"that" ~ zero

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sat Jan 3 16:41:54 UTC 2009

this time in complements rather than relatives.

Jan Freeman's latest "The Word" column is "The language dustbin: Some
advice doesn't age well"

on usage complaints from the 19th and early 20th century that are now
outdated (though several of the cases she cites are still deplored by
some people these days).  now, when you write about usage advice,
readers almost always take it as an invitation to unload their pet
peeves in public.  so it was in this case.

commenter "HughMann" had among his gripes:

   I know he is a good man ... No, I know that he is a good man ....

as i noted in an earlier posting on ""that" omission" in relatives,
the advice literature also treats "that" omission in complements -- as
far as i can tell, only to caution against omission where a temporary
ambiguity could result (because the subject of the complement clause
might be interpreted as the object of complement-taking verb).  (in
actual practice, "that" is very often omitted even in the face of such
a temporary potential ambiguity; the intended reading is clear from
context, real-world plausibility, discourse structure, etc.)

but the example above is a case where no such temporary ambiguity is
possible.  it looks like the commenter believes that "that" omission
is *never* acceptable -- a preposterous proscription i've never
encountered before.  maybe it's one of those invented usage edicts
that Jan Freeman talked about in her previous column:


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list