Noun Clauses: Definition, Functions and Example Sentences

Noun clauses are an essential part of English grammar, and they are used to communicate complex ideas and thoughts in a sentence. A noun clause is a type of subordinate clause that acts as a noun in a sentence. It can be used as the subject of a sentence, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition. Noun clauses are introduced by words like that, whether, if, what, who, whom, whoever, whomever, where, when, why, or how. In this lesson, we learn the definition, functions, and examples of noun clauses in English.

Key Takeaways

  • Noun clauses act as nouns in a sentence and can be used as the subject of a sentence, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.
  • There are different types of noun clauses, including subject noun clauses, object noun clauses, and appositive noun clauses.
  • Common mistakes with noun clauses include using them incorrectly or failing to recognize them in a sentence. Teaching strategies for noun clauses include identifying them in a sentence, practicing their use in writing, and using them in everyday speech.

What Is a Noun Clause?

A noun clause is a dependent clause that contains a subject and a verb. It works as a noun in a sentence. It can be the subject of a sentence, an object, or a complement. It begins with words such as how, that, what, whatever, when, where, whether, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, and why.

Noun Clauses

Examples:

  • Do you know what the weather will be?
  • My hope is that everyone here becomes friends.
  • I can’t tell you where he lives.
  • Whatever I suggest, he always disagrees.
  • I wonder why Sarah is absent.
  • Choose a gift for whomever you want.
  • We decided to look into how much it costs.
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Types of Noun Clauses

Noun clauses are dependent clauses that function as nouns in a sentence. They are introduced by subordinating conjunctions, such as “that,” “whether,” “if,” and “wh-words.” Below are the three types of noun clauses:

That-Clauses

“That-clauses” are introduced by the subordinating conjunction “that.” They function as the subject or object of a verb, object of a preposition, or complement of a linking verb. For example:

  • Subject: That he is late is not surprising.
  • Object: I know that he is late.
  • Object of a preposition: We talked about the fact that he is late.
  • Complement of a linking verb: His problem is that he is always late.

Wh-Clauses

“Wh-clauses” are introduced by “wh-words,” such as “what,” “who,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how.” They function as the subject or object of a verb, object of a preposition, or complement of a linking verb. For example:

  • Subject: What he said is not true.
  • Object: I don’t know who he is.
  • Object of a preposition: We are going to the place where we met.
  • Complement of a linking verb: His answer is why he failed.

Whether and If Clauses

“Whether and if-clauses” are introduced by the subordinating conjunctions “whether” and “if.” They function as the subject or object of a verb, object of a preposition, or complement of a linking verb. For example:

  • Subject: Whether he comes or not doesn’t matter.
  • Object: I don’t know if he is coming.
  • Object of a preposition: We talked about whether we should go or not.
  • Complement of a linking verb: His question is if he should go or not.

Functions of Noun Clauses

Noun Clauses as Subjects

  • That she did not pass the exam is obvious at this point.
  • What you have said makes her sad.
  • Whichever you buy, there is a six-month guarantee.
  • Whoever made this cake is a real artist.
  • Whether we can stay in this situation is debatable.
  • Whatever you want is fine with me.
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Noun Clauses as Objects

Objects are words that “receive” another part of a sentence. There are three types of objects: direct objects (receive the action of the verb), indirect objects (receive direct objects), objects of prepositions (receive prepositions).

  • I don’t know who he is. (direct objects)
  • He had miscalculated how long the trip would take. (direct objects)
  • I can do whatever I want. (direct objects)
  • He cannot understand why she’s constantly carping at him. (direct objects)
  • My parents are really satisfied with what I have done. (objects of prepositions)
  • I’m not looking for what he likes. (objects of prepositions)
  • Can you tell me when it is time for dinner? (direct objects)
  • I asked about why Tom ate those hot peppers. (objects of prepositions)
  • She didn’t realize that the directions were wrong. (direct objects)
  • Harry is not the best provider of what Margie needs. (objects of prepositions)

Noun Clauses as Compliments

  • Harry’s problem was that he couldn’t make a decision.
  • He knows that I am a dentist.
  • The uncertainty is whether he will attend or not.
  • Linda was sad that her boyfriend betrays her.
  • Jennifer seemed angry that he refused to help her.
  • She believed that I was right.
  • Carlie’s problem was that she didn’t practice enough.

Common Mistakes with Noun Clauses

When using noun clauses, it is easy to make some common mistakes. Here are a few things to keep in mind to avoid falling into these traps:

Mistake 1: Using a Noun Clause as a Complete Sentence

One common mistake is to use a noun clause as a complete sentence. Remember that a noun clause cannot stand alone as a sentence. It must be part of a larger sentence. For example, “What she said” is not a complete sentence. It needs to be part of a larger sentence, such as “What she said surprised me.”

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Mistake 2: Confusing Noun Clauses with Relative Clauses

Another common mistake is to confuse noun clauses with relative clauses. A relative clause is a type of subordinate clause that modifies a noun or pronoun in the main clause. A noun clause, on the other hand, acts as a noun in the sentence. For example, “What she said” is a noun clause, while “that she said” is a relative clause.

Mistake 3: Using the Wrong Pronoun

Using the wrong pronoun is another common mistake when using noun clauses. Remember that the pronoun used in the noun clause must match the function it serves in the larger sentence. For example, if the noun clause is the subject of the sentence, use “what” or “whatever” as the pronoun. If the noun clause is the object of the sentence, use “that” or “if” as the pronoun.

Mistake 4: Using Noun Clauses Too Frequently

Finally, using noun clauses too frequently can make your writing sound clunky and awkward. While noun clauses can add complexity and variety to your sentences, overusing them can make your writing hard to read. Try to use other sentence structures, such as simple and compound sentences, to vary your writing style.

Last Updated on December 5, 2023

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