Noun Clauses


Our last stop down the rabbit hole of English grammar took us to independent and dependent clauses, and now we will go over the three types of dependent/subordinate clauses.

Remember, a subordinate clause has a subject and verb, but doesn’t express a complete thought.

The first subordinate clause we are going to cover is noun clauses. Noun clauses act as nouns.

Nouns are the names of ideas, people, animals, places, things, actions, or qualities.

They can be subjects, direct objects, objects of preposition, and predicate nominatives.

Usually, a noun clause will start with these words:

How That
What Whatever
When Where
Whether Which
Whichever Who
Whoever Whomever
Whom Why


Noun clauses as subjects:

Which of these colors do you prefer?

Which of these colors is the noun clause acting as a subject.

Whatever color is in style is the one I’d like.

Whatever color is in style is the noun clause.

Whether or not it is appropriate, the crazy bus will leave at that time.

Whether or not it is is the noun clause.

As you can see, these are all dependent clauses because they do not express a complete thought.

Noun clauses as direct objects:

A direct object is a noun phrase where a person or thing is acted upon by a transitive verb. A transitive verb is a verb with a direct object—a verb that is doing something to someone or something.

A sentence with a direct object and transitive verb would be something like this:

I brushed my teeth.

Brushed would be the transitive verb because it acts upon something, in this case my teeth, which are the direct object. Something is done to them. Contrast this with an intransitive verb:

I sneezed.

Sneezed would be an intransitive verb because it does not have a direct object. I can’t sneeze something. Intransitive verbs are ones that can’t act on something—they have no direct object. Snore and sleep would be other examples of intransitive verbs.

So, a noun clause acting as a direct object would be this sentence:

How do I brush my teeth?

How do I is the noun clause, teeth are the direct object. They are being acted upon, which is indicated by the transitive verb brush. We know that how do is the subordinate clause since it would not express a complete thought if you removed it from the whole sentence. I brush my teeth is the independent clause.

Another example:

Whatever is on sale, I will buy.

Whatever is on sale is the noun clause acting as a direct object, since the whatever is acted upon by the transitive verb buy.

I do not understand what I just read.

What I just read is the noun clause as a direct object because it is acted upon by my lack of understanding, a transitive verb.

Still with me?

We will continue with noun clauses as objects of prepositions and predicate nominatives tomorrow.