Is “That That” Grammatically Correct? Exploring Rules and Examples

Marcus Froland

English can be a tricky beast. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on its rules and rhythms, it throws you a curveball. And there’s one phrase that seems to trip up even the most seasoned speakers and writers: “that that.” Yes, you read it right. Two “thats” back to back. It sounds like a mistake, doesn’t it? Something about it feels inherently wrong, like wearing socks with sandals or putting ketchup on pasta.

But here’s the kicker: sometimes, the English language likes to break its own rules, or so it seems. The phrase “that that” could actually be perfectly grammatical under certain circumstances. But how do you use it correctly without having your readers do a double-take? Well, that’s where things get interesting.

Yes, “that that” is grammatically correct in English. It might sound odd, but there are cases where using “that” twice in a row makes sense. This usually happens when the first “that” is a relative pronoun, which introduces a clause, and the second “that” is a demonstrative pronoun or a conjunction. For example, in the sentence “She said that that book is hers,” the first “that” introduces what she said, and the second “that” points to the book. It’s important to ensure the sentence is clear and not confusing. If it sounds too awkward, rephrasing might help, but technically, using “that that” is not wrong.

Understanding the Basics of “That That” in English Grammar

English grammar can be quite complex, and mastering its subtleties requires a solid understanding of various rules and structures. One such complexity arises from double occurrences of the word “that,” often leaving learners questioning its grammatical correctness. In this section, we’ll delve into the dual roles of “that” in sentence construction and differentiate its functions when “that that” occurs.

The Dual Roles of “That” in Sentence Construction

The word “that” in the English language takes on two primary roles – a subordinating conjunction and a demonstrative pronoun. As a subordinating conjunction, “that” links dependent clauses, those that cannot stand on their own as complete sentences, to the independent clauses of complex sentences. This connection is achieved without the need for commas to separate the clauses. When used as a demonstrative pronoun, “that” points to a singular entity, typically far from the speaker’s or writer’s perspective.

Example: She noticed that the couch was missing a pillow.

In the example above, “that” functions as a subordinating conjunction, connecting the dependent clause “the couch was missing a pillow” to the independent clause “She noticed.”

When “That That” Isn’t a Typo: Differentiating Functions

What happens when we encounter “that that” in a sentence? Is it a mistake, or is it grammatically correct? Most often, the first “that” acts as a subordinating conjunction, while the second “that” may serve as a demonstrative pronoun, determiner (adjective), or even adverb depending on the sentence context.

Example: I know that that painting is priceless.

In this example, the first “that” introduces the subordinate idea “that painting is priceless,” while the second “that” functions as a demonstrative determiner, specifying the particular painting being discussed.

This structure is crucial for language comprehension and sentence clarity. Despite the repetition, “that that” is grammatically accurate. The first “that” introduces information or a subordinate action, while the second “that” refers to a specific entity or concept, achieving grammatical precision and sentence clarity.

  1. Subordinating conjunction: “I believe that that idea has merit.”
  2. Demonstrative pronoun: “Is that that book you were talking about?”
  3. Adverb: “She felt that that was the best choice.”

Understanding the functions of “that that” can help you appreciate the intricacies of English grammar and enhance your language comprehension.

Examining Common Uses of “That That” in Literature and Writing

The repeated use of “that that” in English literature has a long-standing presence, appearing in several works from various eras. Drawing examples from the realm of English literature not only illustrates its literary usage, but it also sheds light on different writing styles and sentence construction in works. Delving into these instances further showcases how “that that” is a grammatically correct structure in numerous written and spoken contexts.

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For instance, one of the most well-known pieces of literature that features the “that that” construction is the King James Version of the Bible. Its widespread use in this pivotal religious text indicates that such grammatical formations are historically significant and contribute to the richness of language.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” – Hebrews 8:10-13 (King James Version)

Another prominent figure in the world of English literature, William Shakespeare, also used “that that” in his works. Several of his plays contain instances of the construction, highlighting its grammatical accuracy and artistic merit.

