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Subordinate That–Clauses

Package information into a content clause (noun clause¹)

 

We need more people in math and science!  We are not prepared for the future.  There are too few scientists to replace those who are retiring. —John Glenn, former astronaut and United States Senator

John Glenn NASA
 

 

 
NOUN PHRASE AS SUBJECT

A noun or noun phrase commonly functions as the subject of a clause. The noun phrase may include a phrase or two and even a modifying clause (the need that has been increasing, the need that has been identified, the need at the moment.) However, the noun phrase cannot stand as a complete thought or a sentence.                                

INFORMATION EMPHASIS
NOUN PHRASE PREDICATE + COMPLEMENT

The country's need for more people in math and science

is clear to everyone

(be + adjective)

The lack of preparation

concerns us.

(verb)

The insufficient number of new scientists

is well-known.

(passive or participle)

THAT + CLAUSE AS SUBJECT

That followed by a content clause can function as the subject of the main clause. Subordinating a clause with that allows us to package information in the subject (or object) position and add comment in the other part of the clause. The subordinator that does not carry meaning but serves as the marker of the subordinated content.

INFORMATION EMPHASIS
THAT + CLAUSE PREDICATE + COMPLEMENT

That we need more people in math and science

is clear to everyone.

 

That we are not prepared for the future

concerns us.

 

That there are too few new scientists

is well-known.

 

 

package (V) – bundle or group together

retire (V) – stop working, usually after age 65

subordinate markerthat marks the clause as subordinate

More commonly, we place "heavier" content at the end of the clause.

Also see: "It" as Subject , "It is" + Adjective + Infinitive, "It" in Cleft Clauses.

¹ Noun Clause is a traditional grammar term for an embedded clause that functions as the subject or "object" (predicate complement) of the clause in a similar way that a noun does. However, a clause is a structure; it cannot be Noun.  See Function vs. Category.

 

 

 

 

That–Clause + Verb + Modifier/Noun

Packaging information into the subject position

 

 

 

Verbs that allow a content clause as subject

THAT+CLAUSE  — BE VERB
DESCRIBE—DESCRIPTIVE "BE"

THAT+CLAUSE  — OTHER VERBS
EXPRESS REACTION

 

"Be" verb

BE VERB  

is

was

has been

had been

will be

should be

Other verbs

OTHER VERBS  

amazes

amuses

angers

disgusts

disturbs

enriches

influences

infuriates

makes us [verb]

reveals

shows

stuns

appeals [to]

indicates X  [to]

means X  [to]

astonish

bothers

deters

helps

illustrates

impresses

matters

offends

reflects

surprises

upsets

occurs

suggests X  [to]

 

 

 

 

 

That–Clause + (Be) + Modifier/Noun

Expressing a reaction to a situation

 

 

That-Clause (BE) followed by a modifier or noun

MODIFIERS AS COMPLEMENTS
ADJECTIVES / MODIFIERS

PRESENT PARTICIPLES

PAST PARTICIPLES

NOUNS AS COMPLEMENTS
NOUNS

Also see "Be"Identifying (Specifying) vs. Describing (Ascriptive) complements.

 

 

 

 

Adjectives and Participles as Complement  (descriptive)

MODIFIERS  

apparent

clear

critical

due [to]

evident

essential

important

indisputable

inevitable

obvious

remarkable

significant

striking

suggestive

undeniable

true

vital

widespread

PRESENT PARTICIPLES

alarming

compelling

compromising

concerning

disconcerting

disgusting

distressing

embarrassing

enlightening

worrying

PAST PARTICIPLES

acknowledged

appreciated

believed

found true

recognized

remembered

challenged

doubted

disputed

understood

verified

well-known

Nouns as Complements  (identifying)

NOUNS  

an accident

an advantage

a cause [of]

a concern

a coincidence

a consequence

a disappointment

an effect

a factor / a fact

the fault [of]

a failure

a measure [of]

a miracle

a pity

a problem

a reason

no reason [for]

a result [of]

a shame

a source [of]

a success

a triumph

Also see "It" as Subject Placeholder.   (It is apparent that we are losing high-level scientists.)

 

 

 

Verb + That–Clause

Packaging information into the predicate complement ("object")

 

 

 

That–Clause as Complement

NOUN PHRASE AS COMPLEMENT

Particular verbs require complements which may take the form of a noun or noun phrase.  The noun phrase, the "patient" (the person of thing that undergoes the action), is called the object.

MAIN CLAUSE OBJECT
SUBJ + PRED NP

Astronaut Glenn cited

the country's need for more young people in math and science.

This nation will regret

 

the lack of preparation.

Educators acknowledge

 

the insufficient number of students entering fields of math and science.

