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The AirTag is also far from perfect. I wish they were louder — they are very quiet compared with Tiles — so playing sound wasn’t very helpful for finding them. I also did not love that for most purposes, the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory, like a key ring, to hold the tracker.

In contrast, the Tile has a hole punched into its corner to attach to a key ring or zipper head. (The $29 price tag of the AirTag is eclipsed by Apple’s $35 leather key ring.)

As I read an Apple AirTag review, a New York Times article, I encountered the sentences above.

I wonder what "that" in boldface works as in the sentence.

If "that" in boldface is a demonstrative pronoun as usual, it should represent the immediately preceding sentence, or the deficiency of the device's being too quiet.

But the fact seems to me a bit odd that "I also did not love that for most purposes" is immediately followed by "the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory, like a key ring, to hold the tracker," which can stand alone as a complete sentence, with no conjunction but only a comma.

Please explain the function here of "that" in question.

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That in the sentence is not a demonstrative pronoun. It's a subordinating conjunction, and functions in exactly the same way as

She said that the AirTag requires something to hold the tracker.

She didn't like that the AirTag requires something to hold the tracker.

Lexico has a number of examples of that as conjunction.

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I also did not love [that for most purposes, the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory, like a key ring, to hold the tracker].

No: this "that" is not a demonstrative but a subordinator functioning as a marker.

It introduces the bracketed declarative content clause functioning as complement of "love".

You could paraphrase it as I also did not love the fact that for most purposes, the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory, like a key ring, to hold the tracker.

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  • I haven't heard "marker" used grammatically as you did; what do you mean by that here? – Azor Ahai -him- May 18 at 18:22
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    @AzorAhai-him In modern non-generative grammars, (e.g. Aarts, 2011, Modern English Grammar) the grammatical relations label (akin to 'Subject, Object, Determiner etc) for subordinators is 'Marker'. Note that 'subordinator' is a word category and 'Marker' is a grammatical relation (same relationship as noun to Subject for example). It just indicates that a subordinator is a meaningless left-edge Marker of a particular type of clause. – Araucaria - Not here any more. May 18 at 20:35
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I didn't know "marker" is a grammatical relations label. I thought it was more like a generic term to use to refer to anything that marks something. In both you and I, for example, both is a marker (of coordination) since it marks coordination. – JK2 May 19 at 3:29
  • @AzorAhai-him- According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, 'marker' is defined as "A function label used for certain grammatical words. Thus in She said that her flat is for sale the word that is formally a subordinator, and functions as a marker." According to CaGEL p1305, 'marker' is also an appropriate label for the function of determinatives both and either in correlative coordination: "In the coordinations ... they function as marker of the first coordinate in correlative coordination: both is paired with and, while either is paired with or." – DW256 May 19 at 4:10
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    @JK2 Yes, in an expanded declarative content clause, the Marker is a dependent of the clause. I haven't checked, but I'm pretty certain that they say that three main types of dependent are Complement, Modifier and Determiner. There are several other minor ones, for example the function 'Prenucleus' in relative and interrogative clauses. – Araucaria - Not here any more. May 19 at 13:57
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You may try understanding the word "that" in this way, with the assumption of an optional element dropped:

I also did not love (the fact) that for most purposes, the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory, ...

Now it's an appositive subordinate clause, where "the fact" and the whole subordinate clause beginning with "that" refer to the same thing.

In fact, there are many more possible replacement words that fit right there, for example:

  • I like (it) that ...
  • I like (the assumption) that ...
  • I like (the implication) that ...

As long as the word in the parentheses matches that of the subordinate clause, you're good to go.

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Part of your problem may be that the sentence contains a grammatical error. There should be a comma after the word "that":

I also did not love that, for most purposes, the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory, like a key ring, to hold the tracker.

The phrase "for most purposes" is an adverbial phrase, modifying the verb "requires" in the subordinate clause. A such, it can be temporarily elided for grammar analysis purposes. I will remove all prepositional phrases for this purpose:

I also did not love that the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory.

Hopefully, it is now clear what the word "that" refers to the requirement described by "the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory." Adding back in the prepositional phrases, we can conclude that the word that refers to:

I also did not love that, for most purposes, the AirTag requires buying a separate accessory, like a key ring, to hold the tracker.

If such is not clear, the other Answers can explain why: "that" is acting not as a demonstrative pronoun but a subordinator. The entire phrase (including the word "that") is functioning as a noun, and could be replaced with "I also did not love this fact."

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