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I am used to using the phrase that is a lot, for example: "I have a skill that is useful in this situation". What if I use a plural form? What is the correct sentence of the following two?

  • I have some skills that are useful in this situation.
  • I have some skills those are useful in this situation.
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Drop the word "skills" and see which sounds right. – Steven Rumbalski Apr 19 '12 at 17:11
up vote 3 down vote accepted

As others have pointed out, in your examples, it is correct to use that, and not those.

Why? The that in your sentence is being used as a pronoun to introduce a relative restrictive clause, not as a pronoun referring to skills, so it doesn't get pluralized. Here's a helpful definition:

that (pronoun) \thət, ˈthat\ —18. used to introduce a restrictive relative clause ⇒ (e.g. the book that we want)

Essentially, your sentence

I have some skills that are useful in this situation.

is saying:

My skills are useful in this situation.

However, if you add the right punctuation, then the word that could be used as a pronoun referring to the subject of the sentence:

I have a skill (debating); that (skill) is useful in this situation.

And, in this case, the plural form would be used when referring to more than one skill:

I have skills (debating, logic, and public speaking); these (skills) are useful in this situation.

Furthermore, if you are talking about someone else's skills, you could change the these to those:

She has skills (debating, logic, and public speaking); those are useful in this situation.

Hopefully, I've provided some examples that are useful for your situation.

(or, I've provided some examples; hopefully, these are useful for your situation.)

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Actually "that" is not a conjunction there. Just do the test, if it can be replaced with "which" or "who" it's obviously not a conjunction. In fact the that in "skills that are useful" is so strikingly different from the that in "he said that he was", I am amazed you haven't noticed. What's worse, the that in "that is useful" is not the same as the that in "that skill is useful", either. The former is a pronoun, the latter a determiner. – RegDwigнt Apr 19 '12 at 23:25
@RegDwightѬſ道: I appreciate the feedback; I could be mistaken. Dictionaries I consulted indicate that when the word that is used to introduce a subordinate clause, its part of speech is classified as a conjunction. It seemed this was the case in "I have skills that are useful" – I thought "are useful" was a subordinate clause, but I'm no expert at sentence parsing. At least I got the pronoun part right, though. When I typed "that (skill) is useful in this situation," the parens were meant to imply the sentence read "that is useful in this situation" and the word "that" referred to "skill." – J.R. Apr 20 '12 at 0:25
-1. This answer is very misleading. Here, "that" is absolutely not being used as a conjunction. It's a relative pronoun. But it's true that "that" is correct in this context, not "those". – user16269 Apr 22 '12 at 3:49
@DavidWallace: Thanks for the reminder that I needed to go back and fix this answer. Thanks also to RegDwight for pointing out my error initially. I think I've got it correct now. – J.R. Apr 22 '12 at 9:25
Thanks for doing that, J.R. I have removed my downvote and replaced it with an upvote. – user16269 Apr 22 '12 at 10:44

The only alternative to that in such sentences is which. That (in this context) is a relative pronoun (or a clause subordinator for some linguists), while those is a demonstrative pronoun and a demonstrative determiner.

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You left out 'here'; that can also be a demnstrative pronoun, which is presumably why the question was asked. – TimLymington Apr 19 '12 at 20:14
@TimLymington: Yes, it's not always easy to get everything into one quick answer. Not sure what you mean about 'here' though. – Barrie England Apr 19 '12 at 20:37

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