2

Inside a prep book the following sentence is WRONG on the grounds that "that" modifies the closest noun "home".

John F. Kennedy, one of the most social U.S. presidents, held many parties in his family home that featured elaborate meals of local fish and lobster, famous guest and late nights.

However, in the same book, the following sentence is CORRECT with the reasoning that "that" is not restrictive and clearly modifies parties.

John held parties for his kids that featured clowns, numerous exotic animals, and lots of food.

What am I missing here?

7
  • 7
    The book's wrong.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 23:52
  • 2
    That's preposterous. No such rule.
    – user31341
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 0:01
  • 'that' can be used as a demonstrative (a kind of adjective) and as a relative pronoun (which heads a relative clause that may modify a noun. An adjective is a single-word modifier that comes before a noun. A relative clause follows the noun. In the latter class the 'that' itself is not modifying the noun, but the entire clause is. That first sentence is awkward but not because 'that' follows the noun.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 0:15
  • The parties featured elaborate meals, not his ffamily home.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 0:26
  • That that that that first example has is the same kind of that that that second example has.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 1:51

1 Answer 1

3

This "that" does not modify a noun, but rather it introduces a restrictive relative clause, and the relative clause is what modifies the noun it goes with. Your examples also involve extraposition of relative clauses, which makes their structure hard to understand.

John held parties for his kids that featured clowns, numerous exotic animals, and lots of food.

This is from the (stylistically inferior and ambiguous):

John held parties that featured clowns, numerous exotic animals, and lots of food for his kids.

Here, the relative clause follows immediately the noun, "parties", which it modifies. So this makes clear the point of extraposing the relative clause to the end of the higher clause.

3
  • 1
    The rule is often called Extraposition from NP. Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 2:29
  • Two questions. (1) What do you mean "Your examples also involve extraposition of relative clauses, which makes their structure hard to understand"? As long as you understand NP extraposition, how come it's hard to understand the structure of those examples? (2) You seem to be saying that the OP's second example is correct. What about the first example? Do you agree with "the prep book" that the first example is "wrong"? Or do you think that the first is correct as well?
    – JK2
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 3:09
  • @JK2, Both examples are okay. Both have relative clauses modifying "parties" which have been extraposed to the end of the containing clause. (NP extraposition is not involved. "That" does not modify anything.)
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 13:01

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.