There’s nary a word that I see that peeves me like “that.” Let’s do that over…There’s nary a word that peeves me like “that.”
See my point? My opinion, based on reading others’ writings littered with “that” is “that” is seriously overrated and over-utilized. It’s constantly inserted in sentences, yet adds no meaning. I’ve had Twitter grammarians agree.
When you write “that” read the sentence again and delete the offender. Nine times out of 10, nothing changes. “That” is a waste. In support of my belief, I turn to the ever-resourceful Wikipedia to learn more. (Not until I read this entry did this post title come to mind.)
The word that is used in the English language for several grammatical purposes:
- to introduce a restrictive clause
- as a demonstrative pronoun
- as a complementizer.
(Ah-hah! A “complementizer!” Now we’re getting somewhere fast and upon further digging, this said complementizer becomes an EMPTY one!)
Some analyses allow for the possibility of invisible or “empty” complementizers. An empty complementizer is a hypothetical phonologically null category with a function parallel to that of visible complementizers such as that and for. Its existence in English has been proposed based on the following type of alternation:
- He hopes you go ahead with the speech
- He hopes that you go ahead with the speech
- Because that can be inserted between the verb and the embedded clause, the original sentence without a visible complementizer would be reanalyzed as
- He hopes øC you go ahead with the speech
- This suggests another interpretation of the earlier “how” sentence:
- I read in the paper <how> øC [it’s going to be cold today]
- where “how” serves as a specifier to the empty complementizer.
OK, Wikipedia, perhaps I interpreted my own understanding (empty v. visible) from that, but I still think that I’m right…I mean, I still think I’m right.