Mastering the Use of “That Is” in American English Sentences

Marcus Froland

Mastering the English language comes with its own set of challenges, and small phrases can sometimes be the trickiest part. Among these, “that is” holds a special place. It’s like a Swiss Army knife in your linguistic toolbox, ready to clarify, exemplify, or redefine what you’ve just said. But how do we wield it correctly without turning our sentences into a tangled mess?

This short phrase can transform your writing, making your ideas clearer and your arguments more persuasive. Yet, many learners find themselves pausing, unsure of how to seamlessly integrate “that is” into their sentences. If you’ve ever found yourself in this boat, you’re not alone. So how do we move from confusion to using “that is” with confidence? The answer might surprise you.

Using “that is” in a sentence helps clarify or add detail to what you just mentioned. Think of it as a way to say “in other words” or “to put it another way.” When you want to explain something more, or give an example, “that is” comes in handy. For instance, if you’re talking about your favorite fruit and say, “I love eating berries in summer, that is, strawberries and blueberries,” you’re specifying which berries you mean. Remember, after “that is”, use a comma to separate it from the rest of the sentence. This small phrase can make your writing clearer and help the reader understand exactly what you mean.

What Does “That Is” Mean in English?

Understanding the function in the English language of the phrase “that is” is akin to unraveling a nuanced vintage wine. As with the best wines that require a discerning palate to appreciate their intricacy, “that is” serves as a clarifying expression to ensure the message you intend to convey is received with the intended clarity and correctness.

The Definition and Function of “That Is”

At its core, “that is” operates as an explanatory phrase. It zeros in on the crux of a statement or a discussion, pinpointing and elaborating on what has been mentioned prior. This verbal magnifying glass sharpens the focus of your message, often appearing alongside synonyms such as “that is to say” and “in other words”, which are English idiomatic expressions designed to break down and expand upon complex ideas.

Variations of “That Is” in English Expressions

Varieties of this phrase are deeply embedded in the fabric of formal and informal communication. Let’s explore a range of these iterations:

  1. To clarify or rephrase: “I plan to study ethology, that is, the science of animal behavior.”
  2. To provide specifics: “She enjoys traditional art forms, that is to say, ballet and opera.”
  3. As syntactical elegance: “Our results are significant, that is, we’ve discovered a new approach.”

Blending seamlessly into sentences, these explanatory phrases enhance understanding by giving additional context, much like a sommelier decoding the tasting notes of a complex wine.

Expression Function
That is Introduces clarification or specification
That is to say Precedes a more detailed or simplified explanation
In other words Restates a statement in a different way, often simpler
Namely Signals a list or a more precise illustration

The elegance and utility of “that is” in the English language is not to be underestimated. Just as a sparkling wine adds a special touch to celebrations, so too does the definition of “that is” enhance the nuance and clarity of your language, elevating your communication to a level befitting any distinguished gathering of minds.

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Examples of “That Is” Clarifying a Thought

Imagine yourself weaving through the complex tapestry of the English language. Now picture the phrase “that is” as your guiding thread, leading you towards pristine clarifying thoughts. Just as a jeweler uses a loupe to inspect the clarity of a diamond, you can use “that is” in your sentences to enhance sentence clarity and communicate “that is” usage examples with precision.

Consider the following sentence: “He’s a sommelier, that is, a wine expert.” Notice how “that is” succinctly clarifies the profession in question, leaving no room for ambiguity. It’s a pivotal moment in the sentence where clarity blooms. Let’s pour over more examples where this verbal decanter helps aerate and clarify the meaning.

  1. When mentioning a historical figure: “Our topic is Lincoln, that is, the 16th President of the United States known for the Emancipation Proclamation.”
  2. In academic writing: “Dichotomous keys assist in species identification, that is, they help to determine the exact species an organism belongs to.”
  3. Regarding technological terms: “She specializes in SaaS, that is, Software as a Service, which is a way of delivering applications over the internet.”

Now, let’s structure these insights into a table to enhance your understanding of the dynamic role of “that is” in enriching sentence structure:

Instance Without “That Is” With “That Is”
Professional Titles He’s a sommelier. He’s a sommelier, that is, a wine expert.
Historical Context Our topic is Lincoln. Our topic is Lincoln, that is, the 16th President of the United States.
Scientific Explanation Dichotomous keys assist in species identification. Dichotomous keys assist in species identification, that is, they determine the exact species.

As seen in the table, these phrases transition the reader from an initial statement to a fuller understanding, much like how a map progresses a traveler from one point to the next with full knowledge of their journey. In other words, “that is” can be your linguistic compass, orienting the audience towards a clear destination of comprehension.

Here’s another way “that is” can clarify thoughts, in a direct quotation:

“Our goal is to cut emissions by 50%,” the CEO explained, “that is, we’re instituting green policies at all levels of operation.”

In this case, the CEO utilizes “that is” to crystallize an ambitious objective into tangible actions. Whether through lists, tables, or quotes, the phrase continues to distill and purify the flow of information, serving as the cornerstone of comprehensible and articulate communication.

Understanding the strategic deployment of “that is” within the framework of sentence clarity is as rewarding as savoring a well-aged wine. By mastering its use, you elevate your speech, and in turn, the beauty of the language itself.

