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My language exchange partner pointed out to me today that Americans like to drop "that" from the phrase "The fact that there is/are."

I didn't think it was grammatically correct at first, but then Googling "the fact there" seems to throw up many more examples than expected. In fact, it is used in this grammar book.

The sentence is "The issue is complicated, however, by the fact there are a number of restrictions on the use of do as a substitute."

This sentence sounds unnatural to me. Can anyone shed some light on the matter?

  • In the example you quote I would always include that. But it could be that Americans are more inclined to drop their thats. – WS2 Mar 5 '15 at 8:41
  • In what is obviously a rather formal register you should keep that, even though it is very commonly dropped in speech (and not only in America). But you could definitely make your unwieldy sentence a lot more concise. What about the following? "However, restrictions on the use of do as a substitute complicate matters". – Lachlan Dominic Mar 5 '15 at 9:55
  • The sentence doesn't read well without 'that' (reading as a BE speaker) but as has been pointed out, it is clumsy in other ways too. Trying to keep it closer to the original than Lachlan I might write/say "The issue is complicated, however, by the presence of a number of restrictions on the use of do as a substitute," but the sentence is needlessly lumpen. – Sam Mar 5 '15 at 10:12
  • The construction the fact that S is often used to frame S as a factive clause, i.e, it's presupposed to be true. It's also used as a text padder by poor writers in cases where it's not needed and the factivity is not intended, just to try sounding more authoritative. And failing. The that is normally not deleted unless there's some reason like parallel construction for it, like The fact she came in doesn't mean she came out, where one should have either two clauses with that or two clauses without. – John Lawler Mar 5 '15 at 16:01
  • As for using it with There-Insertion, it's the simplest way to grant existence: The fact (that) there is X means you grant that X exists before you even get to a verb. Here, I would agree that the that, while technically deletable, helps to mark the proper parsing -- there has more than one meaning, and so does that, and we won't even talk about be. – John Lawler Mar 5 '15 at 16:05
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The fact that there are many examples of the fact there being used does not indicate correctness, but would indicate acceptance. Literally speaking, you could contrive an example where this construct would be grammatically correct:

This is a sentence. The previous sentence contains a fact; the fact there is true.

This is obviously not the usual intention of the fragment. I would suggest that because language evolves over time, this particular construct is now accepted as grammatically correct.

  • Indeed, I should have made myself more clear. The first 20 or so examples on Google of "the fact there" were omissions of "that" from "the fact that there", instead of the alternative which you raised above. – hirantal91 Mar 5 '15 at 23:18
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I think "that" after "the fact" is syntactically completely optional, and whether it is omitted has most to do with the rhythmic cadence of the construction. "Fact" is going to have stress and "that" will have little stress. In the frame "0the 1fact 0that ___ ... " if you can stress what follows "that", you'll have a nice iambic rhythm. But if omit "that" and what follows is stressed, you'll have two stresses next to each other -- not good. "The 1fact 1eating acorns ..." is not as good as "The 1fact con1sumption of acorns ...".

Avoid contiguous stressed syllables.

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