Skipping subordinating conjunctions: "imply it is so" vs. "imply that it is so"

kinokonoronin

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I'm curious about usages of the word "that" as a conjunction, if its usage is ever mandatory, or if subordinate clauses can stand without its presence. I'm interested in correctness, relative formality, and usage tradeoffs--if applicable.

Say that I use it.
Or say I don't.

Imply that it's mandatory.
Or imply there are times it can be skipped.

I pray that your collective knowledge will demystify this for me.
I pray my examples aren't irritating you.

Context: doing some editing and as a word count butcher I'm always looking for something new to slice away. It strikes me that some constructions still feel natural without the conjunction to bridge the relationship between clauses, but other times lines seem hard to parse without it. What gives?
 

Maryn

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My understanding is that when your sentence parses without it, that can be omitted. I’m not real sure it’s a conjunction, but hey, half a bottle of wine clouds things a bit
 

kinokonoronin

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I’m not real sure it’s a conjunction
Me either. I went with how they labeled the closest usages on Google's dictionary results. Not sure if that's to be trusted, or if I selected correctly from amongst the options. I'm grasping at straws because I have little formal grammar/syntax knowledge.

I tried to figure it out for awhile before I realized that I was taking forever writing my question and were anyone to know any better I'd be helpfully corrected.
 

Sage

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Some people hate “that” (so much that they’ll incorrectly use “which” where a “that” is needed), but sometimes it’s so much better for the flow of a sentence to use it.

Not a conjunction, but I’m pro-“that.” Still, I’ll remove them if the sentence flows okay without it.
 

kinokonoronin

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OMG, "that" is such a fascinating word. From its wikipedia page:
Owing to its wide versatility in usage, the writer Joseph Addison named it "that jacksprat" in 1771, and gave this example of a grammatically correct sentence: "That that I say is this: that that that that gentleman has advanced, is not that, that he should have proved."

Also, its omission in usages analogous to those in my question seems to have been studied somewhat. I don't have full access, but just reading the first page teaser is interesting.

I think for my purposes, I can probably just go by feel though. It seems the mechanics of the word "that" are too complex and esoteric for me at the moment.
 
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lizmonster

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And yet another vote for cutting 'that' when it's not adding anything to the sentence. I find, more often than not, sentences sounds better without 'that'.

“That“ is my Word - the one thst haunts me, and appears edit after edit no matter how many times I try to comb it out.

Like Sage said, sometimes it’s good for rhythm. But wow I overuse it.
 

neandermagnon

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I tend to omit "that" in the following circumstances:

1. if the sentence meaning is identical with or without it
2. if it suits the voice or style better not to have it

While there are many examples where a sentence has an identical meaning with or without the that, it's certainly not always the case. And sometimes the difference in meaning and/or voice is subtle.
 

ironmikezero

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I agree that is not a conjunction. Depending on context, it could act as an adjective, noun, expletive, etc.
As Brigid Barry noted it is indeed rife in formal and legal writing. Maryn's observation of sentence parsing without it provides one a tool to test that's effect on the sentence in question. Generally speaking, such use is not necessarily a grammatical error, but rather leaning toward being an element of style within the parameters of context.
IMHO, if you see/hear it in your head before it appears on the page, it belongs--if not, it doesn't. Try not to overthink it.
 

Sage

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I’m not sure this applies to the OP’s question.

ETA: okay, after digging in (because much of the search is unrelated), it looks like “5.247 Types of cleft sentences” probably relates, but requires a subscription to check out.

Because “that” is such a useful word, including being in the title of many unrelated sections, it’s not a particularly helpful word to search for

ETAA: cross-posted during the edit
 
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Sully317

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This might be a case where the definition is useful (from Webster):

conjunction: that
introducing a subordinate clause expressing a statement or hypothesis. "she said that she was satisfied"
expressing a reason or cause. "he seemed pleased that I wanted to continue"
expressing a result. "she was so tired that she couldn't think"
expressing a purpose, hope, or intention. "we pray that the coming year may be a year of peace"

It's interesting that all of these examples read fine without that, but this sentence reads awkwardly without the first occurrence. Maybe because the examples are grammatically simple and the previous sentence is not?

