he had a good excuse to return the lawn mower

< Previous | Next >

bobek123

New Member
polish
Hello,

I need help with the below:

He knew that he had a good excuse to return the lawn mower to the garage.

So I'm having trouble breaking down this sentence. What is confusing me is the 'He knew that', because if you take that away you have:

He (noun) had (verb) excuse (D.O) to return the lawn mower (Infinitive Phrase) to the garage (prepositional phrase).

How is the He knew that functioning here?

Is it it's own sentence? He (noun) knew (verb, to know) that (D.O, pronoun)

Thanks for the help :)
 
  • Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    How is the He knew that functioning here?
    It functions just the same as the corresponding phrases in "I said that I could drive the car," "She hoped that it wasn't too late to submit the project," etc. Can't you form sentences like that in Polish? :confused:

    In any event, this is the function of the conjunction "that." It introduces a subordinate clause that functions as the object of the principal verb of the sentence (or as its subject, in other cases).
     

    Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English
    How is the He knew that functioning here?
    Here's what I was taught:

    He = Pronoun, subject
    knew = verb
    that = relative pronoun, start of a noun clause
    that he had a good excuse = noun clause functioning as a direct object of knew
     
    Last edited:

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    He (noun) had
    He = noun, subject
    "He" is a pronoun, not a noun.

    that = relative pronoun, start of a noun clause
    It's a relative pronoun in a sentence like "He asked to go steady with me, but I don't want that (i.e., to go steady)". But it's a conjunction when it introduces a subordinate clause, as in "He said that he wants to go steady with me." It's not a pronoun since it doesn't stand for any antecedent.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Here's what I was taught:

    He = Pronoun, subject
    knew = verb
    that = relative pronoun, start of a noun clause
    that he had a good excuse = noun clause functioning as a direct object of knew
    If "that" starts a "noun clause," "that" is not a relative pronoun. The relative pronoun "that" is part of an adjective clause.

    In He knew that he had a good excuse, "that" is a complementizer (a.k.a. "conjunction"), a word which introduces a noun clause functioning as object of "knew." Since complementizers don't have meaning of their own, they can be dropped: He knew he had a good excuse. "That" in He asked me to go steady with me, but I don't want that functions as the direct of "want" (a "noun" function) and is therefore not a "relative pronoun" either.

    The relative pronoun "that" introduces a relative/adjective clause; "that" has meaning (it refers to an antecedent) and it will have a grammatical function inside the relative clause, such as "subject" (The dog that bit me was very small, where the relative pronoun "that" is the subject of "bit") and direct object (That's the car that I bought, where relative pronoun "that" is the object of "bought").
     

    Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English

    bobek123

    New Member
    polish
    Wah, thanks everyone.
    This was my first time posting here, your responses are great!
    I understand now, thank you :)
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Here's my "information" and the source of it:

    A noun clause usually begins with a relative pronoun like "that," "which," "who," "whoever," "whomever," "whose," "what," and "whatsoever."

    Grammar Handbook « Writers Workshop: Writer Resources « The Center for Writing Studies, Illinois
    Unless they give an example of a noun clause beginning with the relative pronoun "that," I really don't know what your source is talking about, but I suspect that the folks who wrote that handbook are just, well, confused.

    Here's another site that's just as confused. It talks about noun clauses introduced by a relative pronoun, and gives as examples:

    Estimates indicate that 20 million Americans owned hand-held calculators by 1974. (direct object)
    The major disadvantage of sequential files is that they are slow. (subject complement)

    Yes, "that 20 million Americans owned hand-held calculators by 1974" and "that they are slow" are noun clauses (functioning as direct object and subject complement), but they are introduced by the complementizer "that" (not the relative pronoun "that").

    Here's the key distinction between the complementizer that and the relative pronoun that: the complementizer that plays no grammatical role inside the clause that follows (the complementizer is simply an introductory word); by contrast, the relative pronoun that will always have a grammatical function inside the clause that follows.

    And so, ask yourself; in:

    that
    20 million Americans owned hand-held calculators by 1974


    and in

    that they are slow

    what grammatical role does that play in the clause that follows? The answer is, "none;" that simply introduces the following clause (more precisely, the complementizer allows each clause to play a subordinate role). Now, notice what happens with the relative pronoun that:

    The man that came to see me was my father

    The relative pronoun that introduces the relative/adjective clause "that came to see me" and at the same time plays a role inside the relative clause; in this case, that functions as the "subject" of "came."

    (And here's a distinction between relative clauses and noun clauses. Relative clauses are modifiers; they can be dropped, leaving behind a grammatical sentence: The man that came to see me was my father ~ The man was my father. Noun clauses are clause constituents and can't be dropped; if you drop the noun clause, what's left is incomplete: You know that I love you ~ You know ???)

    I think your link/source is led astray by noun clauses that are indeed introduced by a relative pronoun, but the relative pronoun is a wh-word (not the relative pronoun "that"):

    From your link: Whoever wins the game will play in the tournament

    "Whoever wins the game" is a type of relative clause known as free relative clause/headless relative clause. Free relative clauses have a particular feature: they have no explicit antecedent for the relative pronoun. The key is that, in sentence structure, free relative clauses automatically become "noun clauses." Accordingly, the free relative clause "Whoever wins the the game" becomes a noun clause, and as such it functions as the subject of "will play." Thing is, free relative clauses that automatically become noun clauses start with a wh-word (including "how"), not with "that:" I don't know what he did; Tell me how he did it; what really happened is unknown.
     

    Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English
    Unless they give an example of a noun clause beginning with the relative pronoun "that," I really don't know what your source is talking about, but I suspect that the folks who wrote that handbook are just, well, confused.
    Thank you for checking out the Center for Writing Studies website. I searched for noun clause, under "noun," "noun clause," and "clause," in the Cambridge Grammar of English, without finding anything. Maybe "noun clause" has another name.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top