Author Topic: Figuring out an odd usage of the function word “that”  (Read 6715 times)

hairstyler

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Figuring out an odd usage of the function word “that”
« on: October 02, 2011, 10:16:08 PM »
Dear Carillo,

Firstly, thanks a million again and again, for you always help me solve any different english problems without any profits.

Please tell me what the meaning or function of the word "that" of the following sentence is, for according to my common knowledge in english, the function of "that" is used to represent an adjective clause.  Up to now,  I really don't know the function of "that" as follows. 

1) He is no longer the simple-minded man that he was five years ago.
2) What he said and did there showed the man that he was.




Thanks,
Hairstyler


« Last Edit: October 03, 2011, 02:43:21 PM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Re: Figuring out an odd usage of the function word “that”
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2011, 02:41:48 PM »
Question from Hairstyler, Forum member (October 2, 2011):

Dear Mr. Carillo,

Firstly, thanks a million again and again, for you always help me solve different English problems without asking for a consultation fee.

Now, according to what I know about English, the function of “that” is to introduce an adjective clause. But in the two sentences below, please tell me what “that” is doing grammatically:   

(1) “He is no longer the simple-minded man that he was five years ago.”
(2) “What he said and did there showed the man that he was.”

Up to now, I really don’t know the function of “that” in those sentences.

Thanks,
Hairstyler

My reply to Hairstyler:

You are correct in saying that the function of “that” is to introduce an adjective clause. This is the case in a sentence like “She made me believe that life is but a dream.” Here, “that” functions as a subordinating conjunction to introduce the modifying adjective clause “life is but a dream” and link it to the main clause, “she made me believe.” But this is not the only function of “that” in English grammar. In fact, as I’m sure you’ll recall, “that” can even function also as a pronoun, adjective, and adverb.

But in relation to your question, let’s just focus on the various functions of “that” as a conjunction. My Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary lists down as many as 10 functions of “that,” as follows:

Quote
1 a (1) —  used as a function word to introduce a noun clause that is usually the subject or object of a verb or a predicate nominative  <said that he was afraid>  (2) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is anticipated by the expletive it occurring as subject of the verb  <it is unlikely that he’ll be in>  (3) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is joined as complement to a noun or adjective  <we are certain that this is true>  <the fact that you are here>  (4) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause modifying an adverb or adverbial expression  <will go anywhere that he is invited> b —  used as a function word to introduce an exclamatory clause expressing a strong emotion especially of surprise, sorrow, or indignation  <that it should come to this!>
2 a (1) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing purpose or desired result  <cutting down expenses that her son might inherit an unencumbered estate — W. B. Yeats>  (2) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing a reason or cause  <rejoice that you are lightened of a load — Robert Browning>  (3) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing consequence, result, or effect  <are of sufficient importance that they cannot be neglected — Hannah Wormington>  b —  used as a function word to introduce an exclamatory clause expressing a wish  <oh, that he would come>
3 —  used as a function word after a subordinating conjunction without modifying its meaning  <if that thy bent of love be honorable — Shakespeare>
 

You can see from the above functions of “that” that the usage in the two sentences you presented falls under Definition 1a (3), “as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is joined as complement to a noun or adjective.”

Now let’s take a close look at your two sentences:

(1) “He is no longer the simple-minded man that he was five years ago.”
(2) “What he said and did there showed the man that he was.”   
       
In Sentence 1, the conjunction “that” introduces the subordinate clause “he was five years ago” as a complement to the noun “man” in the main clause. The intended meaning is, of course, that the man was simple-minded five years ago but is no longer simple-minded now.

Similarly, in Sentence 2, the conjunction “that” introduces the subordinate clause “he was” as a complement to the noun “man” in the main clause. In that sentence, the intended meaning is that the man’s action in the particular place referred to in the main clause showed what kind of man that person was.

The usage of “that” in those two sentences is really as simple as that.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 09:22:40 AM by Joe Carillo »

hairstyler

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Re: Figuring out an odd usage of the function word “that”
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2011, 04:56:45 PM »
Question from Hairstyler, Forum member (October 2, 2011):

Dear Mr. Carillo,

Firstly, thanks a million again and again, for you always help me solve different English problems without asking for a consultation fee.

