2

Consider:

  1. "Note that there are two characteristics in the agent."

versus

  1. "Note there are two characteristics in the agent."

The only difference is [that] (2) drops the "that".

Which is correct, or are both okay? I've always used (1) but (2) sounds okay to me as well, and it is shorter which I like.

  • When "that" is used as a complementizer, it can be dropped (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complementizer); when it is used as a demonstrative, it cannot. Both of your sentences are fine. – GoldenGremlin Dec 22 '16 at 0:43
  • to me it sounds just as clear to say "note the two characteristics in the agent..." and go on to make your main point about the two. – Kate Moon Dec 22 '16 at 4:05
  • 2
    @Silenus This question is screaming out for a decent answer; all the current ones lack references or authoritative backing. Your comment seems to cover the question quite nicely, could you make it into an answer? – BladorthinTheGrey Jan 5 '17 at 22:07
  • That that that that example uses is not required, but improves the clarity of the statement. – Hot Licks Jan 5 '17 at 22:15
  • @BlandorthinTheGrey I will write something up in a little while... – GoldenGremlin Jan 5 '17 at 22:28
0

The Two Roles of "That"

The word "that" plays two roles in English.

Sometimes it functions as a demonstrative, occurring before a noun, as in:

  1. That dog is mean.
  2. That waiter insulted me.

When it appears in this role, it cannot be dropped. This is shown by the ill-formedness of the following:

  1. *Dog is mean.
  2. *Waiter insulted me.

The other role "that" plays is as a complementizer, occurring before a clause, as in:

  1. I believe that all dogs are mammals.
  2. She thinks that apples are tasty.
  3. That John went to college means a lot to her.

When complementizer "that" appears in roles like (5) and (6), i.e. embedded beneath a verb like "believe" and "thinks", it is fine to drop, as in:

  1. I believe all dogs are mammals.
  2. She thinks apples are tasty.

When complementizer "that" appears in roles like (7), i.e. not embedded beneath a verb, you cannot drop it:

  1. *John went to college means a lot to her.

See Radford's Transformational Grammar: A First Course (1988) for more about this dropping.

How can you tell which role "that" is playing?

If what appears after "that" could stand alone as a sentence, and the whole "that"-construction is appearing after a verb like "thinks" or "believes", then "that" is functioning as a complementizer and can be dropped.

For example, in (8), "all dogs are mammals" (appearing after "believes") could stand alone as a full sentence. Similarly, in (9), "apples are tasty" (appearing after "thinks") could stand alone as a full sentence.

What "that" is doing when it acts as a complementizer is transforming a clause into something that can be the subject or object of a sentence. Verbs like "think" and "believe", i.e. verbs which concern so-called propositional attitudes, regularly take clausal objects, so you'll often see complementizer "that" appearing (or being dropped) after these verbs.

Verbs like "notice" and "note" (which you use in your example) operate in the same way.

In short, when "that" is acting as a complementizer of a clausal object, it is okay to drop it.

Why are we allowed to drop the complementizer?

Why exactly we are allowed to drop the complementizer is a mystery, as far as I know. It's just a rule of our syntax. If I had to speculate, I would say that we are allowed to drop the complementizer because the verbs that it would occur with are so strongly associated with clausal complements that there is no need for an overt indication of complementization.

Other Languages

In other languages there are different lexical items for the two functions of "that". For example, in French and Italian, the complementizer function is achieved with que and che respectively, whereas the demonstrative function is achieved with ce/cette and quel/quella respectively.

0

Example two is hardly uncommon, but it is a bit of an awkward transition when said aloud. It seems to infer a pause that is not actually written. Saying it without a pause is not that great. You should use a pause, or use different wording for it not to be awkward when spoken aloud. Silenus is correct in his comment, but I still don't like example two; written, it is more forgivable than spoken aloud, if you are not injecting a pause when speaking it aloud.

I would change,

"Note there are two characteristics in the agent."

to

"Note -- there are two characteristics in the agent."

or

"Note that there are two characteristics in the agent."

or

"Note these two characteristics in the agent."

or

"Take note of these two characteristics in the agent."

  • 1
    This answer is pure fiction. – Greg Lee Jan 5 '17 at 22:36
-1

Never you mind any of those alternative phrasings which might be wholly true, but avoid the question.

Strictly speaking, it would never be OK but who today listens to anything 'strict'?

In fact in modern English it is probably more likely a speaker - even a writer with more time for consideration will drop the 'that'. That here, 'probably' might mean only 51% is beside the point.

  • Uh… thanks somebody and please, get real! Happy New Year – Robbie Goodwin Jan 5 '17 at 23:18

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