Most people are comfortable with the idea of a noun, but they may not feel so confident when it comes to the noun clause. A noun clause is a group of words acting together as a noun. These clauses are always dependent clauses. That is, they do not form a complete sentence.
The best way to familiarize yourself with these types of clauses is to take a look at some sample sentences containing noun clauses at work.
Noun clauses are used to name something when a single word isn't enough. Again, they're always going to be dependent clauses and these clauses can't stand alone. If a dependent clause stands alone, it forms a sentence fragment, not a full sentence. While an independent clause can act as a sentence by itself, a dependent clause cannot.
One of the easiest ways to spot a noun clause is to look for these words:
Beyond these keywords, you can also spot a noun clause based on its function within the sentence. Let's take a look at some of the most prominent roles of noun clauses.
A noun clause can act as the subject of a verb. For example:
When there's a verb in the sentence, you must find the subject.
In the first sentence, we can ask, "What made her friends cry?" The answer is "what Alicia said." Therefore, "what Alicia said" is the subject of the verb "made."
In the second sentence, we can ask, "What surprised her family?" The answer is "what Megan wrote."
In the third sentence, we can ask, "What was not very polite?" The answer is "how the boy behaved."
In the same vein, noun clauses can also act as the direct object of a verb:
She didn't realize that the directions were wrong.
He didn't know why the stove wasn't working.
They now understand that you should not cheat on a test.
Once again, you can use the method of questioning to demonstrate how the noun clause is being used.
In the first sentence, we can ask, "What didn't she realize?" and the answer is "that the directions were wrong." Therefore, "that the directions were wrong" is the object of the verb.
In the second sentence, we can ask, "What didn't he know?" and the answer is "why the stove wasn't working."
In the third sentence, we can ask, "What do they understand?" and the answer is "that you should not cheat on a test."
A noun clause can also serve as a subject complement. A subject complement will always modify, describe, or complete the subject of a clause.
Carlie's problem was that she didn't practice enough.
Harry's crowning achievement at school was when he became class president.
Darla's excuse for being late was that she forgot to set her alarm.
Do you see what questions these noun clauses answer and how they relate to the subject?
What was Carlie's problem? She didn't practice enough.
What was Harry's crowning achievement? It was when he became class president.
What was Darla's excuse for being late? It was that she forgot to set her alarm.
Without these clauses, the sentences would not be complete thoughts.
Noun clauses also act as objects of a preposition. In the examples below, you'll see the prepositions "of" and "for" in action.
Harry is not the best provider of what Margie needs.
Josephine is not responsible for what Alex decided to do.
Allie is the owner of that blue car parked outside.
Again, the best way to understand this concept is by asking the appropriate questions.
In the first sentence, we can ask, "Harry is not the best provider of what?" The answer is "what Margie needs."
In the second sentence, we can ask, "Josephine is not responsible for what?" The answer is "what Alex decided to do."
In the third sentence, we can ask, "Allie is the owner of what?" The answer is "that blue car parked outside."
Each of these sentences could be complete before the addition of the prepositions. However, the prepositions are introduced to provide further detail and the noun clauses act as the objects of these prepositions.
Last but not least, a noun clause can also function as an adjective complement, modifying a verb, adjective, or adverb.
The adjective complement is providing more information about the verb, adjective or adverb that precedes it.
Similar to the examples containing prepositions, each of these sentences could be complete after conjunction (e.g., why, where and that). The adjective complements provide further detail and, in each of these instances, these adjective complements are noun clauses.
Noun clauses are common in everyday speech. They add crucial information to sentences. Remember, noun clauses:
Contain a subject and a verb
Are dependent clauses
Function as a noun in the sentence
Begin with words like that, what, when, or why, to name a few