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What Part of Speech Is “That”? | With Examples

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Understanding how to correctly use the word “that” can help strengthen your English language skills.

That falls under several parts of speech:

  1. Determiner (e.g., “that screen”)
  2. Demonstrative pronoun (e.g., “give me that”)
  3. Relative pronoun (e.g., “the student that left the room”)
  4. Adverb (e.g., “it was that bad”)
  5. Conjunction (e.g., “she said that the story wasn’t true”)

That as a determiner

“That” can function as a demonstrative determiner used to refer to a specific noun. When used in this manner, “that” is always found before the noun it is identifying.

Examples of “that” as a determiner
That teacher is the nicest person I’ve ever met.

Are you sure you want that shirt and not this one?

Can you pick up Ben from school? That will help me finish dinner on time.

“That” is only used to indicate singular nouns or uncountable nouns, never plural nouns.

Examples of using “that” for singular nouns
That card is worth more than you can imagine.

That cards is worth more than you can imagine.

That as a demonstrative pronoun

“That” also functions as a demonstrative pronoun, which is a type of word used to refer to a noun that is implied or was already discussed. 

As a demonstrative pronoun, “that” replaces a noun in a sentence, but it can also be used to reference a complete clause. For example, if someone asks, “Would you like to have dinner?” and someone else replies, “That would be nice,” “that” is referring back to the initial question of having dinner.

Examples of using “that” as a demonstrative pronoun
Who told you that?

I’d love to buy that.

That was a memorable experience.

That as a relative pronoun

As a relative pronoun, “that” introduces relative clauses, which are phrases that modify a preceding noun by presenting more information. 

Examples of using “that” as a relative pronoun
We spoke at length about the problem that we needed to solve.

The food that he brought to the potluck was delicious.

I know something that can help us complete this task sooner.

Please note that “that” can sometimes be removed when used as a relative pronoun, and the sentence could still be grammatically coherent.

Example of removing “that” from a sentence when used as a relative pronoun
The movie that we watched in theaters is now streaming online.

The movie we watched in theaters is now streaming online.

That as an adverb

“That” can be used as an adverb meaning “to such an extent or degree” (e.g., “It won't be that high”). It can also mean “extremely” and is used to add emphasis or convey intensity (e.g., “I can’t believe he was that upset”).

Examples of using “that” as an adverb
When the show was over, I realized the dance wasn’t that hard, and I was nervous for no reason.

I’ve never seen that many people at Dad’s shop at once.

I didn’t think the book would be that good, but I was mistaken.

That as a conjunction

When used as a conjunction, “that” introduces noun clauses and other types of dependent clauses. In this role, “that” functions by linking a dependent clause with the verb, adjective, or noun that precedes it. 

For example, in the sentence “I can imagine that he danced all night,” “that he danced all night” is the noun clause that acts as the direct object of the verb “imagine.”

Examples of using “that” as a conjunction
I am grateful that you were able to cover my shift.

He was running late, so he was relieved that his flight was delayed.

It appears that the majority of the customers did not like the new website design.

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