Now, according to what I know about English, the function of “that” is to introduce an adjective clause. But in the two sentences below, please tell me what “that” is doing grammatically:   

(1) “He is no longer the simple-minded man that he was five years ago.”
(2) “What he said and did there showed the man that he was.”

Up to now, I really don’t know the function of “that” in those sentences.

Thanks,
Hairstyler

My reply to Hairstyler:

You are correct in saying that the function of “that” is to introduce an adjective clause. This is the case in a sentence like “She made me believe that life is but a dream.” Here, “that” functions as a subordinating conjunction to introduce the modifying adjective clause “life is but a dream” and link it to the main clause, “she made me believe.” But this is not the only function of “that” in English grammar. In fact, as I’m sure you’ll recall, “that” can even function also as a pronoun, adjective, and adverb.

But in relation to your question, let’s just focus on the various functions of “that” as a conjunction. My Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary lists down as many as 10 functions of that, as follows:

Quote
1 a (1) —  used as a function word to introduce a noun clause that is usually the subject or object of a verb or a predicate nominative  <said that he was afraid>  (2) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is anticipated by the expletive it occurring as subject of the verb  <it is unlikely that he’ll be in>  (3) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is joined as complement to a noun or adjective  <we are certain that this is true>  <the fact that you are here>  (4) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause modifying an adverb or adverbial expression  <will go anywhere that he is invited> b —  used as a function word to introduce an exclamatory clause expressing a strong emotion especially of surprise, sorrow, or indignation  <that it should come to this!>
2 a (1) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing purpose or desired result  <cutting down expenses that her son might inherit an unencumbered estate — W. B. Yeats>  (2) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing a reason or cause  <rejoice that you are lightened of a load — Robert Browning>  (3) —  used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing consequence, result, or effect  <are of sufficient importance that they cannot be neglected — Hannah Wormington>  b —  used as a function word to introduce an exclamatory clause expressing a wish  <oh, that he would come>
3 —  used as a function word after a subordinating conjunction without modifying its meaning  <if that thy bent of love be honorable — Shakespeare>
 

You can see from the above functions of “that” that the usage in the two sentences you presented falls under Definition 1a (3), “as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is joined as complement to a noun or adjective.”

Now let’s take a close look at your two sentences:

(1) “He is no longer the simple-minded man that he was five years ago.”
(2) “What he said and did there showed the man that he was.”   
       
In Sentence 1, the conjunction “that” introduces the subordinate clause “he was five years ago” as a complement to the noun “man” in the main clause. The intended meaning is, of course, that the man was simple-minded five years ago but is no longer simple-minded now.

Similarly, in Sentence 2, the conjunction “that” introduces the subordinate clause “he was” as a complement to the noun “man” in the main clause. In that sentence, the intended meaning is that the man’s action in the particular place referred to in the main clause showed what kind of man that person was.

The usage of “that” in those two sentences is really as simple as that.




Please clarify if the "that" represents as an object after "he was" and if the meaning of "that"  is completely "simple-minded man" in the first sentence, and "he was" in second sentence is equivalent to "what one is".






« Last Edit: October 03, 2011, 05:16:36 PM by hairstyler »

Joe Carillo

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Re: Figuring out an odd usage of the function word “that”
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2011, 11:33:04 PM »
No, “that” in each of the two sentences doesn’t represent an object; no verb (or preposition) is acting on it so it couldn't possibly be functioning as an object. Instead, as I explained earlier, “that” is a conjunction that’s integral to the subordinate clause “that he was five years ago” in the first sentence and “that he was” in the second sentence.

Neither does “that” in the first sentence mean that the man is “completely simple-minded”; on the contrary, that sentence is saying that he’s no longer simple-minded now, unlike five years ago when he was, in fact, simple-minded.

Finally, neither does the phrase “he was” in the second sentence mean “what one is.” Instead, it’s an integral part of the subordinate clause “that he was,” which means the kind of man he was based on what he said and did on the occasion referred to in that sentence.