The food we enjoy can also reveal where we have traveled and what cultures have migrated to our communities.

In the above sentence the phrase "we enjoy" seems to be a relative clause, but the word "that" is omitted.

Is there any reason or rule as to know when to omit the word "that" from relative clauses?

In this instance, it does not seem to be a complementizer.

  • 2
    You're right -- "we enjoy" is a relative clause modifying "food". Generally, the subordinator "that" can be omitted provided the relativized element is not subject of the relative clause. Compare the ungrammaticality of *"The car [ ___ hit us] was going very fast", where gap (i.e. the relativized element) is subject.
    – BillJ
    Mar 5, 2018 at 10:30

1 Answer 1


The omission of the objective relative pronoun results in what is sometimes called a contact clause (also zero clause). There is a good entry about contact clauses on ThoughtCo.

There is no rule that will help you determine whether to omit that or not. It is a stylistic choice. Merriam–Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (p290) claims:

Constructions such as these are appropriate in any variety of writing.

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage (p468) is a little more cautious:

Except in most formal style, the pronoun can be omitted from relative clauses of which it is the object.

So, if you are aiming at a high level of formality you may wish to retain that.

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