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Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that requires every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable, and that everything else be removed.

The source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun

Which word does the second 'that' refer to? In my opinion, the second 'that' refers to the noun principle. However, I want to make sure of that.

Is it possible that the second 'that' refers to the verb require?

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that requires that everything else be removed

What is the grammar rule that allows you to use this construction requires something be an adjective [or a particple]

I am not sure whether what I quoted is correct English.

  • Yes, the that in that sentence is governed by the verb requires. – Robusto Jan 4 '15 at 10:14
  • I would like to read more about the grammar construction 'require that something be [done]'. I dont't understand why the verb here is used as a bare infinitive after 'that'. Can you give the link to the relevant grammar rule? Are there other verbs after which we can use this construction, i.e. 'a verb' + that + a noun + a bare infinitive? – user93573 Jan 4 '15 at 10:36
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The sentence contains an example of the common omission of that after certain verbs, particularly in informal English. For example:

He said (that) he was tired.

The government required (that) everyone be vaccinated.

Restoring the missing that to the quoted sentence gives us:

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that requires that every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable, and that everything else be removed.

So now it is clear that the second that in the original introduces a parallel structure following requires, with both that-clauses being dependent on principle.

If the sentence were to be consistent in its that-omission, it could also read:

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that requires every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable, and everything else be removed.

This lack of consistency is probably what causes the confusion.


In response to OP's request in the comment for the grammar of 'verb + that + noun + bare infinitive', see Wikipedia's entry on the present subjunctive, including this extract:

The main use of the English present subjunctive, called the mandative or jussive subjunctive, occurs in that clauses (declarative content clauses; the word that is sometimes omitted in informal and conversational usage) expressing a circumstance which is desired, demanded, recommended, necessary, or similar. Such a clause may be dependent on verbs like insist, suggest, demand, prefer, adjectives like necessary, desirable, or nouns like recommendation, necessity; it may be part of the expression in order that... (or some formal uses of so that...); it may also stand independently as the subject of a clause or as a predicative expression.

  • Thanks, Shoe. I don't understand what is the use of this present subjunctive? Why would somebody want to say this strange and tricky construction? Subjunctive verb forms were formerly used in speech, but now these forms are considered archaic ones, right? I suspect, nobody uses them in modern English. Did I get it right? – user93573 Jan 4 '15 at 15:26
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    @Humbulani. In fact, the present subjunctive is common in formal American English. For example, see this ELU question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/76578/… – Shoe Jan 4 '15 at 15:29
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The thing which makes your example "tricky" is that you were tempted to construe "that" as a pronoun, and to try to connect it to some noun; it is not being used that way. (Shoe's example shows how to interpret the sentence by adding another "that", but the added "that" is not a pronoun either.) The problem is not in the subjunctive construction, which I see you understand, but in understanding the multifarious and subtle senses of "that".

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