that merely knowing it exists can wear away at ones sanity

Shak32

Member
romanian
Hi,
Said of a creature, it means something that merely knowing it exists can wear away at ones sanity, and seeing it can be even worse. source

I dont't understand why ''that'' is used there. There is both object and subject.

As far as I know, unless it is noun clause, relative clauses can't take both as long as they don't take preposition but in the above sentence, there isn't preposition too.

How would you paraphrase it?

Thanks.
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The idea is "A Lovecraftian creature is one the very knowledge of the existence of which is capable of wearing away at one's sanity; seeing it can be even worse."

    The original syntax is very convoluted and awkward.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Forero, Saying ''It'', you mean like this ''something that merely knowing exists can wear away at one's sanity'' ?

    Thanks again.
    That is a very awkward noun phrase, but, yes, that would be more grammatical. But it would help us to find the end of the relative clause to have just one finite verb in it, as in The Newt's version with "the very knowledge of the existence of which" instead of "that merely knowing exists".
     

    Shak32

    Member
    romanian
    If I understand it correct, although it is ungrammatical, it makes the object ''that'' clear. Thus, making it logically grammatical

    Does the example of mine I made up work if we leave out the way The Newt did ?

    Do you know something that holding it causes burn injury ?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    If I understand it correct, although it is ungrammatical, it makes the object ''that'' clear. Thus, making it logically grammatical

    Does the example of mine I made up work if we leave out the way The Newt did ?

    Do you know something that holding it causes burn injury ?
    The "sentence" from the urban dictionary is not valid. We can understand it after reading it a few times through, and sometimes things like that come out of our mouths, but it is not the way educated native English speakers write.

    It gave you trouble because "that" cannot be a pronoun in the subordinate clause. When a subordinate clause begins with "that" and "that" is not a pronoun within that clause, that clause should not be used to modify a noun or pronoun.

    What the author probably meant was:

    Said of a creature, it means that merely knowing that creature exists can wear away at one's sanity and that seeing that creature can have even worse consequences.

    The two thats I have underlined are not relative pronouns but subordinating conjunctions.

    We could theoretically do something similar with relative clauses to avoid saying "that creature" (twice):

    Said of a creature, it refers to one that merely knowing exists can wear away at one's sanity and that seeing can have even worse consequences.

    Notice what is different between the original quote and this version. This version has no "it".

    This version is more grammatical than the original, but it is confusing. We can change "exists" to "the existence of" (and "seeing" to "the sight of") to make it more obvious where the "trace" of the relative pronoun needs to be imagined:
    is
    Said of a creature, it refers to one that merely knowing the existence of can wear away at one's sanity and (that) the sight of can have even worse consequences.

    That sounds more natural to me, and The Newt's version is a variation on that.

    Your latest example, "Do you know something that holding it causes burn injury?", is wrong because it has an extra "it". Again the "it" occupies the "trace" position, so it should be removed:

    Do you know about something that holding causes burn injury?

    But this is "dense" too. Changing "holding" to "the holding of" fixes that:

    Do you know about something that the holding of causes burn injury?

    That's still rather awkward. Some other possibilities, each with different grammar:

    Do you know about something the mere holding of which causes burns?
    Do you know of something for which burn injuries are caused by merely holding?
    Do you know of something that causes burn injury when held?
    Do you know of something that causes burn injury just to hold?
    Do you know of something that it causes burn injury just to hold?

    The it in my last example is a "dummy it" and the "trace" comes after "hold".
     

    Shak32

    Member
    romanian
    Sorry, A bit delayed question.

    Do you know of something for which burn injuries are caused by merely holding?

    '
    'for'' seems to me odd.
    If I did understand it correctly, its structure is ''burn injuries are caused by merely holding for something'' Am I missing something grammatically?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Sorry, A bit delayed question.

    Do you know of something for which burn injuries are caused by merely holding?

    '
    'for'' seems to me odd.
    If I did understand it correctly, its structure is ''burn injuries are caused by merely holding for something'' Am I missing something grammatically?
    You are right. "For which" does not make any sense here. Maybe the author meant something like one of the following:

    Do you know of something that causes burn injuries merely by being held?
    Do you know of something the mere holding of which causes burn injuries?
     
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