87. “Same As” versus “Same That”


The same foods that doctors recommend are the least popular with children

The same foods that doctors recommend are the least
popular with children

It is sometimes right to use “that” instead of “as” after “the same”



Most readers will know the right word to put into the blank space in this sentence:

(a) Britain’s climate is the same … New Zealand’s.

In a recent post about comparisons (82. Pitfalls in Making Comparisons), I stated that the normal word used after same is as. It would certainly be wrong to use any other word in (a) above. The reason why I felt a need to emphasise this is that some speakers whose mother tongue is not English occasionally say that or like or even of instead of as.

The reason for the incorrect use of that seems at first sight straightforward. Some languages seem to nearly always use the word for that after the word for same. The problem thus seems to be one of “first language transfer”: following the rules of another language in English instead of English ones.

However, further investigation into this problem suggests to me that English itself may be as much to blame for it as other languages. This is because even English allows that after the same in some situations. I have been unable to find any grammar-book explanations that make this clear, let alone explain when it happens, but I have certainly been able to find and construct correct-seeming examples of it, and I have some hypotheses about when it is necessary. In this post I wish to compare and contrast the correct uses of that and as after the same in English.



Here are some correct uses of that after the same:

(b) The colour was the same (one) THAT always appears.

(c) The same foods THAT doctors recommend are the least popular (ones) with children.

If these sentences are compared with (a), which has as, a noticeable difference is the presence of two verbs in them (the underlined words) instead of just one. The reason is that that is a “joining device” – a word needing to be accompanied by a verb additional to the main verb of the sentence (see 30. When to Write a Full Stop for more on joining devices). The exact type of joining device that that is here is a relative pronoun – replaceable by which without much change (see the posts 28. Pronoun Errors and 34. Relative Pronouns and Commas).

However, this grammatical difference between the sentence with same as and the ones with same that is not the explanation of the use of same that. It only explains why that cannot fill the gap in (a). One problem is that same as can be used before a verb just like same that – indeed even sentence (a) could have is added at the end. More importantly, many sentences with same that can be paraphrased to make same as possible – even necessary – and vice versa. Sentences (a) and (c), for example, can be reworded like this:

(d) Britain’s climate is the same (one) that New Zealand has.

(e) The same foods as the ones (that) doctors recommend are the least popular (ones) with children.

The explanation of why sentences (a) and (c) are more likely than (d) and (e) may be one of meaning rather than grammar. Fundamentally, sentences with the same are always talking about two things. In (a) these are Britain’s climate and New Zealand’s climate, in (b) they are a colour appearing now and a colour that always appears, and in (c) they are foods recommended by doctors and foods that children do not like. The key difference is whether the two things mentioned each time are in reality a single thing (mentioned twice) or two different things. The first case is not a comparison, and prefers that; while the latter is one and uses as.

Consider again sentence (a). This is a comparison sentence. Britain and New Zealand each have their own climate – Britain’s is not New Zealand’s and New Zealand’s is not Britain’s. We say that the climates are “the same” because they look the same. In sentences (b) and (c), however, we are talking about the same thing twice. The colour appearing now does not just look the same as the one that always appears – it is it.

The difference might be clearer in the following two sentences:

(f) The murder weapon was the same that had been used before.

(g) The murder weapon was the same as the one used before.

According to (f), a single weapon was used twice, while in (g), a different weapon was used each time but they looked the same. It might have been the same kind of gun, for example.



The use of same as is shown by a computer text analyzer (for example that of the British National Corpus) to be much more frequent than that of same that. A major reason for this, I think, is that in many cases the distinction presented in (f) and (g) is not so easy to make, and that same as, being more concise, is preferred when doubt exists. In other words, the special meaning of same that has to be very clear and important before those words are preferred. Here is a sentence where perhaps it is not, so that same as is used instead:

(h) Pronouns have almost the same properties as nouns (BETTER THAN … the same properties that nouns have).

Sometimes, however, the same as is preferred more for grammatical reasons – separate from the question of whether or not there is a following verb. One of these is the occurrence of the same in an adverb role instead of its more normal adjective or pronoun one, as in this example:

(i) The king acted the same as he had in his youth.

This is an adverb use because it says how the action of a verb (acted) was carried out; the same as means in the same way as (see 120. Six Things to Know about Adverbs). A sentence like this cannot easily be rephrased with same that.

Another grammatical situation that seems to demand the same as instead of the same that is where that would be a “complement” of a following verb, like this:

(j) The king was not the same that as he had been in his youth.

Consider here the underlined verb had been. Its subject is he. If that were present instead of as, it would be the complement of had been (complements in general are nouns or pronouns or adjectives that rename or describe the subject of a verb like BE – see 8. Object-Dropping Errors). Using that as a complement above feels slightly unnatural. Here is another example:

(k) The house seems the same that as it did last year.

Another feature of sentences like this is that the subject and verb after as (underlined) can be left out.


PRACTICE EXERCISE: “same as” VERSUS “same that”

Decide whether as or that is needed in each gap below. Answers are given afterwards.


1. Remedial language tutoring involves essentially the same techniques ……… doctors use for diagnosing illnesses.

2. French verbs change their forms in almost the same way ………. Spanish ones.

3. The animals in wall paintings are the same ………. those whose bones have been found nearby.

4. The same ideas ………. Plato put forward 2500 years ago still influence some modern thinking.

5. In cooler climates, most trees do not look the same in winter ………. they do in summer.



1. that (identical idea mentioned twice; presence of a second verb use);   2. as (adverbial use of same as; no following verb);   3. as (non-identical ideas; no following verb – have been found does not count because it already has the joining device whose);   4. that (identical idea mentioned twice; presence of a second verb put);    5. as (that in its place would be a complement).


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