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Noun Clauses: Essential uses and easy examples

Introduction to noun clauses

A noun clause is a clause that can take the place of a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence. 

  • I don’t know the time
  • I don’t know when she is coming.

A noun clause is a subordinate/dependent clause that generally comes after the main clause. This means that the noun clause cannot stand by itself. It is usually linked to the main clause by these conjunctions:

That, which, what, who, whom, whose, where, why, when, how, if, whether, whatever, whichever, whoever, whomever, whenever, wherever,

  1. Question words: I don’t know where he lives.
  2. If or whether: I don’t know if she’s coming.
  3. That: I don’t know that he’s here yet.

In “that-clauses”, it is possible to leave out ‘that‘.

Types of noun clauses

A noun clause can be a complement of the verb be:

  • The problem is (that) I don’t have enough time to visit all my friends.
  • The difficulty was how he was going to find us in that crowded place.
  • The thing is (that) the apartment doesn’t have a view on the beach.

A noun clause can be the object of a verb:

  • Nobody thinks (that) Janet will pass her exams.
  • We all know (that) he is a generous person.
  • I wonder whether that’s a nice idea.
  • She wouldn’t say where she was heading.

We can use if/whether or wh-clause when the noun clause expresses a question or an answer to a question. Look at the following examples:

  • I’ll ask when the first English test is.
  • This receipt shows how much we have spent on food.

A noun clause is sometimes used as a subject:

  • That all the students got good grades is good news.
  • That you love me is not logical.
  • Whoever told you that is a liar.

Notice that “that all the students got good grades” is the subject of the verb “is”.

When the noun clause is the subject, we cannot omit “that“; so “all the students got good grades is good news” is NOT correct.

Noun clauses are also used with the empty subject ‘it’:

  • It‘s nice (that) you have finished your tasks on time.
  • It‘s hard to say if/whether he’s going to attend the party.
  • It‘s great (that) you called me before you left home.

We can use a that-clause after certain adjectives: 

  • I’m really glad (that) you enjoyed the meal in our restaurant.
  • We were certain (that) he was to blame.
  • I’m aware (that) smoking is very bad for health.

These clauses can also be used with these adjectives:

Afraid, amused, annoyed, anxious, aware, certain, confident, conscious, convinced, delighted, determined, eager, glad, happy, horrified, impatient, pleased, proud, sorry, sure, surprised, willing, etc.

noun clauses


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