THAT CLAUSE AS COMPLEMENT

A verb complement¹ may also take the form of a content clause. A clause expresses information in a more complex form as it includes a subject, predicate (with tense, number or person) and additional information.

MAIN CLAUSE VERB COMPLEMENT
SUBJ + PRED SUBORD + FINITE CLAUSE

Astronaut Glenn pointed out

that the country needs more young people in math and science.

We as a nation will regret

 

that we are not well-prepared for the future.

Educators acknowledge

 

that there is an insufficient number of students entering fields of math and science.

 

 that + clause —subordinate marker + content clause [finite clause] (Huddleston 11 §4.2-5, 11 §8.3)

complement — a word, phrase or clause required by the subject and predicate to complete their meaning.  (He stated the answer.  He stated that he knew the answer.)

¹ The term "object" is reserved for a noun phrase (NP). (Huddleston 11 8.3)  See section below "Object" vs. "Verb Complement.

Also see Transitive Verbs–Direct Objects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verb + That + Clause (list)

Verbs followed by content clauses

 

 

Verbs that take a content clause as complement  (partial list)

admit  He admits that he was wrong.

agree He agreed that we should leave early.

announce He announced that he would resign.

believe He believed that everyone was good..

confess He confessed that he made the error.

conclude He concluded that someone had lied.

decide He decided that we would leave early.

declare He declared that he had under-paid his taxes.

deny He denied that we had done it.

dictate The law dictated that everyone had to pay taxes .

emphasize He  that he had thought of it first.

exclaim He exclaimed that he had won the lottery (prize).

explain He explained that he had made the right decision.

find out He found out that she was already married.

forget He forgot that he had already told us the story.

hope He hoped that he could overcome his problems.

inform He informed us that we would be next.

insist He insisted that we go with him to the event.

know He knew that he would arrive late to the meeting.

mention He mentioned that he had seen her a week ago.

point out He pointed out that we had to fix the problem first.

realize  He realized that he had made an error of judgment.

recall He recalled that he had met me.

regret He regretted that he could not attend.

remark He that the movie was very good.

remember He remembered that he had forgotten to lock up.

respond He responded that he would like to come to dinner.

say He said that he didn't like being the last to arrive.

think He thinks that no one else can do the job better.

understand He understood why we had to leave.

verify He verified that he had received the check..

worry He worried that we would misunderstand the note.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Object" vs. "Predicate Complement"

Arguments for separating terms

 

 

 

Properties of an Object vs. a Predicate Complement

AN OBJECT

The following are arguments for reserving the term (a function) object for a noun phrase: (1) the object is positioned after the verb or verb and indirect object, (2) particular verbs allow (license/take) a noun phrase, (3) the meaning of a verb may differ when placed before a noun phrase or a clause.

OBJECT POSITION AFTER THE VERB / VERB + IO

He emailed his answer quickly.

He emailed quickly his answer.

He emailed his answer to us.

He emailed us his answer.  (verb + indirect obj.)

*He emailed to us his answer.

PARTICULAR VERBS ALLOW A NOUN PHRASE

*He complained his work.  (He complained about his work to us.)

He thanked us for asking.

VERB MEANING MAY DIFFER BEFORE A NOUN PHRASE

He decided on a color.  (determined his preference)

He observed the procedure.  (watched)

He answered the door (opened it) / the phone.  (picked it up) / the question. (gave the correct response)

He explained his absence. (give reason)

A VERB COMPLEMENT

The following are arguments for using the term (a function) predicate complement for a clause: (1) the clause is positioned after the verb and it complements, (2) particular verbs allow (license) a clause, (3) the meaning of a verb may differ when placed before a content clause or a noun phrase.

CLAUSE POSITION AFTER PRED COMPLEMENTS

*He emailed that he had other more urgent things to do quickly.

*He emailed quickly that he had other more urgent things to do.

*He emailed that he had other more urgent things to do to us.

He emailed us that he had other more urgent things to do.

He emailed to us that he had other more urgent things to do.

PARTICULAR VERBS ALLOW A THAT + CLAUSE

He complained that he had a lot of work to do.

*He thanked that we asked him.

VERB MEANING MAY DIFFER BEFORE A CLAUSE

He decided that we should share the winnings. (settled a dispute)

He observed that the procedure was successful.  (remarked, stated)

He answered that he would come later.  (responded, stated)

He explained how to disappear. (describe in detail, elaborate)

 

"There are a considerable number of verbs taking content clause complements that cannot be replaced by either NPs or PPs without a change in the meaning of the verb—verbs such as understand, explain, object,…conclude, contend, observed, reason, reflect, reply, and so on. The dictionary entries for verbs must specify directly whether (and with what sense)  they take content clauses as complements… ." (Huddleston et al. 1022)

 

 

 

 

That Clause

Agreement

 

 

Clause agreement — singular vs. plural

SINGULAR

A clause subordinated by that is singular in agreement in agreement with the verb.

