Friday, August 22, 2014

Helps for Better Writing (Part 11 of 11)

Can you explain clauses or phrases that begin with that?

We call them noun clauses, which is a group of words that function as a noun in a sentence or phrase. The clause contains a subject and a verb, but it's not a complete statement. (Or as the grammarians like to say, it's a subordinate clause.) Therefore, it has to be connected to an independent clause (main clause). The noun clause usually appears after the main verb of the sentence.

The most common noun clauses begin with that. Others are how, what, whatever, when, where, which, who, whoever, and why

Here are examples of noun clauses using that.

1. I thought that the test was simple. The noun clause is the object of the verb thought. Ask yourself, Thought what?

2. He proved that he was strong. (The noun clause answers the question, "Proved what?")

3. Sometimes we omit that, but it's implied: He heard (that) she might visit.


  1. Cec,
    Your tips are always so helpful, but I must admit, "that" is vexing to me. I know many times it's a useless word that can be eliminated, but how do we know for sure. Obviously, if I take it out and the sentence no longer makes sense, it's necessary, but in examples like you used above, it could also be eliminated without changing the meaning. "I thought the test was simple" reads fine. "He proved he was strong," is also ok. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  2. I agree with Lori. I find myself eliminating "that" to make my writing tighter.


What are your thoughts?