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Author Topic: Dropping the introductory word “that” in indirect speech  (Read 1356 times)
Justine Aragones
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« on: April 25, 2015, 06:52:02 PM »

Is it possible to drop the introductory word “that” in this sentence: “The political analyst said [that] several senators are strongly opposed to charter change and will fight every possible way.” Also, I want to know why the word “that” is enclosed with a bracket?

I am not so comfortable in using a lot of “that” in reported speech etc., in my written composition. How can we avoid that word in such a way that the sentence remains grammatically acceptable?
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 09:37:56 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged
Joe Carillo
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2015, 09:40:52 PM »

Yes, it’s possible—but not always—to drop the introductory word “that” in reported speech, as in this sentence that you presented: “The political analyst said several senators are strongly opposed to charter change and will fight every possible way.” It sounds just fine, doesn’t it? Enclosing the “that” with a bracket indicates that the writer of that sentence knows and wants the reader to know that the “that” in that particular instance is optional, meaning that it can stay or be dropped without altering or destroying the sense of the sentence.

It’s not always possible to drop “that” from reported speech though. We have to play it by ear to find out if the sentence still works or becomes nonsensical without it. Dropping the “that” in such sentences is actually a form of elliptical construction that’s meant to streamline the sentence—to make it more concise and easier to articulate by omitting words that are obviously understood. It’s often advisable and doable for journalistic writing, informal writing, and spoken English. For instance the word “that” can be ellipted or dropped from this sentence: “Critics say that the peace accord initiated by the President has been irreparably jeopardized by the January 25 massacre of 44 police troopers in Mamapasano.” Indeed, it reads even better and more fluidly without “that.” Check it out by reading this version aloud: “Critics say the peace accord initiated by the President has been irreparably jeopardized by the January 25 massacre of 44 police troopers in Mamapasano.”

However, it won’t be possible to omit “that” when the relative clause introduced by it begins with an adverbial phrase, as in this sentence: “Welfare officials reported that prematurely terminating support to the flood-struck community would be disastrous to its residents.” See how the sentence collapses or becomes confusing when we drop “that”: “Welfare officials reported prematurely terminating support to the flood-struck community would be disastrous to its residents.” (Huh?) The problem is that the adverb “prematurely” has become a squinting modifier, indecisive on whether to modify the verb before it or the entire phrase that follows it.

It takes some doing to become confident and comfortable in dropping “that” from reported speech. In the meantime, you can actually avoid using “that” by tucking in the reporting verb inside the sentence or by placing it at the tail end of the reported statement, as follows: “Prematurely terminating support to the flood-struck community, welfare officials reported, would be disastrous to its residents,” or “Prematurely terminating support to the flood-struck community would be disastrous to its residents, welfare officials reported.”

But then you can only do those two alternative constructions perhaps only once or twice in every page, for soon the exposition will sound so stilted and so distracting that you might as well retain every “that” for your reported statements.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 04:42:37 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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