The Conjunction "That"

"That" is a common word used in English language and is typically referred to as a conjunction. It is used to connect words, phrases, or clauses. This guide provides an in-depth tutorial on how to use the conjunction "that" correctly according to English grammar. This extensive explanation will cover the use, rules, and multiple examples of the conjunction "that".

1. Definition and function of "That" as a conjunction

"That" functions as a linking or connecting word (conjunction) in English grammar. Primarily, "that" ties together two ideas that are related but not necessarily adjacent. It can introduce dependent clauses, often linking them with an independent clause to form a complex sentence. Dependent clauses, also known as subordinate clauses, add extra information but cannot stand on their own as a sentence.

2. When to use "That" as a conjunction

a) Introducing a dependent clause

One of the common uses of "that" as a conjunction is to introduce a dependent clause, and it sets up an outcome or result, opinion, reason, event or thing. The dependent clause provides more information about something mentioned in another part of the sentence. This can bring clarity and cohesion to your sentence. See the examples below:

  • "I think that she is lovable."
  • "I'm sure that she will go to the party."
  • b) Use in indirect speech:

    "That" as a conjunction is often used in indirect speech or reported speech, i.e., when you report what someone else has said. Here are a few examples:

  • "He said that he was tired."
  • "Alice confessed that she took the last piece of cake."
  • 3. Rules for using the conjunction "That":

    a) "That" and commas:

    Usually, you don't need to use a comma before "that". However, a comma might be required before "that" if the sentence would be unclear without it.

  • Correct: "I know that he loves me."
  • Incorrect: "I know, that he loves me."
  • b) Omitting "that":

    In informal speaking and writing, English speakers often leave out the word "that" when it is used as a conjunction. Whether you can leave out "that" or not depends on the clarity of the sentence. If you can leave out "that" without making the sentence unclear or grammatically incorrect, it's okay to do so.

  • With "that": "She said that she was going to the store."
  • Without "that": "She said she was going to the store."
  • c) "That" after certain verbs:

    Some verbs typically require the use of "that" to introduce a dependent clause. Some of these verbs include: insist, suggest, recommend, demand, request, and propose.

  • "He recommends that we take the scenic route."
  • "They insisted that she stay for dinner."
  • 4. Common mistakes with "That"

    a) That vs. Which:

    One common mistake is confusing "that" and "which". As a rule, "that" introduces a restrictive clause (a clause that cannot be omitted without changing the meaning), while "which" introduces a non-restrictive clause (a clause that can be left out without affecting the meaning or structure of the sentence).

  • "I don't like cars that are too small." (You can't omit "that are too small" without changing the meaning of the sentence.)
  • "The car, which is blue, belongs to my neighbor." (You can omit "which is blue" without changing the sentence's essential meaning.)
  • Understanding English conjunctions can take some time but with continued practice, you can master them. The conjunction "that" is a versatile and frequently used word that links and relates ideas within a sentence or between sentences. Although it is sometimes optional, the usage of "that" can add clarity and specificity to your statements in English. Hopefully, with this guide, you've got a clearer idea of when and how to use "that" as a conjunction.

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