CGEL by Pullum (Page 969) says:

4.7 Adjunct in clause structure

There are a handful of constructions where a declarative content clause functions as adjunct rather than complement.

(a) With subject + predicator order

[52] i What has happened, that you are looking so worried?

ii ‘This is my party card’, he said, holding it high, that all might see it.

iii The more we talked, the more I liked her.

In both [52i] and [52ii], there's a comma before an adjunct clause that starts with a subordinator that.

When the subordinator that is clearly marking the start of an adjunct clause as in [52i] and [52ii], do you still need a comma before that? Or is this comma rather optional?

Be it necessary or optional, is the comma there to show that the that-clause is an adjunct of the main clause, as opposed to a complement?

Because I don't think you need a comma before a that-clause that is a complement of a main clause:

*What has happened, that has never happened before?

1 Answer 1


In my experience, the first one is optional, commonly no that, but the second one is necessary.

But the statement What has happened, that has never happened before?, this that references to what has happened, means that situation.

  • Hello, Ayon. As Matt Gutting has said: << Hi! What we're really looking for (on this or any other Stack Exchange site) is a supported answer; one that you can support with authoritative references (in this case grammar or published article). Edit your question and put in your support; then we'll be able to vote up your answer! >> and as MετάEd has said << A good answer is comprehensive and contains evidence showing why it is correct.... Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 9:33
  • Links to external resources are encouraged. Answers which consist of virtually nothing but an unsupported statement or a citation are not useful and may be subject to deletion – even correct answers. For help writing a good answer, see How to Answer. >> // Isn't it possible that adding the comma is used to indicate that the declarative content clause functions as adjunct rather than complement? Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 9:33
  • Please don't use the backtick to highlight words. This usage is highly discouraged here and on ELL. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 12:06

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