Can you use the phrase ”the fact” without “that”?

Consider the two sentences:

  1. The fact that it’s Sunday means that I can sleep all day.
  2. The fact it’s Sunday means that I can sleep all day.

Clearly the first sentence is correct and in common use. The second doesn’t sound right to me, but I can’t find clear evidence to prove (to someone) that it is indeed wrong.

Apart from answering, I would really like a reference, or an English rule, showing that the second is correct/incorrect.

closed as off-topic by user49727, MrHen, MetaEd, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, Kris Oct 9 '13 at 6:48

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  • The issue of dropping that is already in the GR domain. There's nothing special about the fact that, which is just another example. That said, the fact that is an idiomatic phrase. – Kris Oct 9 '13 at 6:48
  • 1
    It was problematic when I was reading books. However, the explanation makes the case better now. the fact that is used when talking about a situation and saying that it is true e.g. Our decision to build the museum in Hartlepool was influenced by the fact that there were no national museums in the North East. – itsnotmyrealname Jul 7 '18 at 10:42

Collins Cobuild English Usage (p238) has this entry on the expression the fact that:

You can refer to a whole situation by using a clause beginning with the fact that.

  • The fact that quick results are unlikely is no excuse for delay.

Note that you must use that in clauses like these. You don't say, for example, 'The fact quick results are unlikely is no excuse for delay.'

Nevertheless, I suspect native speakers will commonly omit the that in informal spoken language - as I have in the preceding clause.

  • 2
    Interestingly, other instances of that are commonly omitted in both formal and informal speech without controversy. the fact that seems to be an idiomatic expression where that is never elided, even in informal speech. – ithisa Oct 8 '13 at 19:50

It can be omitted in informal speech, but it's usually present in writing.

  • 1
    Barrie's answer is spot on, and I would add that there are MANY synonyms that I would use in place of "The fact [missing that]" before trying to worry if there's a rule one way or the other. E.g. "since", "seeing as", "because". – THEAO Oct 8 '13 at 15:21

Step by step :

1- "The fact (is) that it is Sunday means ..." Very heavy, but correct : one subject, one verb, two separate propositions.

2- "The fact it is Sunday means ..." Two uncorrelated subjects, with a verb in singular ; incorrect then.

In fact "that" is omitted in familiar speech ; "invisible but present" said Racine in his"Phèdre".


Concerning the second part of your question, all that a reference grammar (or style manual) will do is confirm that experienced users and writers of English do what Barrie England said in his answer, namely, tend to include that in formal contexts and permit its omission in less formal ones. Insofar as there is a rule here, you might say that noun that takes a that-phrase complement may optionally omit that in less formal registers. E.g.:

  • Who’d buy the story (that) you were here on time?
  • Who’d buy the rumour (that) you were here on time?

This generalization correctly entails that words generally confined to higher registers are less felicitous without that than those just given. E.g.:

  • ? Who believed the testimony you were at the scene of the crime?
  • ? Who believed the assertion you were at the scene of the crime?

The fact that is a common construction that has gained some uses outside its original one;
it's now also widely used as a hesitation particle before a tensed clause.

I.e, instead of saying
- He was told that the meeting is Wednesday.
one says
- He was told the fact that the meeting is Wednesday.

But this does change the meaning,
since the NP Complement -- the that-clause following a picture noun --
of fact is Presupposed, not merely asserted.

(That means the speaker takes responsibility for the truth of the that-clause,
and expects all listeners and readers to assume it also, without question.)

As to whether that can be deleted, normally it's necessary to mark the clause as an NP complement, which is not a terribly common construction, and therefore might not be obvious.

  • the report/story/rumor/claim/belief/fact that Congress has passed the Antarctica Bill
  • *the report Congress has passed the Antarctica Bill
  • *the story Congress has passed the Antarctica Bill
  • *?the rumor Congress has passed the Antarctica Bill
  • *?the claim Congress has passed the Antarctica Bill
  • *the belief Congress has passed the Antarctica Bill
  • *the fact Congress has passed the Antarctica Bill

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