“I am the fellow with the great belly, and he my dog. Thou hast hit it: come, sit on me. O, well said, brach! Instruments will be brought with you. How do you, man? I would have brought Demetrius hither, but that I was ashamed to bring him. Is it a thin, unnourishing plot? have you a villains heart, that you cannot think a mischief mightily and confess? I think I must have a leach. I have heard, you have a reputation for secresie, and you should not go for not being seen, I assure you, but that that is a hard way to it. The doctor is come, by this time. I beseech you, entreat him well, for my sake.

– The Athenian Mercury, 16th-century English dialogue

In addition to these iconic examples, the “that that” construction can also be found in everyday writing. This grammatical phenomenon demonstrates that even outside of famous literary works, the expression plays a role in maintaining correct grammar in various written works.

  1. Email correspondence: “I appreciate your hard work, but I must inform you that that plan won’t work for our situation.”
  2. Academic research: “The results indicated that that variable had a considerable impact on the outcomes.”
  3. News articles: “The CEO stated that that company policy would be updated to reflect current industry standards.”

The repeated use of “that that” is not only found in celebrated works of literature, but it is also prevalent in everyday writings. Its presence in historically significant writings, such as the Bible and Shakespearean plays, is testament to its grammatical correctness and stylistic value. Embracing this grammatical structure enhances language expression and ensures clarity in communication.

Clearing Up Confusion: How To Properly Use “That That”

To master nuanced grammar, it’s essential to understand how to use “that that” correctly. First, let’s explore ways to avoid ambiguous references when using “that” in a sentence. Then, we’ll focus on the subtleties of “that” as a conjunction and pronoun in complex English sentences.

Avoiding Ambiguous References with “That”

Proper word usage and precision in writing are crucial for conveying your intended meaning. To ensure clarity, always follow the word “that” with a noun or concept directly related to your subject. This prevents ambiguous reference and enhances the quality of your writing. If your sentence contains an indefinite pronoun reference, you can resolve ambiguity with a simple rephrase or by clarifying the antecedent.

Original sentence: Susan enjoys watching action movies more than her sister.

In this sentence, it’s unclear whether Susan enjoys watching action movies more than her sister does or if Susan enjoys watching action movies more than she enjoys watching her sister. To clarify the meaning, revise the sentence:

Revised sentence: Susan enjoys watching action movies more than she enjoys watching her sister.

The Subtleties of “That” As a Conjunction and Pronoun

Understanding the grammatical subtleties of “that” is vital for achieving grammatical correctness and clarity in your writing. When “that” serves as a conjunction, it links complex clauses within a sentence, clarifying the relationship between different ideas. On the other hand, “that” can also function as a pronoun, pointing out specific entities or ideas previously mentioned in the text.

  1. Conjunction usage: I decided that I should learn more about English grammar rules.
  2. Pronoun usage: The book that I bought yesterday is about English grammar subtleties.
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Recognizing these roles can help ensure effective communication and a coherent narrative flow. Practice identifying instances when “that” serves as a conjunction and when it functions as a pronoun in various complex English sentences, and your understanding of nuanced grammar will improve.

Conjunction Example Pronoun Example
She insisted that he read the book. The advice that he offered was helpful.
He believed that practice made perfect. I followed the recipe that she provided.

By mastering the proper usage of “that that” in your writing, you’ll be able to craft sentences with precision and clarity, showcasing your understanding of English grammar rules and subtleties.

Strategies for Avoiding “That That” Repetition

For writers seeking improved sentence flow and variety, reducing instances of “that that” repetition can improve clarity and overall readability. The following writing strategies provide grammatical alternatives to prevent excessive word repetition and maintain grammatical correctness:

  1. Eliminate unnecessary instances: Read through your text and assess if both occurrences of “that” are essential for maintaining clarity. If one or both serve little function, consider removing them.
  2. Use synonyms: Replace one of the repetitive “that” instances with a suitable synonym, like ‘which’ or ‘who,’ depending on the context. This alternative maintains meaning while reducing repetition.
  3. Modify pronouns and sentence structures: Experiment with different pronouns, such as “this,” “these,” “those,” or restructuring the sentence to eliminate “that that.”
  4. Omit “that” when contextually possible: In some cases, removing “that” does not adversely affect sentence clarity. If the sentence remains clear without the repeated word, consider omitting it.

