Noun Clauses

By Maeve Maddox

A reader asks for more information about noun clauses.

First, a little review.

A clause is a group of words that contains a main verb. Examples:

I dance the polka.
what people like
that ruined the evening

Clauses are of two kinds:
main or independent
subordinate or dependent

Clauses function as parts of speech:
He bumped into the wall when the lights went out. (Adverb clause modifying the verb “bumped.”)

There’s the man who saved the kitten. (Adjective clause qualifying the noun “man.”)

He knows what consumers like. (Noun clause, object of the verb “knows.”)

A noun clause functions as a noun in another clause. The noun clause may be the subject or object of a verb, or the object of a preposition:

What he is doing smacks of corruption. (Noun clause, subject of the verb “smacks.”)

We can only hope that the wind will die down soon. (Noun clause, object of the verb “can hope.”)

I’ll give this computer to whoever wants it. (Noun clause, object of the preposition “to.”) And yes, it should be “whoever” and not “whomever” because “whoever” is the subject of the verb “wants.”

Some words that may introduce a noun clause:
who
whom
whose
which
that
if
whether
what
when
where
how
why
whoever
whenever
whatever
wherever

Sometimes the introductory word may be left out, as in

I wish I knew the reason. (i.e,, “I wish that I knew the reason.”)

But that’s another post.

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6 Responses to “Noun Clauses”

  • jo

    If it is a noun clause, do the verb in the dependent clause always the same in the main clause?

    I am confused the verbs when I make a sentence with a noun, adjective and adverb clause.

    Please enlighten me about this.

  • Rebecca

    I liked this example, “I’ll give this computer to whoever wants it.” The usage of ‘whomever and whoever’ can be tricky.

  • thebluebird11

    @ rebecca: I never have a problem with the who/whom issue…if in doubt, I try substituting “he” or “him” for who or whom. IF I can say “HIM,” (which ends with an M), I use WHOM (also ends in M). And HIM=HER, so that goes for HER as well. IF I can use “HE” (and, by extension, SHE), I know I need to use WHO (no M in either one).
    In the case you mentioned, you don’t know WHO wants the computer; maybe HE wants it, maybe SHE wants it, so you will give the computer to WHOEVER wants it. OTOH, if you wonder if you should give the computer to HIM or HER, you would say, “To WHOM should I give the computer?”

    Otherwise, this whole post is WAAAAAAY beyond my comprehension. We simply learned how to speak English as babies (and thank goodness my mother was an English major). I never could, and still can’t understand any of this post. They lost me at Hello. I cannot parse a sentence. Oh well…I have other talents and skills LOL.

  • Kathy

    Please do explore that “other post” about when we should drop “that”. This is one that always feels arbitrary to me — if there are some rulles or guidelines on this, I’d love to know them!

  • Maeve

    @jo
    Perhaps this article can help:

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/clauses-and-phrases/

  • Poes

    I want to know why clauses and phrases are confious.

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