Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another "that" question

This question represents the opposite of the "that that" topic. I am wondering about the disappearance of "that" in certain clauses.

For example:
He said I had to meet him later

As opposed to

He said that I had to meet him later.

(Better examples abound, but I think [that] you get the idea)

I was always under the impression [that] the second example was correct, or at least, more formal. My Latin professor always obliged us to use that in our translations, even though colloquial usage said otherwise.

Is this variability a question of style--standard versus formal--or is the second typology obsolete?


Ryan said...

Sorry, "typology" would be better read as "construction."

LilyLuvsU said...

I am taking latin too! I was wondering the same thing since we're always told to supply "that" into indirection statements.

Ryan said...

Yes, indirect statements. I couldn't remember the name of the construction. Thanks, Lily.

Pat said...

Ryan, I asked my friend Michael to respond to your post; here is what he said:

Ryan’s impression is right. That sounds more formal. I tell my students to leave it out if there is no danger of confusion. Some verbs sound awkward without it:

I agree revision is necessary.
He implied our plan is a mistake.

Some sound awkward with it:

I think that you are right.

Some can go either way:

He said that I could.
He said I could.

That sometimes helps clarity when there are multiple clauses. Judicious placement of at least one that could improve a sentence like this one:

He thinks I believe she does a good job but you don’t.

Sometimes the omission of that may cause the reader to do a double-take:

I believe what he says, no matter how popular he may be, is nonsense.