Many people are fairly comfortable with the idea of nouns, but they might not feel so confident when it comes to the idea of a noun clause. Noun clauses come in a variety of forms; and learning about each form is the best way to understand the concept of noun clauses.
Noun clauses can be used in a number of ways, and they serve different purposes. First and foremost, please recognize that these clauses are dependent clauses. A dependent clause is one that cannot stand by itself. If a dependent clause is placed alone, it forms a fragment, not a sentence. An independent clause can act as a sentence by itself, but dependent clauses cannot.
A noun clause can act as a subject of a verb, and we will break down what that means after a couple of examples. This clause is acting as the subject of a verb is present in:
When there's a verb in the sentence, you must find the subject. Therefore, in the first we can ask "What made?" and the answer is "What Alicia said." Therefore, "What Alicia said" is the subject of that verb. In the next case, we can ask "What surprised?" and the answer is "What Megan wrote." Do you now see how a noun clause can act as a subject of a verb?
In the same vein, noun clauses can also act as the object of a verb:
Once again, we can use the method of questioning to demonstrate how the noun clause is being used. What didn't she know? What didn't he realize? And what do they now understand? The answer in all three cases is the noun clause!
Let's pick up the pace a little bit, and let's see if you can figure out how these noun clauses are actually answers to questions within the sentence.
Once again, do you see what questions these noun clauses answer and how they relate to the subject? What was Carlie's problem? What was Harry's crowning achievement? What was Darla's television? Without these clauses, the sentences would not be complete thoughts grammaticaly, nor would they sound complete at all.
Noun clauses also act as objects of a preposition.
Once again, Harry is not the provider of what? Josephine is not responsible for what? Allie is the owner of what?
Last but not least, a noun clause can also act as an adjective complement.
One more time with feeling: Why is the group happy? Why is the child sad? Why is the family excited?
Using noun clauses in everyday speech is a fairly common practice, as noun clauses add often crucial information to sentences. However, learning to differentiate between the various types can be difficult.
If you're in a position where you have to decide which form the noun clause is taking, consider the options carefully, and consult a grammar guide if you need additional assistance.
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