"that" in non-defining relative clauses

Discussion in 'English Only' started by romina_arena, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. romina_arena Member

    Hi everyone,

    I've read this definition of the word plunger in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary online:

    a piece of equipment used for clearing kitchen and bathroom pipes, that consists of a rubber cup fixed to a handle

    Now, my question is, is that accepted in non-defining relative clauses nowadays? According to the literature, it is incorrect; what is more, its use in non-defining relative clauses is a very important mistake ... but this example is from a dictionary ...

    What do you think? Is this getting into the language?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    It depends on whom you ask.

    I think the word should have been which. Others here will probably have a different opinion.
  3. St. Nick Senior Member

    I'm surprised to see the coma. The very nature of this subordinate clause serving as part of a dictionary definition qualifies it as restrictive, that is, defining and essential.

    I'd retain the pronoun "that" and delete the coma.
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The important thing to remember, is that it always has been in the language.
    What is new(ish) is the attempt to take English and write a grammar of it, making up often arbitrary rules about certain aspects of it, and labelling certain usage as wrong.

    What happens then is things like this, the other usage prevails.
    Non-restrictive that existed before the tiny group of grammarians decided they didn't like it. It's nowhere near as common as restrictive-which, but it's present and used (as those dictionary writers have shown us).

    You can often find grammar books (like this one) that talk about non-restrictive that and its current status in English.
    The most important quote from that book is:

    ^^ I think that book has the most up-to-date opinion on the matter, complete with pedant-warning.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
  5. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    But do you think this clause is a non-defining relative clause?
    I agree with St.Nick: I don't think it is.
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The comma is there, so, yes, I guess.
    It's how I interpret it. Take the comma out and I read it as defining.

    A full sentence would be easier to tell, and better if not a description, but with my mental pause and the comma, I can see the additional clause as adding extra non-essential information about the kitchen equipment used to clean pipes etc.

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