It was beauty killed the beast

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hamlet

Senior Member
Français (FR)
(That's from King Kong, if you don't already know) Is that sentence complete? Can you omit the "that" between "beauty" and "killed"?
 
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Police Lieutenant: Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.
    Carl Denham: Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.


    From a grammar point of view, I agree it needs the "that". However this is dialogue and the rules of grammar are very much loosened in dialogue. The operative rule should be: does it sound like speech? Does it sound like the character.

    I would have to go back and read the entire script to see if the "voice" of Carl Denham was consistent with this line. But I would say it sounds OK to me.

    Also, I think that they were looking for a bit of parallelism between the first line (the airplanes got him) and the last line (It was beauty killed the beast.) Not quite parallel, but a "that" would have moved it further askew.
     

    srta chicken

    Senior Member
    US English
    To me it sounds wierd I would definitely put "that" between "beauty" and "killed," (unless you're trying to imitate a dialect that I've not heard before).
     

    hamlet

    Senior Member
    Français (FR)
    okay. I heard other phrases like that in both BE and AE books ("It's the Americans did that"). Can you really use that form?
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It seems to me the intention was to be poetical; by leaving out the word 'that" one gets a line that scans as ' U ' U ' U ' , with ' representing an accented syllable and U an unaccented one.
     

    SpanishStudent_39

    Senior Member
    USA (English)
    To be grammatically correct, it should be: "It was beauty that killed the beast"

    But this phrase is meant to be poetical, and the rules of grammer can be bent in poetry.
     

    hamlet

    Senior Member
    Français (FR)
    I found another example of that usage that people use more often than I thought : "there's nothing can be done". How would it sound with 'that' before 'can be done'? Is it conversational or can it be formal usage too?
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    Here is how I look at it: beauty killed the beast is like a noun in itself, or a phrase that functions as a noun. If you put quotation marks around the phrase, perhaps you will see more clearly what I'm getting at: It was "beauty killed the beast." The phrase is sort of like a quote. I'm not sure if this helps, but I understand the confusion.
     

    Aaar

    Senior Member
    English -USA
    Well, here's a robust-looking grammar website which says that "that" can be omitted. In fact, it says that only "that" can be omitted--not any of the other noun clause markers.

    I would say that "It was Belle killed the Beast." is a perfectly good sentence, too.

    Of course, I could claim that I incorrectly used "that", then left it out. ;)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, here's a robust-looking grammar website which says that "that" can be omitted. In fact, it says that only "that" can be omitted--not any of the other noun clause markers.
    Aar, I think your website is talking about a different sort of "that" = the "that" that introduces a noun clause, as in I thought that he was dead. In it was Beauty killed the beast we're talking about a "that" introducing a relative clause: the 'fuller' version would be it was Beauty that/who killed the beast.

    Relative pronouns are routinely omitted when they represent the object of a verb [or a preposition] in the relative clause. Fred's the man [...] I saw; Fred's the man [...] I gave the money to. It is much less common to omit a relative pronoun in subject position: it's only done in very informal speech and I suspect not in all dialects.
     
    Last edited:

    Aaar

    Senior Member
    English -USA
    Aar, I think your website is talking about a different sort of "that" = the "that" that introduces a noun clause, as in I thought that he was dead. In it was Beauty killed the beast we're talking about a "that" introducing a relative clause: the 'fuller' version would be it was Beauty that/who killed the beast.

    Relative pronouns are routinely omitted when they represent the object of a verb [or a preposition] in the relative clause. Fred's the man [...] I saw; Fred's the man [...] I gave the money to. It is much less common to omit a relative pronoun in subject position: it's only done in very informal speech and I suspect not in all dialects.
    Loob, you are correct (as usual, I take it :))--“killed the beast” is not a noun clause.
    (I’m not just being argumentative here. I’m really trying to see what rule applies.)
    So, “killed the beast” is not a noun clause (it’s not even a clause until we stick “that” in front of it), but what the heck is it? What sentence part?

    What is the grammatical difference between these sentences:
    1. It was beauty killed the beast.
    2. We know beauty killed the beast.

    Is it the verb (that) makes the difference--to be or not to be?

    We can insert the relative pronoun “that” before “beauty” in #2, creating a relative clause in a syntactically correct sentence. We can insert “how”, “why”, “when” or some other relative pronoun in the same place and still get good sentences, each with a very different meaning.

    Inserting “that” before “killed” in #1 is not at all the same thing. We can’t use just any relative pronoun, only “that” or “who” (if we change “beauty” to “Belle”) and maybe “which” for some reason I can’t think of.

    For our friends learning English—including me, apparently—what is the rule that tells us “that” is missing from sentence #1?
     

    Skin

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In my opinion, the rule is that each clause must have a subject and a predicate of its own:

    "It was Beauty killed the beast" - :cross:, at least grammatically

    Principal clause: "It was Beauty": subject + predicate;
    Subordinate clause: "killed the beast": subject?? - there is none - predicate only.

    That's why you need a relative pronoun acting as subject to make the secondary clause complete: that or who

    Bye
     

    iconoclast

    Senior Member
    english - anglo-irish
    An interesting aspect of Creoles, the fully grammatical languages that sprang out of word-salad pidgins, is that they eschew the relative pronoun in relative clauses. Apparently, it's not a universally obligatory thing. As has been pointed out, it's natural to delete object pronoun, but the original example involving the deletion of subject pronoun happens all the time. In the movie 'The Crying Game', the anti-hero Fergus, looking to clandestinely get across the Irish Sea, looks up an old acquaintance who tells him "There's a man I know ships cattle to London". Wonderful!
     
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