suggestion of "a price just right that..." does not work. It should read, "... a price low enough that ...." It is perfectly correct, however, to say "It is right and meet that he doeth this." Anders also suggests that sometimes it seems to work better with "so," as in "so that." One could also use "in order that" and "such that." "In order that I may better serve King Olaf I have learnt Norwegian," can become "That I may better serve....." These added words make little or no difference in meaning or syntax. "That" has limitations, of course, as do "who" and "which," but enough said for now. Anyway, in my experience, "that" is rarely misused and rarely unclear, even if it may be used in sentences which are unclear for other reasons. So what's the problem? As to the phrase, "read the rule." There's a rule? When it comes to that, which and who I didn't think we needed any better rule than common sense, the usual test of reading the phrase out loud, and reading the prose of excellent writers as paragons. SS