What Are Noun Clauses? (with Examples)


A noun clause is a clause that plays the role of a noun. For example (noun clauses shaded):

I like what I see.

I know that the tide is turning.

I’ve met the man who won the lottery.
(Not all agree this is a noun clause. See Note on the right.)
Compare the three examples above to these:

I like cakes.
I know London.
I’ve met Madonna.
The words in bold are all nouns. This shows that shaded clauses in the first three examples are functioning as nouns, making them noun clauses.

Like any noun, a noun clause can be a subject, an object, or a complement.

In a sentence, a noun clause will be a dependent clause. In other words, a noun clause does not stand alone as a complete thought.
Examples of Noun Clauses
Here are some examples of noun clauses:

A person who trusts no one can’t be trusted. (Jerome Blattner)
(This noun clause is the subject of the sentence.)
(Not all agree this is a noun clause. See Note on the right.)

That he believes his own story is remarkable. (Jerome Blattner)
(This noun clause is the subject of the sentence. Be aware that starting a sentence with a noun clause starting That is acceptable, but it grates on lots of people’s ears. As a result, many writers prefer to precede it with “The fact…”.)

Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he’s buying. (Fran Lebowitz)
(This noun clause is the direct object of ask.)

He knows all about art, but he doesn’t know what he likes. (James Thurber, 1894-1961)
(This noun clause is the direct object of know.)

It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man. (H L Mencken, 1880-1956)
(This noun clause is the direct object of believe.)

I never know how much of what I say is true. (Bette Midler)
(This noun clause is an object of a preposition.)

Man is what he eats. (Ludwig Feuerbach)
(This noun clause is a subject complement.)

My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. (Woody Allen)
(This noun clause is a subject complement.)

An economist is a man who states the obvious in terms of the incomprehensible. (Alfred A Knopf)
(This noun clause is a subject complement.)
(Not all agree this is a noun clause. See Note on the right.)

read more…

exercise 1

exercise 2

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