Insubordinate conjunctions

In certain situations, the word “that” seems to be falling by the wayside.

The following sentence in the BBC’s article about the tragic death of a 14-year-old as a result of an alleged dog attack prompted the post:

Early indications were two of the dogs put down were bull mastiffs and two may be Staffordshire bull terriers, officers said.

Now traditionally, you’d see the word “that” after the word “were”: Early indications were that two of the dogs…”

Technically speaking, what we’re talking about is a subordinating conjunction. And my view is that the addition of the that helps with the flow of the sentence. Its omission can have you retracing your steps to make sure you’re interpreting the sentence correctly.

I’ve read many a technical spec. and business plan of late, and the same seems to be happening after the word “ensure”.

We will ensure services are restored with minimum disruption.

Ten years ago, that would never have stood. Back then, we would have ensured that services were restored. But it’s becoming more commonplace not to bother with the that.

I can’t say I like it. But I guess [that] over time, the shorter version will become the norm, and that eventually, the traditional inclusion of the word will come across as stilted and archaic.

Posted by Dan, 26 March, 2013 under Grammar | Rules


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