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I am trying to determine the grammatical function of that in the line:

  • The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.

from Shelley's Ozymandius.
I want to work out if 'that' is being used as a pronoun or an adverb.

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    How far have you gotten in working that out?
    – Robusto
    Jun 9, 2014 at 0:46
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    The meaning of the lines themselves is still open to debate, even after two centuries; some poems are like that. The function of that, however, is quite clear: in both clauses, it is a relative pronoun, the subject of mock'd and of fed, introducing relative clauses modifying hand and heart, respectively. Jun 9, 2014 at 0:51

2 Answers 2

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As John Lawler notes in the comments:

The function of that, however, is quite clear: in both clauses, it is a relative pronoun, the subject of mock'd and of fed, introducing relative clauses modifying hand and heart, respectively.

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It's actually neither. It's an adjective, modifying the nouns of the sentence for greater specificity. Which hand? That hand. Which heart? That heart.

If it were a pronoun, it would be "the heart, that is what fed them". If it were an adverb, it'd be "the hand mock'd them that much."

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    You really need to adjust your understanding with regard to the parts of speech. You could start with the Wikipedia article on pronouns, where 'that' is said to be used as a relative pronoun (the hand that mocked them) as well as a demonstrative pronoun (That is mine) sometimes used anaphorically (The heart: that is what fed them). Next, check on determiners (as opposed to adjectives). You really don't want me to go into 'adverbs'. Jun 9, 2014 at 6:57
  • Okay, but was it really necessary to be rude?
    – moron4hire
    Jun 9, 2014 at 17:39
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    Firm. And when someone puts up so magisterial an answer which could mislead people so badly, I'd feel I was erring if I didn't counter it so firmly. Jun 9, 2014 at 18:19

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