I wrote the following sentence "She cursed that only leaving could cure her." I am aware it sounds odd; I am purely interested in whether it is grammatical. I was told that it is not because "curse" is transitive and requires a direct object.

I believe it is grammatical because Merriam Webster says that "that" can be "used as a function word to introduce a noun clause that is usually the subject or object of a verb or a predicate nominative." For this sense, they provide the example, "[She] said that he was afraid." I feel that my usage is not meaningfully different from the example. They both follow the form transitive verb + noun clause introduced by "that". I believe that "curse" does have a direct object (the noun clause), satisfying the requirements of a transitive verb.

Is there a reason "says" can have its direct object be a noun clause while "curse" cannot? Is there something invalid about my noun clause?


  • But the sentence provides a transitive object of the utterance (Merriam-Webster, verb, sense 2 b): "that only leaving could cure her." May 24, 2020 at 18:15
  • @JasonBassford yes, I agree. I was just wondering if there is any merit to the criticism I received that called this sentence ungrammatical.
    – Jeff Morse
    May 24, 2020 at 18:17
  • On the grammatical basis of there being no direct object? No. It's indirect speech. (Which sounds odd, if you put the two things together …) May 24, 2020 at 18:17
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    Only some verbs can be used as quotative verbs. And only some verbs can be used as reporting verbs (She said / replied / hinted ... that ... ; He asked / enquired ... whether ...). 'Curse' is used when appropriate as a quotative verb, but not as a reporting verb. Different verbs behave differently – probably the prime tenet of English grammar. May 24, 2020 at 18:22
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    Your particular answer wrongly uses 'curse' as if it were a reporting verb. You'd need something like ' "Drop dead!" he cursed under his breath.' Perhaps you're aiming for 'She cursed that only leaving could cure her.' This is not a reporting usage, but really a shortened form of the transitive usage 'She cursed the fact that only leaving could cure her.' Compare 'She regretted the fact that only leaving could cure her' and 'She regretted that only leaving could cure her.' May 24, 2020 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


This would seem to be an established use of curse

...both of us cursing that we had not brought our skis

...and cursed that he hadn't the time to bind it before now

...others curse that they never got within range

All of the above make sense if the definition of curse is taken to be (Merriam Webster 2b):

to execrate in fervent and often profane terms

Used by news outlets:

Take the neighbor who, unknown to me, cleared the snow off my car the other morning so that when I went outside, running late, cursing that I hadn’t left time to brush and scrape, I was surprised by a car that was already snow-free and ready to go.

I distinctly recall everyone passing the four-mile mark, checking their watches and cursing that they're running too quickly.

Beneath the streets, where the sun isn’t shining, sweaty and sultry MBTA riders have been bemoaning the transportation agency, cursing that they don’t do enough to keep passengers cooled-off while waiting to catch a ride to or from work during their commute

Sisters Rosie Clarke, 23, Emma Clarke, 25, and Lowri Clarke, 17, are set for a weekend of family fun - but they'll be cursing that they forgot to pack their wellies

He said during the ordeal he was cursing that he was so unlucky, but afterwards decided he was in fact very lucky to still be here.

I spoke to him this morning and he was still cursing that he could not reach him.

In books:

I snapped one of the books shut, cursing that I hadn't thought to look and see what page I was up to. (Because of Her, KE Payne)

Sighing, and inwardly cursing that I had not gone home earlier, I made my way to the desk. (Murder Mile, Mike Mulloy)

silently cursing that I hadn't successfully maneuvered an end to our chat. (Animal Camp: Lessons in Love and Hope from Rescued Farm Animals, Kathy Stevens)

I followed, cursing that I had not chosen to wear my boots that morning (When The Hills Ask For Your Blood: A Personal Story of Genocide and Rwanda, David Belton)

  • This is infelicitous. 'He execrated in fervent [and profane] terms that we had not brought our skis' is ungrammatical. It would be advisable to show exact examples from a reliable source. You need to give attributed links to your three examples. Yes, there are examples of the deleted form on the internet, but not that many when you get past the first page of a Google search for "he cursed that he" for example, and fewer looking to be from acceptable sources (eg 'He couldn't even make out the other side, and there was no noisy detectable. He cursed that he didn't have a radio on him, ') May 25, 2020 at 10:49

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