Zero vs. "that" relatives

Mark Davies Mark_Davies at BYU.EDU
Mon Dec 29 15:10:59 UTC 2008

I know I'm coming into this a few days late, but ...

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

Data from the 100 million word TIME Corpus (, comparing:

[nn*] that he/she [p*] [v*]             +that   e.g. '(the) car that he/she bought'
[nn*] he/she [v*]                       -that   e.g. '(the) car that he/she bought'

You can see a sustained decrease in the use of "that" (vs. zero) with relative clauses during the past 40 years (see It looks like the use of 'that' in relatives has decreased about 50% during this time.


Mark Davies

Mark Davies
Professor of (Corpus) Linguistics
Brigham Young University
(phone) 801-422-9168 / (fax) 801-422-0906

** Corpus design and use // Linguistic databases **
** Historical linguistics // Language variation **
** English, Spanish, and Portuguese **

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