The most innocuous-seeming topics have sparked incredibly heated debates. Marmite: love it or loathe it? Toilet roll facing front or facing back? [Front obviously – Ed.] Daddy or chips?
Well, we’re about to start another one: whether or not to cut ‘that’ from sentences.
Now, don’t panic. This is not some kind of totalitarian coup – we are in no way advocating the complete abolition of ‘that’ from the English language. It is, after all, very useful.
How else would we be able to declare: ‘I want that one’?
No other word comes near it for its ability to define and specify, as in:
Have you seen the watch that my father gave me?
Incidentally, in this way it is not to be confused with ‘which’, since the latter often presents optional information (which could be omitted from the sentence):
My watch, which my father gave me, has gone missing.
However, anyone who knows Emphasis knows that we favour clarity, brevity, and generally getting on with it. To that end, sometimes the ‘that’s are redundant and just get in the way. Observe:
Are you still talking about the watch that your father gave you?
Are you still talking about the watch your father gave you?
The meaning is just as clear, the sentence is less clumsy, and you have that little bit longer left to look for the watch.
But don’t let us hog the microphone. Join the debate: redundant place-filler or vital for rhythm and sense? Are there instances where excluding it would only lead to madness? Just how do you feel about ‘that’?