What part of speech is that?
November 29, 2018 11:21 PM   Subscribe

To this non-grammarian, 'that' is often an unnecessary word. For example, 'I believe that it's broken'. In that sentence, what part of speech is 'that'? I think I can identify the rest: I (subject) believe (verb) that (?) it's (indefinite pronoun) broken (adjective)?
posted by Homer42 to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by stoneandstar at 11:34 PM on November 29, 2018

A demonstrative pronoun
posted by Thella at 11:36 PM on November 29, 2018

That has a number of functions in English, but in your example it's a subordinating conjunction, or a complementizer. See the Wikipedia articles on the word that and complementizers.

I believe the above commenters are incorrect. That can be a demonstrative pronoun, but it isn't in your example sentence. In the sentence "That is broken", however, that does function as a demonstrative pronoun.
posted by Syllepsis at 11:46 PM on November 29, 2018 [33 favorites]

Seconding subordinating conjunction. Scroll down to the box on "omitting that" on this page for more info.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:26 AM on November 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

Just to get nitpicky (but not just to nitpick--to make an actual point):

"it's (indefinite pronoun)"

This needs to be expanded a bit:
  • "it" is an indefinite pronoun, but "it" is also the subject of the subordinate clause.
  • "'s" is an abbreviated version of the word "is" which is the verb of the subordinate clause.
Once you realize there is a second subject and verb in the sentence ("it is"), you start to realize why a conjunction of some sort might be possible--or in some cases in very much necessary for clarity--in sentences of this type.

You have two subjects and two verbs--so in essence, two sentences. What is the relationship between them? That is the type of thing a conjunction helps to clarify.
posted by flug at 1:47 AM on November 30, 2018 [22 favorites]

"It" is a definite pronoun that refers to something specific that is broken.
posted by Linnee at 1:11 PM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

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