Noun Clause: Definition, Functions and Useful Examples

Noun clauses are a type of clause that function as a noun within a sentence and can serve a variety of grammatical roles.  In this article, we will explore the structure and function of noun clauses, examining their various components and the ways in which they contribute to meaning and comprehension. We will also discuss some common types of noun clauses and how they are used in different contexts. 

Noun Clause

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What Is a Noun Clause?

A noun clause refers to a clause that serves the same purpose as a noun and is usually dependent. Just like nouns do, a noun clause names people, things, places, and ideas. Noun clauses typically have a verb and a subject, but they cannot express a complete thought in a sentence; hence they are known as dependent clauses. Since noun clauses cannot form complete sentences, they are usually used together with an independent clause. This article gives in-depth insights on noun clauses and the examples of noun clauses.

How to Identify a Noun Clause

Noun clauses have words like; whatever, whichever, whoever, whomever, how, what, when which, whether, whom, who, why at the beginning. The simplest way to identify a noun clause is thus to check for such words. However, it does not mean that just because these words are present in a sentence, they indicate the presence of a noun clause. At times, they might represent an adjective clause. For example, The village where I live is a good place for farming. In this sentence, the clause “where I live” is an adjective clause and not a noun clause because it describes the noun “village.”

Basic Components of a Noun Clause

The two key components are a subject and a verb.

A Subject

A subject usually describes what the sentence or clause is about.

  • What Joan loves most about watching movies is how the actors express their feelings with different body parts.

The noun clause in the sentence is “what Joan loves most,” and it talks about the subject “Joan.”

There is also another noun clause, “how the actors express,” which is about the actors. Actors are thus the subject in the clause.

A Verb

A verb is a doing/action word.

  • You can wear whichever dinner dress you want.

The noun clause in this sentence is “whichever dinner dress you,” whereas the words “can wear” and “want” are verbs.

Functions of Noun Clauses

A noun clause can either be a subject or an object. Objects comprise direct objects, indirect objects, or prepositional objects.

As a Subject

  • Whatever Brenda cooked made me happy.

The noun clause in the sentence is “whatever Brenda cooked,” and it functions as the subject in the sentence. The clause has a subject “whatever” and a verb “cooked.”

The noun clause here is “how the girl wore,” and it has the verb “wore” and the subject “the girl” The clause acts as a subject since it talks about how t the girls wore.

As an Object

The various types of objects include; direct objects, indirect objects, and prepositional objects.

A Direct Object

A direct object directly receives a verb action.

  • Do you understand what the homework entails?

The noun clause is “What the homework entails” and comprises of the subject “homework” and the verb “entail.”

  • My daughter will wear whichever dress I hand to her.

The noun clause is “whichever dress I hand to her,” It is the direct recipient of the verb action “wear.”

An Indirect Object

An indirect object identifies the individual to whom/ for whom a verb action is done.

  • Always honor whichever person you serve for an excellent service.

The noun clause is “whoever customer you serve” it contains a subject “whoever” and a verb “serve.”

  • Ensure you send whoever taught you a graduation-invitation card.

“Whoever taught you” is the noun clause that acts as an indirect object, and it comprises of a subject “whoever” and a verb “taught.”

As a Prepositional Object

A prepositional object usually follows a noun clause.

  • I want to work with whoever is excellent in the skill.

The noun clause is “whoever is excellent in the skill,” whereas “with” is the preposition.

  • It is vital to research about why certain things exist.

The noun clause is” why certain things exist” and “about” is the preposition.

As a Predicative

Predicative Noun Clauses act as subject or object complements, providing additional information about the subject or object. They generally follow linking or copular verbs like “be,” “seem,” or “become.” Examples include:

  • The problem is that nobody understands her.
  • His advice was to follow your passion.

In these cases, the noun clauses “that nobody understands her” and “to follow your passion” serve as subject complements, supplying more information about “the problem” and “his advice.”

Formation of Noun Clauses

Noun clauses are subordinate clauses that function as nouns. They can play the role of subjects, direct objects, and objects of prepositions in sentences. This section is divided into three subsections that highlight different ways of forming noun clauses.

Noun Clauses Started with Certain Words

Noun clauses often start with “wh”-words such as whatwhowhichwhenwhere, and why. These clauses can be used in a variety of ways in a sentence. For example:

  • What he said made everyone laugh. (subject)
  • She doesn’t know where they went. (direct object)
  • The reason for the delay is when the shipment was received. (object of a preposition)

Noun Clauses Started with Whether or If

Noun clauses can also start with whether or if to indicate a choice or condition. These clauses are typically used as subjects or direct objects. For example:

  • Whether she will come is still uncertain. (subject)
  • He needs to decide if he should accept the offer. (direct object)

Noun Clauses Started with That

Another way to form noun clauses is by using the word that. These clauses usually function as subjects or direct objects. For example:

  • That she finished the project is a relief. (subject)
  • They believe that hard work pays off. (direct object)

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I identify a noun clause?

A noun clause can be identified by its ability to function as a noun in a sentence. It usually starts with relative pronouns, such as what, that, who, which, or when. These clauses have a subject and a verb, and they convey a complete thought.

Which words can introduce a noun clause?

Noun clauses are commonly introduced by words like “that,” “how,” “who,” “which,” “when,” “where,” “why,” “what,” “whether,” and “if.” These words help indicate that the following clause functions as a noun in the sentence. However, words such as “who” and “which” are also commonly used in relative clauses. You need to be careful when determining the grammatical role when encountering clauses starting with these words. 

What’s the difference between a noun clause and an adjective clause?

Noun clauses function as nouns within a sentence, while adjective clauses serve as modifiers, adding additional information about a noun. Adjective clauses are usually introduced by relative pronouns like “who,” “which,” or “that.” For example: The house that is on the corner is haunted. In this case, “that is on the corner” is an adjective clause modifying the noun “house.”

How does a noun clause differ from an adverb clause?

While noun clauses function as nouns in a sentence, adverb clauses modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, indicating time, manner, cause, or condition. Adverb clauses are often introduced by subordinating conjunctions like “although,” “since,” “when,” “whereas,” and “before.” For example: When the movie ended, everyone clapped. Here, “When the movie ended” is an adverb clause modifying the verb “clapped.”

Last Updated on November 14, 2023

8 thoughts on “Noun Clause: Definition, Functions and Useful Examples”

  1. Hi, you say “The noun clause is “whoever customer you serve” it contains a subject “whoever” and a verb “serve.”

    Isn’t the subject YOU instead of WHOEVER?

    You serve customers, so ‘whoever customer’ is the object rather than the subject.

    Reply

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