With "that"

We can use clauses with that:

• after verbs of thinking:

  • think
  • believe
  • expect
  • decide
  • hope
  • know
  • understand
  • suppose
  • guess
  • imagine
  • feel
  • remember
  • forget

I hope that you will enjoy your holiday.
She didn’t really think that it would happen.
I knew that I had seen her somewhere before.

• after verbs of saying:

  • say
  • admit
  • argue
  • reply
  • agree
  • claim
  • deny
  • mention
  • answer
  • complain
  • explain
  • promise
  • suggest

They admitted that they had made a mistake.
She argued that they should invest more in the business.
The children complained that they had nothing to do.

Note: tell and some other verbs of saying almost always have an indirect object (see clauses, sentences and phrases). There are also some fixed expressions with tell such as tell the truth, tell a lie, tell a story, tell it like it is.

  • tell
  • convince
  • persuade
  • inform
  • remind

We tried to tell them that they should stop what they were doing.
The police informed everybody that the danger was over.

• as postmodifiers after nouns to do with thinking or saying:

  • advice
  • belief
  • claim
  • feeling
  • argument
  • hope
  • promise
  • report
  • guess
  • opinion
  • idea

He made a promise that he would do all he could to help.
I had a funny feeling that something was wrong.

• after some nouns to say more about the noun:

  • fact
  • advantage
  • effect
  • possibility
  • chance
  • danger
  • evidence
  • problem
  • difficulty

She pointed out the danger that they might be left behind.
There was a chance that we would succeed

Note: We often use a that clause to define one of these nouns after the verb be :

  • danger
  • problem
  • chance
  • possibility
  • fact

The danger is that we will be left behind.
The fact is that it is getting very late.

• after some adjectives which describe feelings to give a reason for our feelings:

  • pleased
  • sorry
  • happy
  • unhappy
  • sad
  • excited
  • glad
  • disappointed
  • afraid

I am sorry that you can’t come.
Everybody was pleased that the danger was past.
It is lucky that you were able to drive us home.

No "that"

 NOTE: We can always use a clause without the word that:

They admitted [that] they had made a mistake.
The police informed everybody [that] the danger was over.
I am sorry [that] you can’t come.
There was chance [that] we would succeed.




Hi, Kirk. yes, that is right it were specific sentences, the sentences were:
'The Dean of the Humanities Faculty informed the students that the drama dept was going to close.'
'He left a message on my voice mail that he was leaving immediately for Vienna.'
please, could you tell me why in those sentences we can't omit 'that' and in this sentence: 'There was a chance [that] we would succeed'. we can omit 'that'

Hello mohamedfathy,

OK, thanks. I'm afraid that in the end, this comes down to being a question of usage. In other words, 'that' is usually used with the verb 'inform' (though I think you might be able to find examples where it isn't used). In general, 'that' is not omitted as much in formal contexts, and the verb 'inform' is fairly formal, so there's no surprise that 'that' is usually used with it.

The same is true for the second sentence, though the word 'message', unlike 'inform', is not particularly formal. 'chance' is fairly informal and so 'that' is sometimes used and sometimes not.

I wish there were some clear rule that I could give you to help you with this, but I'm afraid I'm not aware of any such clear rule! Nevertheless, I hope this helps you make sense of things.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Kirk. Thank you very much. I really appreciate your help

Thank u very much again Kirk.
The fact is that when English uses "were" for all subjects, in Italian that is translated with the past subjunctive form, so I easily get confused when we use the past subjunctive and English doesn't.
Another example is with "suggest": "We had suggested that she left the train" can be correct and it is in use nowadays (although the right form is "We suggested that she leave the train"). In Italian we would translate that sentence with a past subjunctive as well, that's why, from now and then, I get a bit perplexed about it all...
Nontheless, I'll have a look wikipedia as you suggested.
In any case I suppose that the use of the present subjunctive is the best choice for not making mistakes unless, as you say, we are talking of unreal situations (second conditional).
Best wishes,

Hello Mariaida,

You're welcome! Yes, off the top of my head, I'd say that your rule of thumb for the subjunctive in English is a good one. It's interesting how similar English and Romance language grammars are sometimes, and then, at other times, how different they are.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk.
Thank u for yr prompt reply. I was thinking about the followings:
'A' did not recommend that 'B' WAS appointed national security adviser, preferring instead that he WAS slotted as director of national intelligence, a job with narrower responsabilities.
Even I guess from yr answer that they must be wrong.....

Hello again Mariaida,

You're right -- 'was' is not correct in this sentence, as the subjunctive form is needed there. I'm not sure if it would be helpful or not, but the Wikipedia has a good article on the English subjunctive.

Neither do I know Italian, but if it's like Spanish or Catalan, a past subjunctive form would be used in a sentence like this one. That is not true in English -- the present subjunctive form can be used to refer to the past and the past subjunctive form is mostly used to speak about unreal situations (e.g. second conditional). This is all explained in the Wikipedia article.

I hope this helps you sort it out.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Regarding your point about "NOTE: We can always use a clause without the word that:", may I know if this applies to formal writing, informal writing, or both?



Hello Tim,

It applies more to informal writing. In other words, leaving out the word 'that' is more common in informal contexts, though this is by no means a hard-and-fast rule -- you can find 'that' in informal writing and not find it in formal writing. But in general, it's used more in formal writing and less in informal writing. If you read some of the texts in our Writing for a purpose section, I believe you will see this is true, and it might give you a sense for what is common in academic writing.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, talking about "that" introducing a sentence, I was reading an article today in the N.York Times on line and I found a sentence which left me a bit confused. It goes like that:
'A' did not recommend that 'B' be appointed national security adviser, preferring instead that he be slotted as director of national intelligence, a job with narrower responsabilities.

I understand the 'that' here introduces 2 'subjunctives'. Are the 2 'be' there because the sentences are passive? Would you mind to show me other possible ways (if there are any) whith the verb 'be' differently conjugated but still passive and without changing the meaning or the time (tense?) of the sentences?
Thank you,