Noun Clauses

A noun clause is an important concept in English grammar. It is a type of dependent clause that works as a noun in a sentence. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about noun clauses, including their types, functions, and how to use them correctly in your writing and speech.

What is a Noun Clause?

A noun clause is a type of dependent clause that performs the role of a noun in a sentence. It can serve different functions, such as the subject, an object, or a complement. Unlike independent clauses, noun clauses cannot stand alone as a sentence. They are often introduced by certain words or phrases, most commonly that, whether, who, why, whom, what, how, when, whoever, where, and whomever.

Let's consider a few examples:

  • I remember what you said yesterday.
  • Whatever you decide is fine with me.
  • In these sentences, the phrases in italics are examples of noun clauses. They are acting as the object and the subject of the sentence, respectively.

    Understanding the Different Types of Noun Clauses

    Noun clauses can be categorized into the following types based on the words that introduce them:

    1. That-Clauses

    These are noun clauses that begin with the word 'that'. In these cases, 'that' is a subordinating conjunction used to link the noun clause to the main part of the sentence. Here's an example:

  • I think that she is a talented writer.
  • In this sentence, 'that she is a talented writer' is a noun clause functioning as the direct object of the verb 'think'.

    2. Wh-Clauses

    Wh-clauses refer to noun clauses that start with a wh-word (who, what, when, where, why, or how). The wh-word can act as the subject, object, or complement within the clause. For example:

  • What you said really upset her.
  • Here, 'what you said' is a noun clause functioning as the subject of the sentence.

    3. If/Whether Clauses

    If/Whether clauses are noun clauses that begin with 'if' or 'whether'. They are commonly used after verbs of doubting, questioning, and denying. For instance:

  • She asked me whether I could help her.
  • In this case, 'whether I could help her' is a noun clause acting as the direct object of the verb 'asked'.

    Functions of Noun Clauses

    Depending on the role they play in a sentence, noun clauses can serve the following functions:

    1. Subject of a Sentence

    A noun clause can act as the subject of a sentence, coming before the verb. Example:

  • What you said was really hurtful.
  • Here, the noun clause 'what you said' is the subject of the verb 'was'.

    2. Object of a Verb

    In this case, the noun clause follows the verb in the sentence. For example:

  • They don't believe that I am innocent.
  • The clause 'that I am innocent' functions as the direct object of the verb 'believe'.

    3. Complement of a Verb or Adjective

    A noun clause can also serve as a complement, providing more information about the subject or the adjective. Take a look at this example:

  • The real problem is how we will fund this project.
  • In this sentence, 'how we will fund this project' is a noun clause providing further detail about 'the real problem'.


    Remember, noun clauses are a valuable part of English grammar. They add depth and complexity to your writing and speaking. The key to using them correctly involves understanding their structure and knowing how they function within a sentence. With the help of the guide, examples, and rules shared in this tutorial, you can master the use of noun clauses to express more nuanced ideas and arguments. Happy learning!

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