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I looked up the usage of "such that" in the dictionary, it says:

"such that, so that: used to express purpose or result: power such that it was effortless"

if the subordinate clause following "such that" is an adverbial clause, what is the role of "power" in the whole sentence? If "power" is the subject of the sentence, where is the predicate? Is something omitted before "such that"? I feel this setence is odd because there is only a noun before such that. I also find another sentence in the dictionary :

The damage was such that it would cost too much money to repair.

I guess the meaning of "such that" is same here. But why the second sentence has a "predicate"("was") while the first one does not? So can I also alter the second sentence to the form of "The damage such that...."? If I omit the predicate-"was" here , is this sentence still right?

Thanks!

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  • Your first example is not a sentence, but a noun phrase. “Such that” is not a constituent but an adjective + subordinator. In your second example, the adjective “such” has a that clause as complement – together they form a constituent functioning as predicative complement of “was”.
    – BillJ
    Oct 21, 2017 at 8:03
  • No, that would not give a complete sentence, but just a predicate. I cannot think of an example with "power such that it was effortless".
    – BillJ
    Oct 21, 2017 at 8:29
  • this example is from the dictionary. dictionary.com/browse/such , I mean I add an "is " as a predicate, to make it become "Power is such that it was effortless", so is this sentence right?
    – Fei
    Oct 21, 2017 at 8:31
  • I can't see that example in the link you provided.
    – BillJ
    Oct 21, 2017 at 8:44
  • wordreference.com/definition/such , the example is located at the bottom of the page.
    – Fei
    Oct 21, 2017 at 14:19

2 Answers 2

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Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) offers a clearer picture of what "such that" means and how it works than does the dictionary discussion quoted in the posted question. It does so, however, in two parts, considering such first as an adjective and then as an adverb:

such adj (bef. 12c) 1 ... b : having a quality to a degree to be indicated {his excitement was such that he shouted}

...

such adv (bef. 12c) ... 2 : in such a way {related such that each excludes the other}

Although this dictionary doesn't break out "such that" as a distinct phrase, the quoted definitions describe two senses in which "such that" may be used: to mean "of such a kind or of such character or to such a degree that," where such functions (in Merriam-Webster's opinion) as an adjective; and to mean "in such a way that," where such functions (in Merriam-Webster's opinion) as an adverb. In each case, "such that" serves as an abbreviated form of the appropriate longer phrase.

If you aren't sure which longer phrase the writer has in mind in a particular instance, you can replace "such that" with each longer phrase and see which one makes more sense. In the example given in the posted question,

The damage was such that it would cost too much money to repair.

the longer phrase that the author shortened to "such that" appears to be "of such a kind that":

The damage was of such a kind that it [the damage] would cost too much money to repair.

But it would be easy enough to create a similar sentence where "such that" has an adverbial character and means "in such a way that":

The house was damaged such that it [the house] would cost too much money to repair.

The shorter dictionary example quoted in the posted question—

power such that it was effortless

—is a fragment, so it's difficult to identify with certainty the intended longer form of the phrase shortened to "such that." Moreover, some sentences are ambiguous without further context. Consider this complete sentence:

The emperor wielded power such that it was effortless.

where it refers to, say, "crushing the rebellion." We could read "such that" as meaning "in such a way that" (implying that the emperor wielded power ruthlessly) or as meaning "of such character that" (implying that his power was so complete that resistance was easy to break). In this case, readers can't tell which meaning of "such that" the author had in mind, unless there are contextual clues in nearby sentences.

Native English speakers don't worry about whether they are using the word such in "such that" adjectivally or adverbially—and I recommend that you not get caught up in that question either. From the perspective of coherence, the practical issue is whether "such that" stands for "of such a kind or of such character or to such a degree that" or for "in such a way that."

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  • Could you kindly explain such that in this context ? The characteristics of Mars’ orbit are such that its distance from Earth varies considerably
    – Pankaj
    Sep 26, 2021 at 15:22
  • @Pankaj : The sense of "such that" in the sentence you ask about is similar to the Merriam-Webster example "his excitement was such that he shouted," where such functions as an adjective rather than as an adverb (in MW's view). Your sentence could be restated as "The characteristics of Mars's orbit are of such a kind [or nature] that Mars's distance from earth varies considerably"—which amounts to saying, "Because of the characteristics of Mars's orbit, the distance between Mars and the earth varies considerably." Presumably the characteristics of the earth's orbit are also relevant.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 26, 2021 at 17:30
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Fei, I think if we omitted the predicate "was", it will not be a sentence because, you know, a sentence must have its predicate. However, in my perspective, the meaning after omitted "was" is not be changed. And also, I think we can understand subordinate clause started with "such that" as the concrete illustration to the subject before the clause. More clearly, the damage such that it would cost much money to repair, I understand it as "how was the damage", "what is the level of the damage that has been suffered", and "such that" gives the explanation to the questions. Maybe my expression is more Chinglish, so glad to have you all correction.

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