That–Clause

Embed a content clause within a main clause

 

 

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 Senator

John Glenn NASA

 

 

Subject—Noun Phrase vs. Content Clause

SUBJECT IS A NOUN PHRASE

A noun or noun phrase commonly functions as the subject of a clause.

INFORMATION EMPHASIS
NOUN PHRASE VERB + 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)

SUBJECT IS A THAT-CLAUSE

A that-clause, a content clause, can also function as the subject of a clause. Placing information in a that-clause allows us to isolate other content that we want to emphasize. 

INFORMATION EMPHASIS
SUBORD + CONTENT CLAUSE VERB + 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.

 

 

retire (V) – stop working usually after age 65

subordinate marker — that marks the clause as subordinate

More commonly, we place "heavier" content at the end of the clause. See It Subj Placeholder.

 

 

 

 

 

That-Clauses

Verbs that allow a content clause as subject

 

 

 

That – Clause verbs and complements 

VERBS
BE VERB

OTHER VERB

 

 

 

 

 

Verbs

BE VERB  

is

was

has been

had been

will be

should be


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]

VERB COMPLEMENTS
ADJECTIVES / MODIFIERS

NOUNS

PARTICIPLES

 

 

 

Predicate Complements

ADJECTIVES  

apparent

clear

critical

due [to]

evident

essential

obvious

remarkable

significant

undeniable

vital

worrying

disconcerting

disgusting

distressing

important

indisputable

inevitable

striking

suggestive

true

 


NOUNS  

an accident

a reason

a consequence

a problem

no reason [for]

the fault [of]

a factor / a fact

a miracle

a result [of]

a source [of]

a measure [of]

a pity


PARTICIPLES  

acknowledged

appreciated

believed

found true

recognized

remembered

challenged

doubted

disputed

understood

verified

well-known

 

 

 

 

 

That-Clause

As complement of the verb 

 

 

 

Verb Complement—Noun Phrase vs. That-Clause

COMPLEMENT IS A NOUN PHRASE

Particular verbs require complements which may take the form of a noun or noun phrase.  A noun phrase, the receiver ("patient") of the action taken, is called an object. (See direct 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.

COMPLEMENT IS A CLAUSE

A complement to a verb may also take the form of a content clause. (¹The term "object" is reserved for a noun phrase, partly because the meaning of some verbs differ when followed by a noun phrase or a content clause.)

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 §4.5, 11 §8.3)

¹ (Huddleston 11 8.3)

 

 

 

 

That-Clause

Complement clause verb list

 

 

 

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

admit

agree

announce

believe

confess

conclude

decide

declare

deny

dictate

emphasize

exclaim

explain

find out

forget

hope

inform

insist

know

mention

point out

realize

recall

regret

remark

remember

respond

say

think

understand

verify

worry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Clause

Agreement

 

 

 

Clause agreement — singular vs. plural

SINGULAR

A that-clause is singular in agreement.

That our youth needs education is / was his message.  

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

PLURAL

However if there are two that-clauses joined by and, the agreement is plural.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional and Linguistic Descriptions

 

 

 

Traditional and Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL & ESL DESCRIPTION LINGUISTIC 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.

In linguistic description, a content clause may function as the subject of a clause, or also said,  "some verbs may license a content clause as subject."

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

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)

 

"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)

 

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

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)

 

Categories "Parts of Speech": N – noun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Det – determinative; Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection

Functions: Subj – Subject; Pred – Predicate/Predicator – Pred; Comp – Complement; – an element that is required by the subject or verb to complete the meaning of the sentence such as  DO – direct object; IO – indirect object; PC – predicative complement; Nonfinite Cls nonfinite clause Inf – infinitive: Ger – gerund; Adjunct – an element not required by the verb, an optional element such as a modifier, a subordinate clause, or a supplemental clause; Supplement – clauses or phrases tacked on but not closely related the central idea of the sentence

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Losing Hair

balding guy
 

 

Change the wording to a that-clause as 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.