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Posted by Smokey Stover on December 01, 2003

In Reply to: Examples posted by Anders on December 01, 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 E.g.: "It's recognizable enough that most people understand what you mean, but it's just out-of-date enough (and silly sounding) to elicit a smile."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

: : : Smokey, I never said "Americans abuse 'that'." As "abuse" is always bad, please don't imply it. I merely said that, it seems to me, they use it more than Britons. This cannot in any way be proved by giving examples, but since you requested it, here are some. The examples are both found on the same page, cf. link, which I came upon by searching specifically for this that/which issue. I add my comments below each quote.

: : : "The new shooting range will be operated in a safe manner that does not pose a risk to the public or the environment."

: : : "That" here introduces a relative clause that adds information, which means it is non-defining. Why? Because it explains what is meant by "safe manner." If taken as defining, it's a tautology: something safe does not pose a risk, needless to say.

: : : "If there is a breach that is both material and irreparable and that occurs on the premises, including but not limited to an illegal discharge of a weapon, homicide as defined in §§13-1102 through 13-1105, prostitution as defined in §13-3211, criminal street gang activity . . ."

: : : I believe ", and which occurs on the premises," (surrounded by commas) is preferable to "and that occurs on the premises," (with just one comma at the end). The sentence is parenthetical; again, it adds information.

: : : Best regards
: : : Anders

: : No, wait! The last sentence really is defining! Here "that" should be omitted, thus: "If there is a breach that is both material and irreparable and occurs on the premises . . ." It's tricky because there is something parenthetical about it, yet the "addition" is an integral part of the sentence. If it were rewritten using a clear parenthetical structure, as I first suggested, the meaning would remain the same, though.
: : Anders

: On second thoughts, maybe it's all right after all . . . I got up in the middle of the night, and was not supposed to go back online. I saw Smokey's post and was eager to hunt down some examples. Maybe a bit too eager. We'll talk in the morning.
: Anders

: Thanks, Anders, for the examples. I think we may have been talking at cross-purposes. Or I may have been. I had assumed that in speaking of "non-defining clauses" you meant that which we Yanks call "non-restrictive clauses." In the U.S., restrictive clauses are those which are not considered parenthetical and not set off by commas. In the U.S. they can, in general, be introduced by either "which" or "that," a choice which usually expresses the writer's preference. The examples that you have been kind enough to supply are all of this type. A non-restrictive clause, here in the U.S. and I think in the U.K. as well, is one which is parenthetical, non-defining, and set off by commas. The use of the comma is not so much dictated by a rule regarding clauses as it is by the rules regarding punctuation generally. You would not have to know that the clause was called "non-restrictive" to know that it needed commas. This type of clause does indeed sound much better with "which" than with "that." But none of your examples is of this type. You mentioned that one example seemed tautological. Indeed, it is. But of course the sin there is one of style, not of grammar. Your examples are not culled from an author famed for his good writing. One more thing: if you thought my use of the word "abuse" meant that I was offended, not to worry. I was not offended, merely puzzled. All right, perhaps I felt just a bit of consternation that Americans were getting a bad rap. Let me suggest that perhaps you, like countless others here and abroad, have been led by grammarians' emphasis on the correct use of "non-defining" or "non-restrictive" clauses, to worry too much about them. One does not have to have the least understanding of the grammatical term to be able to use the clauses correctly. Grammarians get their rules from the writing that they see; it should not be the other way around. Thanks again for your prompt response. SS