Is the structure 'was that' + independent clause correct?
The major difference about these two groups was that they were composed entirely of young children
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You seem to be misunderstanding the makeup of the sentence. It is not made up of
[subject] [was that] [independent clause]
Rather, it is:
[subject] [copula] [dependent clause]
In other words, was that is not a constituent that belongs together. The verb ‘to be’ is a copula (also known as a ‘linking verb’) that basically functions like an equals sign: it links a subject and its predicate (also known as ‘subject complement’ or a ‘predicative complement’), stating that one equals the other. So the following two are basically the same:
[subject] [copula] [predicate] [subject] = [predicate]
subject and the
predicate above must be of a nominal type. That is, they must either be a noun phrase (such as “the major distinguishing feature of these two groups”) or a dependent noun clause (i.e., a dependent clause that can function as a noun). One type of dependent noun clause is the subordinate clause introduced by the conjunction ‘that’.
In your example, then, the
subject is the major distinguishing feature of these two groups, a simple noun phrase; the
copula is was, and the
predicate is the dependent noun clause that they were composed entirely of young children.
Your sentence is fine as is, but you've misunderstood the constructions that are involved.
Your sentence is in the form of a copular clause. What you have here is "Subject - Verb - Predicative Complement", and the predicative complement (PC) is a content clause, and the word "that" is a content clause subordinator. This is a way you can parse your sentence:
This subordinator "that" has no semantic meaning; rather, it is a marker that identifies the beginning of a content clause. (Note: This "that" is not a relative pronoun nor relative word.)
First of all .. The major difference BETWEEN these, not ABOUT these.
"That" in your sentence is the object of the verb "WAS"
"That" is also acting as a relative pronoun to join the two clauses. The major difference between the groups (dependent ) They were composed entirely of young children(independent)