That our youth needs education is / was his message.  

That politicians tell you what you want to hear  is not news.
 

PLURAL

Two (or more) that-clauses coordinated by and are plural in agreement with the verb.

That our youth needs education and  that teachers need training are/ were his messages. 

That the politicians tell lies and that people are beginning to believe them are news. 

 

As a noun youth is both a count noun (Some youths were responsible for the graffiti.) and a noncount [collective] noun (Our country's youth needs better education.) 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

That he is losing his hair is too bad.   (not used)

That he building a spacecraft is remarkable.   (incomplete verb in the clause)

 

SOLUTION

That he is losing his hair is frustrating / upsetting.
It is too bad that he is losing his hair.

Use an adjective such as unfortunate rather than an expression.  (See list above.)

That he is building a spacecraft is remarkable. 
Include the auxiliary verb in the subject clause.

Building a spacecraft is remarkable.
Or use a gerund clause as the subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Descriptions

 

 

Traditional and Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL & ESL DESCRIPTION

In traditional grammar, "a that-class is used as a subject."  The clause is likened to a noun (nominal), in that a noun clause can take the place of a noun phrase.

That-clause used as a Subject   

It is possible for that-clauses to be used as the subject of a sentence, as in (e). The word that is not omitted when the that-clause is used as the subject.  More often, a that-clause in the subject position begins with the fact that, as in (f), or is introduced by it is a fact that, as in (g).

    (e) That Ann likes her new job is clear.
    (f)  The fact (that) Ann likes her new job is clear.
   (g) It is a fact (that) Anne likes her new job.     —  Azar 12-5 (e)–(g)

 

A that-clause can be the subject of a sentence.

     — That she should forget me so quickly was rather a shock.

A that-clause can be a complement after be.

     — The main thing is that your are happy.  — Swan 583

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

In linguistic description, a content clause may function as the subject of a clause; that is, "some verbs may license a content clause as subject."

In linguistic analysis, a clause subordinated by that can function in many cases like a noun phrase; however, a sufficient number of differences exist to separate or reclassify that + a clause as a subordinated content clause, not as a 'noun clause' or 'nominal clause'.  (11 §8.3)

"The prototypical subject is an NP ; all verbs (and VPs) allow an NP as subject, but some [verbs] license a content clause as well" (Huddleston 11 §4.1)

  • Their lack of manners doesn't concern us. [NP as subject]
  • That they have not manners doesn't concern us.  [content clause as subject]

Properties:  Unlike an NP subject, a content clause subject, does not undergo subject-predicate inversion. Subject-verb agreement holds between the verb and the initial element, a single clause, or a coordination of clauses (plural).

  • That she rewrote the contract is my objection.
  • That she rewrote the contract and that she failed to advise us of the changes are my objections. (Huddleston 11 §4.1)

 

Clause types: relative, comparative, and content clauses

  • I couldn't find the book that I wanted. [relative]
  • He gave me more copies than I wanted. [comparative]
  • You know that I wanted it. [content]

(Huddleston 11 §2)

 

 

Word Categories: N – Noun; V – Verb; Aux – Auxiliary; Adj – Adjective; Adv – Adverb; P –Preposition; Det –Determiner.

Phrasal Categories: NP – Noun Phrase; VP – Verb Phrase; AdjP – Adjective Phrase; AdvP – Adverb Phrase; PP – Prepositional Phrase; DP – Determinative Phrase.

Clausal Categories: Cls – clause; F – finite clause; NF – nonfinite clause (Ger – gerund; Inf – infinitive; PPart – past participle).

Word Functions: Subj – subject; Pred – predicate/predicator; Compcomplement: elements required by an expression to complete its meaning (DO – direct object; IO – indirect object);  Adjunctadjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning (Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator); Suplsupplement: a clause or phrase added onto a clause that is not closely related to the central thought or structure of the main clause.

 

 

References

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Biber, Douglas, and Stig Johansson, et al. Longman Grammar Of Spoken And Written English. Pearson Education, 1999.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Losing Hair

balding guy
 

 

Change the wording so that a clause subordinated by that is the subject of the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check"  or "Check 1-5" button. 

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Hair Extensions

hair extensions
 

 

Rewrite the sentence so that it begins with "that".

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check"  or "Check 6-10" button. 

 

6.
REWRITE:  Some women wear hair extensions. It's not surprising.


7.
REWRITE: Long hair is fashionable. It is the reason.


8.
REWRITE: Hair extensions damage hair.  It is unfortunate.


9.
REWRITE: The price of hair extensions is rising. This doesn't surprise me.


10.
REWRITE: Fashion constantly changes. This is certain.