My experience is <that>...

Jignesh77

Senior Member
India- hindi
"My experience is that the majority of children benefit from such an approach and that children's reading is improving as a result."

What is the grammatical form and function in the example?

Is "that" a relative pronoun with "my experience" as an antecedent? How do we differentiate that as a pronoun from a that as a conjunction?
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    1. I think it's a conjunction introducing a noun clause.

    2. In reading, we have to use common sense. In writing, we have the option of using alternatives to avoid ambiguity. For instance, here, we might use any of the following:
    • "My experience is that the majority of children benefit from such an approach..."
    • "My experience is this: the majority of children benefit from such an approach..."
    • "My experience is, the majority of children benefit from such an approach..."
    • "In my experience, the majority of children benefit from such an approach..."
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    "My experience is that the majority of children benefit from such an approach and that children's reading is improving as a result."

    What is the grammatical form and function in the example?

    Is "that" a relative pronoun with "my experience" as an antecedent? How do we differentiate that as a pronoun from a that as a conjunction?
    If you have a relative pronoun, you'll have a relative clause, and if you have a relative clause, the relative pronoun will have a syntactic function inside the relative clause. So, let's take the structure where "that" appears (there are two that's, and we'll use the first one, but this applies to both): that the majority of children benefit from such an approach. Does "that" play a role in that structure? No. The only thing that "that" does is to introduce a "complement," so "that" is a complementizer (traditional grammar calls it a "conjunction"). As a result, this "that" is not a relative pronoun.

    Let's try this: That's the experience that he described to me. Here, "that" has a syntactic function inside "that he described to me;" it is the object of "described." I can rearrange the sentence, showing that "that" means "the experience:" he described that to me ~ he described the experience to me. So, this "that" is a relative pronoun. In this case, the relative pronoun moves up so it can be next to its antecedent: That's the experience that he described to me. When relative pronoun "that" functions as object in the relative clause, it can be omitted: That's the experience he described to me.

    In The cyclist that won the race was disqualified, we also have a relative clause, and in it, "that" functions as subject of "won" (that won the race ~ The cyclist won the race). The relative pronoun doesn't move up, because it's already next to its antecedent. We can't omit "that" when it functions as subject in the relative clause: The cyclist won the race was disqualified ???

    So, that's the way to differentiate "that" as pronoun from "that" as complementizer/conjunction: isolate the segment where "that" appears, and see if "that" plays a syntactic role (subject, object) in it.
     
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