I'm working with someone who writes sentences like these:
"Past studies indicate teachers with high self-efficacy for providing nutrition instruction devote more classroom time to the subject."
"D____ and colleagues have stated teachers are better able to promote healthy eating among preschool children when they are more knowledgeable about nutrition content…"
Doesn't there need to be a "that" between indicates and teachers and between stated and teachers?
The absence of a "that" is a constant throughout her writing so I need to know if I'm correct, and if so, how I can explain it to her.
Executive summary: The complementizer that is optional in sentential complements of verbs of communication like indicate, state, suggest, etc., but it is retained much more often than not. In formal academic prose, omission is very rare (about 1%) in frames like "results indicate (that) S" or "X and Y have stated (that) S". So it's not grammatically incorrect to omit that in such cases, but it's stylistically quite odd, and may confuse readers. Systematically omitting that in examples of this type is at best very eccentric.
Details: The balanced COCA corpus has 829 instances of "results indicate". I looked at a random sample of 100, and found
- 82 cases where indicate takes a clausal complement beginning with that (e.g. "Results indicate that there were no performance differences on the first exam");
- 16 cases where indicate takes a direct object (e.g. "Results indicate positive changes such as greater self-esteem")
- 2 cases where indicate takes a clausal complement with no that ("These results indicate the coaches in this study were uniform on the importance of addressing certain ideals in conference codes of ethics"; "The results indicate your LDL reading is low, but your HDL is very high").
There are 310 instances of "have stated". Looking again at a random sample of 100, I found
- 61 cases where stated takes a clausal complement beginning with that ();
- 21 cases where stated takes a direct object ("e.g. The Ukraine and Byelorussia have stated their desire to become non-nuclear states"; "He could hardly have stated more precisely humanity's history of meddling with the Great Plains");
- 12 cases where stated is used in quotative tags ("as you have stated repeatedly"; "as I have stated personally to you");
- 6 cases where stated takes a clausal complement with no that ("Well, we have stated very clearly Iraq has to comply with all the Security Council resolutions"; "Some have stated we've sort of set up a dating service between the agencies";"…earlier council decisions have stated Iraqi law applies to the emirate";"Anton Balasingham is reported to have stated they were 'limited and inadequate,'"; "As for work overload, researchers (Cooper &; Marshall, 1976; French &; Caplan, 1972) have stated there were two kinds of work overload"; "Many elderly swimmers have stated they won't stop swimming until the day they die").
Throughout the past couple of centuries, it's certainly easy to find cases where competent writers of standard English omit the initial that in clausal complements of verbs like indicate and state:
There was a gentle courtesy and softness in her manners that seemed rather to appeal for the indulgence of others, than to indicate they needed it. [from Catherine Maria Segdwick, Clarence; or, A Tale of Our Own Times, 1830] But, that I imagine you may not have received the letter, by stating you first heard of our marriage through the papers, I should say the want of courtesy lay on your lordship's side, for having vouchsafed me no reply to it. [Mrs. Henry Wood, East Lynne, 1861]
On the other hand, it's equally clear that in formal writing, omission of the complementizer that with verbs like indicate and state is not the preferred choice. In the sample from the COCA corpus, we saw just 2% (2 of 84) omissions in the frame "results indicate (that) S", and 9% (6 of 67) omissions in the frame "have stated (that) S", for a total of 8 omissions out of 151 opportunities. This may be true because the use of that often helps to resolve the potential ambiguity between a direct object and a clausal complement. But retention of that is also to some extent a marker of formal style; and this suggests that in scientific prose, that-elision will be even less common than it is in a balanced corpus like COCA. In fact this prediction appears to be true. Searching for "results indicate" on Google Scholar, and checking the first 100 hits, I find barely 1% (1 of 91) omission of that:
- 90 cases where indicate takes a clausal complement beginning with that;
- 9 cases where indicate takes a direct object ("Results indicate significant and consistent sex differences in self-efficacy with regard to traditional vs nontraditional occupations");
- 1 case where indicate takes a clausal complement with no that ("These results indicate BAK1 is a component of BR signaling").
Similarly searching for "have stated", I again find in the first 100 examples just a bit more than 1% (1 of 77) omission of that:
- 76 cases where stated takes a clausal complement beginning with that ("Many authors have stated that there is little or no tilt in an uninjured ankle");
- 15 cases where stated takes a direct object ("we have stated it in the weakest form that we can");
- 4 cases where stated is used in quotative tags ("as Ajiferuke and Boddewyn have stated");
- 1 cases where stated introduces a direct quotation ("With regard to Dr Charlton's letter concerning validation I have stated: 'There was no attempt to develop an arbitrary definition of general practitioner workload based on consultation rates'");
- 1 case where stated takes an infinitival complement ("Penicillamine is identical with the base which we have stated in an earlier communication to occur in acid penicillin hydrolysates";
- 1 case where stated takes a wh-complement ("I have stated what I suppose to be our general theory of construction").
- 1 case where have is the main verb, and stated is a participle modifying its object ("those studies that did not have stated exclusions for depression");
- 1 case where stated takes a clausal complement with no that ("Several authors have stated there is less striate cortex in blind people.")
Overall, we see just 2 omissions out of 168 chances in the scientific and technical writing (1.2%), where the norm is even more strongly to leave that intact and explicit, compared to 8 omissions about of 151 chances in the balanced COCA corpus (5.3%).
Discussion: Perhaps S.A.'s that-omitter understands the options, and believes that omitting that is better than leaving it in. In that case, S.A. can simply point to the overwhelming general preference for retaining an explicit complementizer with verbs like indicate and state, and can argue that leaving it out is likely to confuse readers.
But maybe the individual in question is just doing what comes naturally, and is not consciously aware of the nature and even the existence of the structures where this choice arises. If that's the situation, then some explicit instruction in syntactic analysis may be required.
I'm not sure how to do this. To start with, it's likely to be embarrassing to offer such remediation to a grown-up. And also, if someone has retained this level of grammatical innocence into adulthood, there may be a certain amount of individual resistance to the concepts involved. But the logical approach would be to provide a list of relevant verbs (say, indicate, state, assert, claim, suggest, mean, believe, etc.); to point out that such verbs are often associated with a clause that explains what is indicated, stated, asserted, etc.; and then to draw attention to the choice of omitting the clause-initial that or leaving it in.