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That-clauses


On this page:

1. Reporting what people say and think

In your written assignments at university such as literature reviews and term papers you will often need to report what scholars in your field have said or thought about a particular issue. When you do this, you will need to use a reporting verb such as argue or claim followed by a that-clause.

 

  • In a recent study, Chan (2003) argues that English standards in Hong Kong's tertiary institutions are improving.

  • Hunt (1987) claimed that English levels in Hong Kong were declining but provided no evidence to support this assertion.

  • In the conclusion to her article, Wu (2001) acknowledges that her research methods were limited, but she nevertheless maintains that her findings still provide a valuable insight into the problem of drug abuse in Hong Kong.

 

These words are often used to report statements and thoughts in academic writing. Check the meanings of the words that you do not know.

 

admit agree argue assert believe claim
comment concede contend estimate feel hold
insist note observe predict state think

 

2. Using 'it' as a preparatory subject

 

If you want to indicate that an opinion or belief is widely held, you can use the passive form of a reporting verb with it as its impersonal subject.

 

  • It is widely believed that the standard of spoken English has declined in recent years.

 

The following reporting verbs are often used in this way:

 

accept acknowledge argue claim estimate predict

 

You should use tentative language when discussing findings or views in your reports and presentations. When you want to avoid expressing strong claims or opinions you can use the verbs appear and seem. In the sentences overleaf, the subject of appear and seem is it. As you can see, they are followed by that-clauses.

 

  • It appears that interest in Putonghua has increased since the handover.

  • It would seem that students in Hong Kong are less motivated to learn English than their counterparts in Shanghai.

 

3. Referring to and commenting on facts

When you refer to facts in your assignments (e.g. research projects, laboratory reports), you will need to use the verbs below. These verbs can be followed by a that-clause.

 

demonstrate determine indicate prove reveal suggest

 

  •  The findings indicate that most students have problems adapting to the demands of university study.


You can use the adjectives below when you want to comment on facts. These adjectives are often used with a link verb such as be, seem or become (with it as its subject). The adjective is followed by a that-clause.
 

apparent clear evident inevitable interesting natural
obvious possible probable significant surprising (un)likely

 

  • It is rather surprising that the responses of the arts and science students are almost the same.
     

4. Subjunctive nominal clauses

 

When you make recommendations or suggestions, you will often need to use verbs and adjectives which indicate desirability, necessity or advisability.

 

Verbs in this category include:

 

advise demand insist propose recommend suggest urge

 

Adjectives in this category include:

 

advisable crucial desirable essential important necessary vital

 

When you use these verbs and adjectives, the verb in the that-clause should be in the base form (sometimes called the subjunctive).

  • I recommend that the Education Department set up a working party to study the problem of declining language standards.

  • It is vital that more research be conducted into the causes of sick building syndrome.


 

 

Exercise:

Aim:

The aim of this page is to help you practice vocabulary related to writing academic essays.

 

Instructions:

Complete the crossword, then click on "Check" to check your answer. If you are stuck, you can click on "Hint" to get a free letter. Click on a number in the grid to see the clue or clues for that number.

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Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012