Implementing these writing strategies helps ensure sentence variety and contributes to an engaging and aesthetically pleasing writing style. To further illustrate the application of these techniques, consider comparing these examples:

Original: She discovered that that book was the perfect reference for her research.
Modified: She discovered that the book was the perfect reference for her research.

Original: The main idea is that that group should lead the project.
Modified: The main idea is that the group should lead the project.

Original: I realized that that articles containing valuable information are hard to find.
Modified: I realized that articles with valuable information are hard to find.

By applying these writing strategies, authors can maintain grammatical correctness, improve sentence variety, and achieve a more polished final product. Remember, language is a tool for conveying thoughts and ideas clearly. Experimenting with grammatical alternatives allows writers to retain meaning while enhancing the overall quality of their work.

Grammar Myths Busted: “That That” in Formal vs. Informal Contexts

There is a common misconception in English language learning that “that that” is incorrect in formal English or should be avoided in informal speech. In reality, the use of “that that” is appropriate in various writing styles, including both formal and informal contexts. The key to understanding the appropriateness of “that that” is to grasp its roles in sentence construction and acknowledge the differences in its usage within conversation and written narratives.

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The Conversational Approach to Using “That That”

In casual conversations and informal speech, it is common to relax the adherence to strict grammatical rules in order to communicate more naturally. The usage of “that that” in conversational grammar and dialogue writing might differ from its presence in formal English. As a result, a more colloquial approach often takes precedence for the sake of creating a comfortable flow of talk.

“I don’t think that that movie was so great.”

In the example above, an informal speaker might opt for a simplified sentence:

“I don’t think that movie was so great.”

In formal contexts, such as academic papers or business communications, adhering to the exact grammatical rules contributes to credibility and professionalism. Understanding the correct usage of “that that” in such situations can add finesse to your articulation and enhance the clarity of your message.

Remember: What matters most is to convey your message clearly. Familiarizing yourself with the subtleties of conversational grammar while staying true to formal English rules will provide a comfortable understanding of when and how to utilize “that that” in different contexts.

  • Identify the purpose of the sentence: Is it for formal or informal usage?
  • Pay attention to the roles “that” plays in the sentence: Is it acting as a conjunction or a pronoun?
  • Consider alternative phrasing: Can you substitute or rephrase the sentence without losing clarity?

The use of “that that” in both formal and informal contexts is grammatically acceptable. However, the specificities of its application may vary across different forms of communication. Embrace the intricacies of English grammar, and you’ll be well-equipped to tailor your language to suit any situation.

Grammatical Alternatives to “That That”: Enhancing Clarity and Flow

There are various grammatical alternatives to “that that,” which can help improve language fluency, sentence construction, and overall writing flow. By exploring such alternatives, you can produce clear and engaging content without relying heavily on repetitive structures. This section discusses some of these alternatives, including rephrasing sentences, using different conjunctions, and simplifying expressions.

First, consider reordering sentence elements or rephrasing the sentence entirely to avoid using “that that.” This can enhance readability and maintain a consistent writing style. By taking the time to carefully revise your writing, you can create more effective and precise communication. Don’t hesitate to experiment with various structures to find the most impactful way of expressing your thoughts.

Another option is to use different conjunctions, such as “which,” “as,” or “since.” These alternative words can help you achieve more varied and engaging sentence structures while still maintaining clarity and coherence. It’s important to thoroughly understand the roles and uses of these conjunctions to ensure grammatical correctness and maintain the intended message of your content.

Finally, simplifying expressions can contribute towards clearer and more fluent writing. Omit unnecessary or redundant words where possible to keep your writing concise and effective. This approach not only improves readability but also creates a more engaging and polished writing style. Remember, the key is to experiment with different grammatical elements and structures while keeping your primary objective in mind: producing clear, persuasive, and authentic content.