Sunday, February 27, 2005

That is essential

This sentence was in a paper. I marked it wrong and labeled it as a run on.

I like to waterski that is fun.

In the above sentence, that is a demonstrative pronoun. As a demonstrative pronoun, that can refer to a sentence or a noun. As a relative pronoun, that would refer only to the infinitive to water ski. However, in the run-on sentence, that would not work because that is fun is nonessential information and should have a comma in front of it. That can not be used in a nonessential clause.

But if I make them into two sentences, the two simple sentences are good.

I like to water ski. That is fun.

The clause, that is fun, can not serve as a nonessential adjective clause in the sentence above. Indeed, using it that way results in a run on.

If we make the sentence into a nonessential clause, it is acceptable.

I like to waterski, which is fun.

This is one case where the difference between essential and non essential clauses is important.

I would probably use the second sentence with the nonessential clause unless I want to emphasize fun more than water skiing.