I know that "that" can function as many different parts of speech, so what part of speech is it in the phrase "the stuff that dreams are made of"?

2 Answers 2


ODO believes it to be a relative pronoun:

that pronoun (plural those)
5 (plural that) [relative pronoun] used to introduce a defining clause, especially one essential to identification:
• instead of ‘which’, ‘who’, or ‘whom’:
   the woman that owns the place
• instead of ‘when’ after an expression of time:
   the year that Anna was born


The example “instead of which, who or whom” exactly matches your sentence.

  • It's perhaps worth adding that not all linguists consider that to be a relative pronoun. Nov 14, 2013 at 7:48
  • @BarrieEngland I had hoped that the first line indicated that. I've never really understood subtlety! But I have altered it and it does mean there is scope for a different answer as well.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 14, 2013 at 7:55

"That" introduces a sentence complement to a noun, as in "the fact that we left", where the sentence "we left" is complement to "fact". When the complement is a relative clause, there is a common alternative analysis that makes "that" a relative pronoun, yet this is not right, because relative pronouns need not occur at the beginning of a relative clause. "That" in relative clauses, unlike relative pronouns, always comes at the very beginning of the clause. Compare, "the facts with which we are familiar", *"the facts with that we are familiar", "the facts that we are familiar with".

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