I sometimes use common phrases that I'd rather spruce up with a single word or more direct phrase, or perhaps just by using fresher wording. One phrase I'd like to change is: "was the fact that."

My sentence is: "Mentioned in the article was the fact that international waters are so vast it would be impossible to use navies to protect the area [from piracy]."

closed as unclear what you're asking by FumbleFingers, Bradd Szonye, Kristina Lopez, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, choster Nov 10 '13 at 17:48

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    The first problem is that was the fact that is not a phrase. It's just a string of words that includes parts of several constituents and occurs when they occur together. There's a clause introduced by that, and there's a predicate noun phrase the fact accompanied by a past tense auxiliary verb was, but no subject -- although it's predictable that the subject would be an extraposed dummy it. So there's a whole lot of syntax involved in generating this string of words, but it's not a syntactic constituent itself. – John Lawler Nov 8 '13 at 17:54
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    What you may be asking about is the difference between the factive NP complement construction the fact that S versus a straightforward S. Compare He denies the fact that the Earth is spherical with He denies that the Earth is spherical, and then change spherical to flat. A Factive construction is one that presupposes its complement, like He was not aware that she was present, which entails she was present, versus He did not think that she was present, which entails nothing about her presence. – John Lawler Nov 8 '13 at 17:59
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    I'm sorry, but you seemed to not understand my question. Thank you for the try, though. – Elaine Jan 7 '14 at 21:37
  • You're welcome. But nobody else seems to have understood it either, it appears. – John Lawler Jan 7 '14 at 21:42
  • Daniel Harbour seemed to have understood it. – Elaine Jan 7 '14 at 21:46

I share your reluctance to use the fact that, as I generally find that its near redundancy can be made totally redundant with some gentle rephrasing. In this case, how about just avoiding the passive:

The article mentioned that the international waters are so vast that it would be impossible to use navies to protect the area.

Alternatively, maintaining the passive, you could use a nominalization instead of a subordinate clause:

Mentioned in the article was the impossibility of using navies to protect the area, as the international waters are so vast.

Or a more succinct version of the same structure, eschewing the as clause:

Mentioned in the article was the impossibility of using navies to protect so vast an expanse of international waters.

  • Thank you, Mr. Harbour, I appreciate your answer. I should have rephrased my sentence. Your first example fits my style, typically, and, inadvertently perhaps, answers my question in part. I should have defined "fact" more precisely. I see how by using a more accurate word I would have been clearer in my statement and would have avoided "the fact that." Nevertheless, I am still wondering if there were a single word which could replace that phrase, in general, or if in avoiding it, I need to more clearly identify whatever "fact" replaced, as you did with the word "impossibility"? – Elaine Jan 7 '14 at 22:55

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