A clause refers to a basic structural unit of grammar consisting of a predicate and a subject. Nevertheless, it should not be considered an equivalent to a sentence that also comprises these two elements. According to Rodby and Winterowd, a sentence is a structural unit that contains at least one clause and conveys a complete thought or idea (138). At the same time, a dependent clause is not a sentence since it cannot stand alone (Sullivan 172). Interestingly enough, a clause that contains a predicate and a subject can be a subject when it performs nominal functions.
In particular, a noun clause is a dependent clause that can fulfill the nominal function of a subject in a sentence. In other words, it can be used in a way similar to a noun. For instance, the following sentences include examples of noun clauses used as subjects:
- Where he lives remains a mystery for everyone. (“where he lives” is a noun clause);
- Whatever I said would irritate my sister. (“whatever I said” is a noun clause);
- What Jake did was unbelievable. (“what Jake did” is a noun clause);
- That he had even mentioned this fact made his mother happy. (“that he had even mentioned this fact” is a noun clause);
- Whoever made this offensive joke should apologize. (“whoever made this offensive joke” is a noun clause).
As can be seen from the examples listed above, a noun clause cannot stand alone from the sentence as it does not convey a finished thought. It can perform a number of functions, including a nominal one as a subject. Furthermore, a noun clause can act as direct and indirect objects, an object of a preposition, subjective and objective complements, an appositive, and a vocative (Rodby and Winterowd 139). Overall, understanding grammar and the correct way to use noun clauses can improve one’s language skills.
Rodby, Judith, and W. Ross Winterowd. The Uses of Grammar. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Sullivan, Nancy M. Essential Grammar for Today’s Writers, Students, and Teachers. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2020.