Is the THAT in the following sentence a conjunction?

There is strong evidence that Zika is spreading fast all over Brazil.

  • It's not really anything, as can be shown by the fact that it can be deleted with no loss of clarity. But according to this site, if you insist on classing your particular example as one of definite article, pronoun, adverb, adjective, conjunction, it'll be the last one of those. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 19:13
  • It's a subordinator (or subordinating conjunction) introducing the subordinate clause that Zika is spreading fast all over Brazil which is functioning as complement to "evidence".
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 19:19

2 Answers 2


That can be the distal demonstrative determiner (contrasting with this, the proximal demonstrative determiner); it precedes noun phrases, and can act as a pronoun -- yes, I mean that (one).

That can also be a complementizer for tensed clauses of all sorts.
It appears in restrictive relative clauses where wh-words aren't used.
Relative clauses are adjective clauses; they modify nouns.

  • I met the man who/that came to dinner.

That also used to appear in adverb clauses, after the introductory conjunction, as in before that we set up the tent in the audio that's linked here. But that that occurs only in a few dialects nowadays.

Finally, the that-clause in the example sentence (There is strong evidence that Zika is spreading fast all over Brazil) is a complement clause modifying evidence. Complement clauses, which include that-clauses as one subtype, usually are subjects or objects of predicates, but in the example sentence it's a noun complement clause, a structure where a complement clause modifies a noun. This is only possible with a picture noun like evidence.

  • 1
    I agree that it's a complement clause (though I prefer the label 'content clause'), but its function is that of complement, not modifier, as is evident from the fact that it has to be licensed by "evidence". I think it's important to distinguish the functions of complement and modifier.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 20:56

In this case, 'that' is a subordinating conjunction. The copula in '.. is spreading ..' is weakened from being stated as a fact, but it is linked to the other copula '.. is strong evidence'.


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