How To Identify Noun Clauses

A complex sentence contains an independent clause and a dependent (or subordinate) one. A noun clause is a type of a dependent clause, along with adjective clauses and adverb clauses. A noun clause functions as a how a real noun does in a main clause. It can be the subject, the object, the subject complement, the object of the proposition, and the adjective complement. For an English grammar learner, it may be a tricky task to identify a noun clause. Nothing beats practice to be really familiar with it. Meanwhile here are some helpful tips to identify one in a sentence:

  • A noun clause can be the following:
      • Subject of the verb. Take it from this example: What Grace did shocked her sister. The subject or the reason of the verb “shocked” in this sentence pertains to “what Grace did”. By identifying the verb first, it can easily lead you to the noun clause, which is the verb’s subject here.
      • Object of a verb. Take it from this example: He said that he was angry. The object of the verb “said” in this sentence pertains to the contents of the verb, which is “that he was angry”. To make it clearer, answer this question “what did he say?” you will find that the answer is the noun clause in this sentence.
      • Subject complement. Take it from this example: The scariest thing about me is that I get mad easily. A subject complement may mean the same thing with the subject of the sentence. If you would look at the subject of this sentence, which is “The scariest thing”, it was further explained by the subject complement “that I get mad easily”. To make it clearer, answer this question “What is scary?” you will find that the answer is the noun clause in this sentence.
      • Object of a preposition. Take it from this example: The talk was about what Pam did. The preposition here is the word “about” and the object of the preposition is “what Pam did”. The object of the preposition in this sentence also serves as the noun. To make it clearer, answer this question “about what?” you will find that the answer is the noun clause in this sentence.
      • Adjective complement. Take it from this example: Everybody is shocked that James died. The adjective here “that James died” functions as both noun clause and a complement for the adjective “shocked”. To make it clearer, answer this question “Why is everybody described as shocked?” you will find that the answer is the noun clause in this sentence.
  • Be sensitive to words that can serve as clues in identifying noun clauses in the sentence. Usually these words introduce the clause that you intend to find. The group includes the following: however, how, that, if, whatever, what, when, wherever, where, whether, whichever, which, whom, who, whoever, whose, whomever and why.


Lastly, all you need is practice and more research about the grammar topic. There are helpful sites on the Internet where you can find more examples of noun clauses being used in sentences.

 

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