I am not clear on when the word "that" can be omitted in a relative clause. I only know that when the modified noun is the object in the clause, the antecedent "that" can be omitted. Are there any other such situations? How about the following sentence:

Students should be skeptical about everything they are told.

I am not sure whether everything is the object, and if not, whether this sentence is correct.


1 Answer 1


What are the students told? - everything (well probably not absolutely everything!) - so everything is the object, and the sentence is fine.

Let's have the long version: Students should be skeptical about everything that they are told. The fact that there's a pronoun (they) in subject form between the relative pronoun (that) and the verb, tells us that they is the subject. That's one easy way of deciding. What is probably throwing you is that the relative clause is in the passive, so it looks a bit strange. But just look for that pronoun.

  • Thanks. I guess I forgot that some sentences can have two objects. Then "everything (that)" is the direct object, the indirect object (students) in the active voice becomes the subject. (Active voice: [someone] tells the students something. I hope I'm right.) Yeah, it's a little complicated. Then my question title is not pertinent...
    – LLS
    Jan 9, 2011 at 10:12
  • @LLS: Your analysis is right. Note that you can also leave out "that" if it is the object to a preposition that comes at the end of the relative clause: the woman I told you about. Note that "that" can also be left out if it is a conjunction: I told you he was mad. Jan 10, 2011 at 22:57

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