The following sentence is the Modern English translation of a line from the Old English poem Judith:

He (God) advanced a gracious favour to her, that she may have a steadfast faith.

My question isn’t really about the Old English. The conjunction that introduces a sense purpose like so that.

My question: what do we call this that (without the so), which presents a purpose?

  • Note that this construction is "early Modern English" - it is archaic in current English. – Colin Fine Apr 10 '15 at 23:44
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    This that is a complementizer. It's equivalent to in order that, in this case. – John Lawler Apr 11 '15 at 0:01

In older English, the conjunction that could be used to mean so that, in order that, indicating a purpose. It is still alive in modern English, but it sounds a bit old fashioned outside formal language. It is still a conjunction.


That in this context is a restriction. The gracious favor was only given to her to provide a steadfast faith, and not for any other reason. Without the that clause, the sentence:

He (God) advanced a gracious favour to her.

allows the reader to infer any ulterior motive. To prevent any doubt or confusion, the poem presents a restriction via that.

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