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My instinct is that when it means "to have as an inescapable consequence", entail must be followed by a noun. In all the grammatical examples I have come across this is how it is used — without it being specifically remarked upon. For example:

  • This responsibility entails hard work.
  • The new job entails regular travel.
  • Motherhood entails sacrifice.

But some people use it in sentences like

  • When I blush it does not entail that I am embarrassed.
  • My lisp does not entail that I cannot be a good singer.
  • I am old, but that does not entail that I am also hard of hearing.

Is the usage "... entail that..." grammatically correct?

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4 Answers

It's not "entail that" per se, but it is a grammatically correct construct.

"That I am a bad singer" is a kind of declarative content clause, also conveniently called a that-clause. These clauses can be used as direct objects for a number of verbs, and entail happens to be one of them. Blocking out the sentence structure as [Subject] [Verb] [Object], we have:

[My lisp] [does not entail] [that I am a bad singer]

In this structure, that can usually be omitted:

My lisp does not entail I am a bad singer.

Personally I wouldn't (and this example looks odder than most), but I do tend to keep words others would elide out.

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Thanks for "elide"! I just learned a new word. –  Daniel Jul 5 '11 at 13:19
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It is definitely correct to say "...entail that...", whether or not it is a "that which".

My lisp does not entail bad singing.

My lisp does not entail that I cannot be a good singer.

My lisp does not entail that which means I cannot be a good singer.

All are correct, although the third is unnecessarily tedious.

Since entail means to have as an inescapable consequence, you can replace entail with that definition in all of the above sentences.

My lisp does not have bad singing as an inescapable consequence.

My lisp does not have as an inescapable consequence that I cannot be a good singer.

My lisp does not have that which means I cannot be a good singer as an inescapable consequence.

Disclaimer: I would not recommend any of the last three atrocities for actual use - they are meant for illustrative purposes only.

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"Since lisp means..." I don't think you quite meant that. –  user1579 Jul 5 '11 at 12:46
    
@Rhodri: Oh, quite. Thanks! –  Daniel Jul 5 '11 at 13:18
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Since the meaning of "entail" in this sense is "to have as a consequence," it does not have to be followed by a noun. For example:

We did not approve the work his proposal would entail.

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Isn't this a bit misleading? The subordinate verb entail does have a direct object ("the work"), the sentence structure just happens to put it beforehand. –  user1579 Jul 5 '11 at 13:14
    
This was offered to demonstrate a problem with the question as posed. –  The Raven Jul 5 '11 at 15:24
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I reckon it is correct.

Basically, in all of the examples that you provided, the noun has been substituted with a noun clause, and this means that it's still correct. The reason its still correct is because noun phrases act s nouns, and are exactly the same as nouns, except with extra modifiers for clarification.

So, "entail" followed by noun phrases are exactly like "entail" followed by nouns. There's nothing wrong.

Hope that makes sense!

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Hmmm - but such substitutions by no means always work. 'Christmas brings joy' cannot be freely exchanged for 'Christmas brings that people are happy.' Right? Whether it works here is a question of accepted syntax. But you feel it does - thank you for your input. –  Glorious Munday Jul 5 '11 at 10:43
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I think nouns can be substituted with noun phrases quite easily e.g. Your example "Christmas brings joy" substituted with "Christmas brings that which make people happy". is perfectly correct. They still mean the same. The reason that noun phrases are used to replace nouns is to provide more detail, as well as explanation. –  Thursagen Jul 5 '11 at 10:46
    
You're both right. Noun phrases are substitutible for each other, but some verbs subcategorise for embedded clauses, some do so optionally, and others do not permit them. –  Colin Fine Jul 5 '11 at 13:16
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-1. The second group of examples doesn't have "noun phrases" but subordinate clauses. The subordinate clauses are also correct, but the reason for their correctness has nothing to do with nouns vs. noun phrases. –  JSBձոգչ Jul 5 '11 at 13:28
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