What's that you were saying earlier?

deepcosmos

Senior Member
Korean
Hello, everyone,

1. “What's that you say?“ (idiomatic expression to mean ‘Have I heard you correctly?’)
2. “What’s that you’re holding?” (used for referring to something that the person you are talking to is holding or wearing, excerpted from Macmillan dictionary)
3. “What's that you were saying earlier?” (excerpt from our local material)

If three sentences above have the same pattern in common, I guess the that above is functioning not as a demonstrative pronoun leading a demonstrative-cleft construction, but as a preceding pronoun restricted by a relative ‘which’ clause (with the objective ‘which’ omitted). If so, I wonder how the demonstrative pronoun ‘that’ could be restricted by a relative ‘which’. Is this case similar to the exceptional usage of ‘those who’ in “Those who saw the performance thought it memorable.”?

I would appreciate it if you kindly explain the function of three ‘that’ above, especially the ‘that’ in 3.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    3. What's that you were saying earlier? :cross:
    3. What was that you were saying earlier? :tick:

    The that is a demonstrative pronoun.

    What (interrogative pronoun) is/was it (pronoun)?
    What (interrogative pronoun) is/was that (demonstrative pronoun)?
     

    deepcosmos

    Senior Member
    Korean
    3. What's that you were saying earlier? :cross:
    3. What was that you were saying earlier? :tick:

    The that is a demonstrative pronoun.

    What (interrogative pronoun) is/was it (pronoun)?
    What (interrogative pronoun) is/was that (demonstrative pronoun)?
    Hi, Lingobingo, really appreciate yours.

    Then, am I justified to parse that "What was that(=a preceding pronoun) [(which) you were saying earlier=a relative clause]?"
     
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    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    As lingobingo said, it should be "what was that ...", but you will see "is" (instead of "was") if the speaker is still mulling over what was said, and is speaking in colloquial style:
    ‘Cor blimey, guvnor,’ he said, ‘ta! Yer a real gent an’ no mistake!’
    ‘What’s that you were saying earlier, Sist, about delays?’ asked Canning as they settled in to their first-class compartment.
    ‘It’s one of the vagaries of our railway system, Canning. (paddyontherailway)
     
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    deepcosmos

    Senior Member
    Korean
    You can’t use which, if that’s what you mean. It’s not a demonstrative (emphatic) pronoun, it’s a relative pronoun.

    As lingobingo said, it should be "what was that ...", but you will see "is" (instead of "was") if the speaker is still mulling over what was said, and is speaking in colloquial style

    Hi, Lingobingo, Enquiring Mind, appreciate yours. I feel my previous inquiry was regretfully insufficient.

    The point of my inquiry is how the clause 'you were saying earlier' could be joined to the 'that'(demonstrative pronoun) in “What was that you were saying earlier?” I would appreciate it if you explain your parsing way about the structure of this underlined part.

    By the way, I parse that "What was that(=not only a demonstrative pronoun but also an antecedent) [(which) you were saying earlier=a relative clause with an objective pronoun - 'which' omitted]?“

    Would you help me once again?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We don’t use which in this construction. The combination of the two pronouns that which is only used as formal alternative to what (the thing or one that + clause). For example: What That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    What was it that you were saying earlier? :tick::thumbsup:
    What was that you were saying earlier? :tick::thumbsup:
    What was that which you were saying earlier? :cross:
     

    deepcosmos

    Senior Member
    Korean
    We don’t use which in this construction. The combination of the two pronouns that which is only used as formal alternative to what (the thing or one that + clause). For example: What That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
    Thanks, Lingobingo.

    What was it that you were saying earlier?
    What is the relation between 'it' and 'that clause'? Is it an apposition?

    What was that you were saying earlier?
    In this sentence, how could the clause 'you were saying earlier' could be joined to the 'that'(demonstrative pronoun)?
     
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