When to Include “That Is” in a Sentence

Mastering the art of “that is” opens a realm of clear communication, much like threading a needle accurately enhances the fabric we weave. In the intricate design of sentence structure, knowing when and how to use “that is” as emphasis or to differentiate clauses is pivotal. It can be the bright beacon that guides your readers to understanding in the dense forest of English language complexity. So, let us venture into the mechanics of “that is” to ensure your sentences shimmer with clarity and distinction.

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Using “That Is” for Emphasis

Like italicizing a word for importance, injecting a sentence with “that is” can highlight critical information and draw the eye to essential details. Imagine you, a skilled communicator, spotlighting a key notion in a sentence as a chef would a signature ingredient in a dish. The intentional use of “that is” informs your readers that what follows is not to be overlooked; it is paramount to grasping the heart of your message.

Consider this potent use of the phrase:

“We have reached a turning point in our project—that is, the phase where theory transitions into practice.”

Here, “that is” forges emphasis, illuminating the crux of the discourse.

Distinguishing Between Essential and Non-Essential Clauses

Grasping the distinction between essential and non-essential clauses is akin to discerning the subtle tones in a complex melody. The phrase “that is”, when employed before a non-essential clause, enlightens the reader with bonus insight, elevating the narrative with layers of meaning without disrupting the backbone of the main message.

  1. An essential clause without “that is” might read: “The candidate who speaks four languages will impress the hiring committee.”
  2. Introducing a non-essential clause with “that is” could look like: “The candidate, that is, the one with the international experience, will impress the hiring committee.”

The above examples guide you through the nuances of incorporating or ommitting “that is” and the resulting syntactical charm it channels into your sentences.

Without “That Is” With “That Is”
The lawnmower is in the garage. The lawnmower, that is, the one we just repaired, is in the garage.
She’ll attend the university in New York. She’ll attend the university, that is, Columbia University in New York.
The app helps with daily productivity. The app, that is, the one featured in Forbes, helps with daily productivity.

This table acts as a tailored guide, illustrating how the phrase “that is” can unfold additional layers within your narrative, enriching the texture of your communication landscape.

Whether you seek to spotlight pivotal information or to garnish your paragraph with enlightening detail, “that is” serves as an elemental tool in the architect’s kit of language. You now possess the skillset to apply this phrase with the precision of a maestro, bringing your audience along on a journey marked by impeccable clarity and emphasis.

The Grammatical Roles of “That Is”

As you delve into the layers of American English, you’ll find that the phrase “that is” serves as a versatile grammatical tool. Its roles may not be as immediately evident as a subject or verb in a sentence, but understanding its usage is crucial for conveying meaning with precision. Here, we’ll explore the different grammatical roles “that is” can play in your sentence architecture.

“That is” often finds its use in introducing noun clauses. For instance, in the statement “She said that she would attend,” the “that is” phrase is introducing the noun clause which contains the subject “she” and the verb “would attend”. Observing how “that is” transitions between statements, we can also see how it builds bridges in communication, enabling a smooth and logical flow of ideas.

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Adding to its multifaceted nature, “that is” can function as a subject complement, a vital part of the sentence that renames or describes the subject. Through its subtle introduction, “that is” ensures that the subsequent information dovetails seamlessly with what was previously mentioned, providing further explanation or specificity.

What’s more, its role is not confined to these uses alone. “that is” can demonstrate its adaptability by substituting for “which” or “who” in relative pronouns usage. This adaptability is a sign of the language’s fluid nature and showcases the phrase’s ability to clothe ideas in different stylistic garments without altering their core meaning.

Understanding the sentence “The book that inspired me was signed by the author,” we notice “that” modifies “book” and introduces a defining relative clause, adding essential information about the noun.

Let’s visualize how “that is” performs in different grammatical circumstances:

Grammatical Role Example Without “That Is” Example With “That Is”
Introducing Noun Clauses She said she would attend. She said that is, she would attend.
Subject Complement The important thing is your health. The important thing is that is, your health.
Relative Pronoun Substitute The book which inspired me was signed by the author. The book that is, the one which inspired me, was signed by the author.

Remember, the beauty of mastering the phrase “that is” lies in the nuance and layers it adds to your communication. Like a master painter toggling between brushes for different strokes, the adept use of “that is” allows you to paint your sentences with the shades of clarity and coherence crucial to the art of language.

Common Mistakes and Confusions with “That Is”

As you continue to refine your language skills, it’s essential to grasp the distinction between “that is” versus “that’s” to maintain the appropriate tone and formality in your communication. While “that’s” is a contraction typically used in more casual scenarios, “that is” often carries a weightier presence, denoting emphatic statements or a more formal setting. Proper usage dictates selecting the right form to convey your intended meaning and respecting the nuances of the situation.

Avoid the trap of misusing “that is” as a verbal filler in your sentences. This common oversight can inject awkward pauses, disrupt sentence fluency, and result in a less polished delivery. Reserve “that is” for when clarity is paramount, and a precise elucidation is in order. Strive for clear writing that cuts straight to the point without unnecessary detours. By doing so, you can ensure that each “that is” serves a purpose, enhancing rather than muddying your message.

Finally, navigating ambiguity with “that is” becomes an art form in itself. Its strategic placement can dissolve any confusion, allowing you to articulate complex ideas with precision. Remember—overuse or misplacement may inadvertently add to the ambiguity you’re trying to clarify. When employed judiciously, “that is” can be the lighthouse, guiding readers through the fog towards the shore of understanding. Embrace these insights to sharpen your “that is” clarification and make every word count.

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