A Noun Clause

A Noun Clause

The term clause refers to a group of words that has a subject and a verb. Let’s have some examples.

  • Ali knows better.

In this example, Ali is the subject and the word ‘knows’ refers to the verb.

You may know that a noun is a naming word. It is a name of a thing.

  • Ali, school, class

Definition of Noun Clause

A noun clause is defined as a clause that functions as a noun. Look at the difference. A noun is a word and a clause is a group of words. They perform similar functions.

  • I will tell you what I saw.
  • I know what his name is.

Compare the below examples of nouns.

  • I will tell you a story.
  • I know Ali.

Ali and story are used as nouns. Their functions are similar to the underlined clauses in the first two examples.
A Noun Clause

Functions of Noun Clauses

As a Subject

We can use a noun clause to function as a subject of a sentence.

  • What he told surprised me.
  • How John behaved was not polite.

As a Direct Object

As nouns are used as direct objects, similarly, noun clauses are also used as direct objects.

  • I did not get what he said.
  • She understood that she has capabilities.

As an Indirect Object

One of the functions of a noun clause is as an indirect object.

  • I have bought whoever wins a gift.
  • I sent whoever receives a letter.

As an Object of Preposition

A noun clause can be used as an object of a preposition.

  • Ali is not interested in whatever I say.
  • I am ashamed of how he behaved toward you.

As a Subject Complement

We can also use a noun clause as a subject complement.

  • Children become whatever you want them to be.
  • He is what I told you about.

How to identify a noun clause?

Replace with a Noun or Pronoun

How to identify a noun clause in a sentence is quite easy. To check whether a clause is a noun clause or not, replace the clause with a pronoun or noun. The clause functions as a noun if you can replace it with a pronoun, or a noun.

  • What I said was your promise.
  • It was your promise.

The test is passed in this example. ‘What I said’ is replaced with the pronoun ‘it’. The noun clause ‘What I said’ functions as a noun.

  • Where we went was beautiful.
  • Islamabad was beautiful.  

In this example, the clause ‘where we went’ can be replaced with the noun ‘Islamabad’. The sentence gives complete sense.

Ask a Question with What

When you find a clause in a sentence, ask yourself a question with what. If it clarifies the question, the clause is a noun clause.

  • Where we went was a beautiful place.

If we ask the question ‘what was a beautiful place?’ the answer is where we went. The clause clarifies the question, so the clause is a noun clause.

Starting Word of a Noun Clause

A noun clause starts with wh-words and expletive words. The expletive words do not have grammatical functions. They just fill out a sentence without adding meaning. They are like that, whether, if. The wh-words are who, whose, whom, where, when, why, etc.

Remember that sometimes the word ‘that’ does not seem in a sentence when it is understood.
  • I don’t know what your name is.
  • The great thing about him is (that) he gets up early in the morning.

As we know that noun clauses are dependent clauses. If the main clause is a question, we write the noun clause as a declarative sentence.

  • Do you know who I am?

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