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when can we remove 'that'? I've heard different opinions

I bought the book that is required for this course
I bought the book required for this course

I recommend that you take my advice
I recommend you take my advice

I know that you are correct
I know you are correct

the report that was approved by the board was written by Susan
the report approved by the board was written by Susan

We are studying advertisement strategies that other companies use to recruit minorities
We are studying advertisement strategies used by other companies to recruit minorities

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marked as duplicate by tchrist, MrHen, Hellion, phenry, Matt Эллен Jan 22 at 12:03

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yes, thanks Susan. I made a typo in the 4th pair. What is the rule with keeping/removing 'that'? I heard that we should keep 'that' with thinking verbs like 'believe,' 'know,' 'realise' - true? –  Student Dec 24 '13 at 7:28
    

2 Answers 2

If you want to know when you can omit that it is essential that you first understand the different functions of the word. In your examples, the that in the following sentences introduces an object clause:

I recommend that you take my advice.

I know that you are correct.

Similar examples are:

I hope that you have a happy Christmas.

I understand that you meant well.

In your other sentences the that introduces a relative clause (and could be replaced by 'which' in each case). Your examples:

I bought the book that (which) is required for this course.

The report that (which) was approved by the board was written by Susan.

We are studying advertisement strategies that (which) other companies use to recruit minorities.

Having clarified this fundamental difference in the function of that, we can now address the question of when that can be omitted. In the case of that introducing an object clause, in most cases it can be omitted - as it can be in your two example sentences. Note, however, that we do not usually omit that after intransitive verbs:

?He emailed he had sent the money.

?She whispered she was not feeling very well.

We also do not usually omit that after nouns:

?I don't believe his claim he was sick.

?Do you agree with the view what he did was wrong.

Turning to the second function of that (introducing a relative clause), whether it can be omitted depends on whether that is the subject or object of the clause. If it is the subject it cannot be omitted (but see below for passive constructions). If it is the object, it can.

Subject: Philatelists are people that collect stamps.

Object: Show me the stamps (that) you bought last week.

Object: We are studying advertisement strategies (that) other companies use to recruit minorities.

Finally, note that in your other two relative clause sentences, you cannot omit just the that but must also omit the finite verb:

I bought the book (that is) required for this course.

The report (that was) approved by the board was written by Susan.

What we have here is a passive construction which permits such elision.

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I prefer your answer, Shoe, but feel [that] there's enough non-overlap to leave mine too. –  Edwin Ashworth Dec 24 '13 at 8:20
    
How about this then; Is this an object clause (so omit that)? Is told an intransitive verb (so keep that)? I was told that you are an experienced accountant –  Student Dec 24 '13 at 10:11
    
This is my take, can you guys verify this: OMIT THAT - when there is 2 entities e.g. "I" was told "you" are an experienced accountant. "I" just knew "it" was something I wanted to do. "I" realised "you" were right all along" KEEP THAT when there is ONE entity (same person): "I" realised that "I" was right all along "he" emailed that "he" had sent the money –  Student Dec 24 '13 at 10:38
    
Last one: The attorney believed that her client was guilty –  Student Dec 24 '13 at 10:49
    
@Student. Tell is a transitive verb, hence it is permissible to omit that: I was told (that) you are an experienced accountant. The omission of that has nothing to do with the subject of the that-clause, as you hypothesise. It has to do with the transitivity of the verb (in its context). Realize is a transitive verb so both I realised I was right all along and I realised that I was right all along are permissible. Want and believe are also transitive, whereas email in its context here is intransitive. –  Shoe Dec 24 '13 at 11:06

Notice that you give different types of construction in your examples.

In the book that is required etc that is a relative pronoun (= French lequel).

In recommend that you take etc that is a subordinator (= French que).

Wikipedia comments:

Because of the omission of function words, the use of reduced relative clauses, particularly when nested, can give rise to sentences which, while theoretically correct grammatically, are not readily parsed by listeners.

. . . Reduced relative clauses often give rise to ambiguity or garden path effects, and have been a common topic of psycholinguistic study, especially in the field of sentence processing.

............ Examples of dodgy omissions are:

The horse raced past the barn fell down.

(relative pronoun and form of be omitted - whiz deletion)

I know those gentlemen with the very large noses like carrots.

(subordinator omitted)

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Perhaps" the horse raced past the "fallen" barn. –  Student Dec 24 '13 at 10:45

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