feel like that

Back on August 26th, I caught “I feel like that if …” in an interview on NPR. Saturday morning it was “I just feel like that we …”. That’s the perception-verb feel plus the subordinator like ‘as if’ and the complementizer that (and then a finite complement clause) — where feel like plus the complement clause would be standard.

The usage is far from rare, and extends to the related verbs sound, look, and seem.

V like that has very substantial numbers (in raw ghits), though it’s overshadowed by plain V like (without that):

“I feel like that we”: 18.8m (vs. “I feel like we”: 203m)

Then again, I feel like that we’re beyond that. (link)

“it sounds like that I”: 29.3m (vs. “it sounds like I”: 96.1m)

But it sounds like that I’ll have to resort to the first method that katie1 proposed. (link)

“it looks like that I”: 145m (vs. “it looks like I”: 241m)

It looks like that I am not the only one experiencing these problems. Twitter is packed with Apple users discussing the issue. (link)

“it seems like that I”: 39.2m (vs. “it seems like I”: 145m)

I did have good experiences with Cipralex, but didn’t want to go back on it… issues with ‘dependence’, again. But it seems like that I really can’t do without it (link)

Comment: subordinator likeMWDEU under like as subordinator (“conjunction”, in their terms), in particular like + full clause, tells a long and tangled story of usage commentary (much of it deprecatory) and actual usage, but concludes that it’s a standard variant, in both the ‘as if’ sense and the ‘as’ sense (the sense that “is the single most heavily criticized use of like” (p. 601)). On the ‘as if’ sense: “This sense seems especially common after verbs like feel, look, and sound.” (p. 601).

MWDEU and other handbooks don’t treat feel like that + clause (and related cases), presumably because it’s so non-standard that it hasn’t come to their attention.

Why should subordinator like pick up the complementizer that? One possibility is that this use stems from the use of like as a preposition, with an NP object (as in I feel like an idiot and I feel like going to a movie), in combination with the occurrence of that-clauses in NP functions (subject, direct object, and predicative, in particular). Granted, that-clauses (and, for that matter, unmarked finite clauses) are barred as objects of prepositions in standard English (*I am surprised at (that) they are demonstrating vs. I am surprised at their/them demonstrating) — but feel like that + clause can be seen as a lifting of this constraint, an extension of that-clauses into new territory. More discussion below.

Comment: other subordinators + that. Another possible contribution to feel like that comes from other subordinators occurring (non-standardly) with that-clause complements (rather than with unmarked finite-clause complements). Because, for example:

But nothing of this dream of mine would ever happen, 
Because that I know that this is only a invisible dream. (link)

I am mortified. Mostly because that I have now missed two doctors appointments in 48 hours. (link)

This usage was once entirely standard (there are plenty of examples in the KJV of the Bible, Shakespeare, and so on), but is now labeled as obsolete or dialectal. The question about modern examples is whether they are survivals of the older usage or new creations.

Another sort of example is the modern WH-that construction (I wonder how many people that were at the party) — brief discussion here, with links to other discussions — in which a multi-word interrogative subordinator (like how many people) is combined with complementizer that. Again, interrogative subordinators in combination with that were once entirely standard (Prologue to the Canterbury Tales: “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote …”), but are now non-standard (though surprisingly common), and the construction is probably a new creation rather than a continuation of the older one.

Comment: finite clauses as objects of prepositions. There’s a rich vein of examples in which finite clauses (either unmarked or marked by that) serve as objects of prepositions, as in

[that-clause object of of] International opinion is shifted over the last week I think pretty clearly in the direction of that there needs to be some sort of cease-fire. (Juan Williams, interviewed about the news of the week, NPR’s Morning Edition Saturday, 7/29/06)

[that-clause object of despite] the previously working HD indicator light is constantly dark despite that I can hear the hard drive working. (link)

[unmarked clause object of despite] I don’t smoke despite I always thought smoking is class and photogenic, cinematic and rock! (link)

The possible link to feel like that comes from subordinators that incorporate prepositions, and so don’t combine standardly with clauses; like subordinator like, these complex subordinators also serve as prepositions. And, as with subordinator like, there’s a strong tendency for them to extend to clausal objects. A sampling of cases:

due to ‘because’:

[that-clause object] i live in naples fl and think i may have a kidney problem, due to that i pee more often now and sometimes it hurts to come out (link)

[unmarked clause object] I’m missing home and hope that it goes away because I’m not going home this summer due to I have a job. But that’s one of the sacrifices that you make when … (link)

Quite a few examples. There are two proscriptions involving due to (both covered in MWDEU): one against due to the fact that + clause (as an alternative to because + clause), one against certain uses of due to + NP (as an alternative to because of + NP or owing to + NP). But due to + (that) clause is so non-standard that the handbooks seem not to warn about it.

because of:

[that-clause object] This year, we have a competition between Taylor and Daniel, which is good because of that I think we got complacent in this position in the past. (link)

[unmarked clause object] I had, recently, a tense moment with a loved one and perhaps this person’s behaviors irritated me so because of I saw this behavior in myself. (link)

(Mark Liberman posted about the ’cause of variant on Language Log, here.)

on account of ‘because’:

[that-clause object] My breasts are bigger than I could’ve ever imagined… Which i suppose is good on account of that I want to breast feed.. (link)

[unmarked clause object]  You know it’s not often we get to hold these big shindigs for foreign leaders – mainly on account of I’ve done such a shockin’ awesome job getting the rest … (link)

This one usageists have taken notice of. As MWDEU observes in its on account of entry, it’s very common (especially in its unmarked variant) but decidedly non-standard.

Back to feel like that: We now have two possible (and not incompatible) contributions to this usage: using that to mark clauses serving as complements to subordinators (as seen in examples with subordinators other than like); and extending complement clauses (that-marked or unmarked) to serve as objects of prepositions (as seen with preposition/subordinator elements other than like). Whatever the motivating factors, V like that + clause seems to be on the move. Listen for it.


One Response to “feel like that”

  1. seem as if that « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Heard this morning in an interview on NPR, an instance of seem as if + that-clause, where an unmarked complement clause would be standard. Many examples can be found on the net, with seem and with other perception verbs (look, sound, feel), so as if joins complementizer like in allowing that-clause complements as a (non-standard) option (discussion of like here). […]

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