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General Writing and Grammar Help/Only then -- omitting that

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Question
Dear Ted:

In the sentence below, may I omit the "that"?

Only then did he realize that his wife was an escort.

Again, many, many thanks for your kind help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

In the sentence below, may I omit the "that"?

Only then did he realize that his wife was an escort.

*** The entire noun clause that serves as the direct object of "did. . . realize" begins with the pronoun "that."

You may choose to omit it.  In the English speaker's mind, the "that" is automatically inserted, whether or not it actually appears.

In short sentences, in which there is no possibility of ambiguity, omitting "that" is fine.  In long sentences, however, keep "that" in the clause to help your reader.

As a habit, I always include "that."

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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