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'The fact that' versus just 'That'

I want to write something similar to "This reflects the fact that his family is very supportive." There is this notion that "the fact" is redundant and so I thought maybe I could write, "This reflects that his family is very supportive." It sounds wrong to me. I think it is because his family being supportive is a verb whereas something must reflect something else (an object, a noun). So, "the fact", though redundant in a sense, is necessary in terms of structure. Any inputs?

Thanks.

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, MετάEd, RegDwigнt Oct 2 '12 at 22:43

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Having said that, you might want to reflect on what exactly it means to say [some observation] reflects [some fact]. In my experience, this particular phrasing is normally only used in contexts where implicitly or explicitly it means merely reflects (i.e. - an observation is easily explained by an already-known fact, and is thus trivial). If you don't want to trivialise the observation, I think it's more normal to simply say this is because of [some explanatory fact]. –  FumbleFingers Oct 2 '12 at 3:28

3 Answers 3

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No, 'the fact', is not redundant.

After all, 'the fact that' does serve an important purpose. The truth is, owing indiscriminate use this phrase has acquired a notoriety, so much so we now tend to actually read through it as if it is a mere filler.

This reflects the fact that his family is very supportive.

only references to the 'fact' and not to the actual subject 'his family is...'. The difference may be subtle. In other words, the writer is not especially concerned with what the fact itself is here, but its existence, and its confirmation by another supporting entity.

Consider a situation where the author has discussed some issues that throw up a question as to whether the family was supportive. He follows up with other statements that strongly suggest that the family indeed was.

He is now presenting no new information such as that the family is supportive. Rather, he is showing how the foregoing goes to establish a certain fact.

Remember, though, that most writers may not bother to see this difference and use the phrase the fact that carefully.

As for grammar, I'm afraid your contention that it is necessary in terms of structure is unfounded. The sentence is grammatical and makes sense either way.

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There are a host of words that can replace "reflects the fact that", which is both verbose and, as FumbleFingers said, may be trivializing.

"This

  1. shows
  2. means
  3. indicates
  4. suggests
  5. confirms
  6. verifies
  7. tells us
  8. is because [without the following that]
  9. etc.

that his family is very supportive."

The phrase "the fact" is unnecessary here.

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The verb "reflect" here is transitive, and therefore requires an object. That's why "this reflects that" sounds wrong. "This reflects the supportive nature of his family" would be a better formulation.

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