I am defining a "thing" with an adjective.


X is a small y.

Then I want to give a clean and simple explanation for the adjective small --because it can mean several things and I want to make it clear.

So I'd like to continue the sentence with something like:

.. small y. What "small" here means is ...

My question:

  • What is the correct way to continue with that second sentence in English?

Can I say:

  1. What "small" here means is, that, X [verb (is, doesn't etc)] .. or;
  2. What "small" here means is X [verb (is, doesn't etc)] ..

By correct, I mean, should I use that? Should I use a comma?

Thank you.

  • 1
    X is a small y, small in this context meaning... – Ste Dec 2 '13 at 12:52
  • @Ste, Shouldn't it be "X is a small Y. 'Small' in this context means..."? – Damkerng T. Dec 2 '13 at 13:42
  • 1
    @DamkerngT. - Your suggestion is perfectly valid if you wish to have two distinct sentences. However, I feel that it flows better as two parts, separated with a comma. Quotation marks optional. – Ste Dec 2 '13 at 13:59
  • 1
    If you question essentially is whether that is needed or not, then the answer is that it can be dropped. All else is writing advice/ proof-reading. – Kris Dec 2 '13 at 14:37
  • 1
    For sentences like the ones you proposed, I would use "that" but without commas. For the sake of brevity, I often avoid "what" and "is" by writing "Here 'small' means that X ...." Ste's suggestion to combine the two sentences into one works as long as the resulting sentence is not too long or convoluted; so it's fine with "X is a small y" but it might become awkward if that part were replaced with something long. – Andreas Blass Dec 2 '13 at 17:09

Your two examples are focusing on the word "that":

What "small" here means is, that, ...

What "small" here means is ...

You could use "that" but it shouldn't have the commas and I much prefer it without the "that".

But I think the bigger problem is the order of "here" and "means":

What "small" means here is...

You could also remove "what":

"Small", here, means...

Which gives us these final examples:

X is a small Y. What "small" means here is less than 30 inches.

X is a small Y. "Small", here, means less than 30 inches.

Other options:

X is a small Y. "Small" means less than 30 inches.

X is a small Y ("small" meaning less than 30 inches).

X is a small Y. "Small" in this context means "less than 30 inches."

| improve this answer | |
  • Other options would be By "small", I mean less than 30 inches; or "Small" here means that it is less than 30 inches. – Tanner Swett Jan 10 '14 at 2:37

Wouldn’t it look and feel better if “ small here means less than 30 inches” was as an “aside” in parenthesis? Or maybe that’s just off the wall.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.