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Grammar: Noun Clauses

A noun clause is a subordinate clause. A noun clause has a subject and a verb, and
can be used like a noun, either as a subject or an object.
1. As Subject
His discovery was important.
Noun

His discovery is a noun. It is the subject of the sentence.


What he discovered was important.
Noun clause

What he discovered is noun clause. It is the subject of the sentence. It has a


subject he and a verb discovered.
2. As Object
People believed his discovery.
Noun

His discovery is a noun. It is the object lf the verb believed.


People believed what he discovered.
Noun clause

What he discovered is a noun clause. It is the object of the verb believed.


Noun clauses are introduced by the following words:

When who/whom whether that


Where what if
Why which
how whose

NOUN CLAUSES BEGINNING WITH A QUESTION WORD


Question words such as when, where, why, how, who/whom, what, which, and whose
can introduce a noun clause.
Question Noun Clause

1. What did he discover? I don’t know what he discovered.


2. When did he discover it? I’m not sure when he discovered it.
3. Where did he discover it? It is not known where he discovered it.
4. How did he discover it? I’m not certain how be discovered it.
5. Who is Faraday? I don’t know who he is.
6. Whose discovery is that? It is not certain whose discovery that is.
7. What did he discover? What he discovered is not certain.
(What he discovered is the subject of
the sentence.)
Strategy
Do not use question word order in a noun clause. The subject cones before the verb in a
noun clause.
NOUN CLAUSES BEGINNING WITH WHETHER OR IF
When a yes/no question is changed to a noun clause, whether or if is used to
introduce the clause.
Question Noun Clause
Will it work? He wonders whether it will work.
He wonders if it will work.
Did they believe him? I don’t know whether they believed him.
I don’t know if they believed him.

NOUN CLAUSES BEGINNING WITH THAT


For a statement of a fact or an idea, the word that is used to introduce the noun
clause.

Statement Noun Clause

1. The world is round. We know that the world is round. (That


the world is round is the object of the
verb know.)
2. The world is round. We know the world is round. (The word
that is frequently omitted in spoken
English.)
3. The world is round. That the world is round is a fact. (That the
world is round is the subject of the
sentence. The word that cannot be
omitted when it introduces a noun
clause that is the subject of a sentence. )

Strategy
A noun clause must have a subject and a verb. Look for a subject and a verb when the
noun clause is the object or the subject of a sentence.