zero vs. "that" relatives

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Dec 25 16:39:41 UTC 2008

a very small point, about the following quote from a Christmas shopper
interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition this morning (12/25/08):

   "With the market and everything being the way that it is ..."

i found the "that" a bit jarring, and would have preferred a zero

   "With the market and everything being the way it is ..."

a google search (with dupes removed) pulled up:

   {"being the way that it is"}  270 hits
   {"being the way it is"}  845 hits

so the zero variant has it over the "that" variant by a bit more than
3 to 1, though the numbers for the "that" variant aren't shabby.

MWDEU under "contact clauses": "Since contact clauses did not exist in
Latin, the 18th-century grammarians looked at them askance. Lindley
Murray 1795 termed the construction “omitting the relative” and stated
that “in all writings of a serious and dignified kind, it ought to be
omitted.” Jespersen quotes Samuel Johnson as calling the omission of
the relative pronoun “a colloquial barbarism” (and also notes that
examples can be found in Johnson’s letters)."

in contrast, more modern handbooks sometimes suggest that relativizer
"that" should be omitted where possible (Omit Needless Words).


The American Dialect Society -

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