I struggled with this and concluded that skipping that is shorthand and informal, which is fine. I've gone from erroring on the side of taking it out to erroring on the side of leaving it in.

My two cents.
 
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ElaineB

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Here’s a fun throwback the young’uns might not know of—from Fowler’s, considered a bible by many (The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage to be exact):

Omitted as relative pronoun [solves that mystery!]. One of the most capricious features of the language is the way in which some seemingly necessary elements may be omitted without loss of meaning or dislocation of syntax. From the 13c. [I take that to be 13th century] onward the relative that has been omissible in a variety of circumstances. Modern examples: It reminded him of the Exhibition ^ he as going back to—P. Fitzgerald, 1977; and that lipstick ^ she used to put on—H. Mantel, 1985; it was your geography ^ caused the doubt—T. Stoppard, 1993. For further discussion of this phenomenon and additional examples, see CONTACT CLAUSES and OMISSION OF RELATIVES.
(I have a few relatives ^ I’d like to omit.)

And the perhaps not-so-modern examples in this case are because my Fowler’s is from 1996. It’s one of those must-have references that was never updated but still relied upon. Though I see it’s now Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2015.
 
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pdblake

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I just read an example a necessary that in The Elements of Style yesterday. I don't have it offhand but I recall the example going something like this:

He felt that his sunburned nose was an embarrassment.

In this case 'that' clarifies feeling embarrassed rather than feeling his nose.
I feel, so long as the sentence make sense to the reader without it, then 'that' can be cut. Even in this case where it's used for clarification, it's clearly in third person (given no other context to go on), so it's the POV character who is doing the feeling and it could be cut to: His sunburned nose was an embarrassment.
 
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Sage

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I feel, so long as the sentence make sense to the reader without it, then 'that' can be cut. Even in this case where it's used for clarification, it's clearly in third person (given no other context to go on), so it's the POV character who is doing the feeling and it could be cut to: His sunburned nose was an embarrassment.
Sure, but filtering is not the subject of the thread, and the example isn’t meant to be the perfect example of how to express a character’s embarrassment over their sunburnt nose. It’s an example of where using “that” vs not using “that” can change the way the sentence is read.

Every example ever given in a grammar thread could be rewritten to avoid the problem (or a different problem) altogether. I could point out that the “fix” given here is passive voice and why that’s a problem, but neither filtering nor passive voice is the point of the thread, so it’s irrelevant.
 

pdblake

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Sure, but filtering is not the subject of the thread, and the example isn’t meant to be the perfect example of how to express a character’s embarrassment over their sunburnt nose. It’s an example of where using “that” vs not using “that” can change the way the sentence is read.

Every example ever given in a grammar thread could be rewritten to avoid the problem (or a different problem) altogether. I could point out that the “fix” given here is passive voice and why that’s a problem, but neither filtering nor passive voice is the point of the thread, so it’s irrelevant.
Fair enough and good point.

I'll stick to "I feel, so long as the sentence make sense to the reader without it, then 'that' can be cut."

ETA: Apologies for going off track.
 
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CandyFloss

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Interesting discussion as I am an English teacher who also overuses "that"!

I'll just add (that) in some instances it is used as a relative pronoun and can definitely be omitted.

e.g. The man (that) I saw yesterday.
The book (that) I was reading.

However, I often use the rhythm of the sentence to make the decision, ie does my sentence need an extra 'beat'?
 

Maryn

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Every seasoned writer knows there are times when the inclusion of unnecessary words is desirable. It can be part of style and voice, appropriate for the narrator or the person who says the dialogue, and a bazillion other reasons.

Maryn, sea salt and cracked pepper
 

Sage

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Every seasoned writer knows there are times when the inclusion of unnecessary words is desirable. It can be part of style and voice, appropriate for the narrator or the person who says the dialogue, and a bazillion other reasons.

Maryn, sea salt and cracked pepper
This was a hard lesson for me to learn after I first learned to tighten my prose. In one book, I went overboard, losing the voice in service of making the writing as tight as possible. Now, every word is considered carefully with both voice and tightening in mind.