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Noun Clauses

Read the following example sentences. 

  1. What Tom did surprised his parents.

  2. Tom’s friends did not know that he was not well.

  3. Tom seemed undecided whether or not to go to college.

  4. Whatever decision Tom made, his friends would support it.

  5. Tom and his friends were at a loss about where to go on vacation.
Look at the underlined clauses. What do you understand from them? They are subordinate clauses and perform the functions that a single-word noun can. These are Noun Clauses.


What is a Noun Clause?

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A noun clause is a subordinate clause that functions like noun. Like all clauses, a noun clause has a subject and a verb but cannot stand on its own.  Noun clause generally answers the question ‘what’ and frequently begins with that, which, who, whom, or whose. Other words that introduce noun clauses are wh-question words, if, or whether.

Types of Noun Clause

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There are two common types of noun clauses
  • Noun clauses derived from Statements, verb + that clause

  • Noun clauses derived from Questions, wh-question and yes/no questions

Noun Clauses from Statements “Verb + that”

All noun clauses from statements are introduced by the subordinate conjunction ‘that’. The sole function of that is to link a noun clause to the main clause of the sentence.
  1. Alisha’s greatest strength is that she always worked hard to learn new things.

  2. We knew that this would happen.

  3. Charles could not accept that he had done something bad.

  4. It was Casey’s idea that we go to the concert.

  5. The teacher understood that the students lack basic math skills.

Noun Clauses from Wh-question words

The wh-question words introduce noun clauses derived from information questions.

 Wh Question   Noun Clause 
 Where is the train station?   They asked where the train station is
 What should I do?  Please tell me what I should do.
 When will Jacob be discharged from the hospital?   We are not sure when Jacob will be discharged from the hospital
 Who is her friend?  I don’t know who her friend is.

Noun clauses from yes/no questions are introduced by whether or if.

 Yes/No Question                                                 Noun Clause                                                                          
 Do you like it?  I am going to buy it whether she likes it or not
 Will this plan work?   We are uncertain whether or not this plan will work
 Will Bob offer us more money?   I don’t know if Bob will offer us more money.
 Is she a singer?  I wonder if she is a singer.

Functions of Noun Clauses

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Noun clauses perform the same functions in sentences that nouns do. They act as subject, subject complement, object, object of preposition, and adjective complement.


1. Whoever is in charge of this project should read these guidelines.

2. Hardy’s problem is that he cannot grasp the basic concepts of mathematics.
                                                        Subject Complement

3. You can buy whatever you want.
                          Direct Object

4. Please give whoever volunteered to help clear up a big round of applause.
                                                 Indirect Object

5. Huck did not listen to what the teacher said.
                                     Object of preposition

6. The tourists were happy that the rain had stopped.
                                         Adjective complement

Test Yourself

Underline the noun clause in the following sentences.
  • The committee announced a reward of $1,000 to whoever wins the competition.
  • Ask your brother what he wants to eat now.
  • I bet that he would win the game.
  • The sheriff didn’t agree to what the kidnappers demanded.
  • I’m not sure where I left my car key.

Underline the noun clause in the following sentences and mention the function of the noun clauses.
  • Whoever signs up this week will get a discount.
  • We didn’t know that he will be coming today.
  • The teacher was responsible for what the children did in the class. 
  • The kid was sad that he had to leave his mother.
  • I wonder whether or not the team is prepared to perform the task.
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