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• Frank, Marcella 1993 (3rd edn). Modern English: A

Practical Reference Guide. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Chapter 15

Noun Clauses

Change from Full Subject-predicate Form

The full subject and predicate are retained in a noun clause, but the
structure is changed by the addition of a special introductory word, by a special
word order, or by both.

Types And Functions Of Noun Clauses

Noun clauses me be classified according to the kinds of sentences from
which they are derived-statements, questions, requests, exclamations. In some
grammar books, that, whether, and if introducing noun clauses are classified as
“particles”. The major meaning of these words is structural they function merely as
In connection with types of noun clauses, we might refer to that clauses after
predicate adjectives denoting perception and feeling. Another kind of that which
might be mentioned under types of noun clauses occurs in the sentence patter: it
+ an adverbial + a that clause.
Noun clauses and adjective clauses are sometimes confused because of
the similarity of some of their introductory words. However, there two significant
differences between these two clauses:
1) The adjective clause is preceded by a noun or pronoun antecedent.
2) A preposition that precedes the introductory word belongs to the
adjective clause, but usually does not belong to the noun clause.

Noun Clause From Statement

Noun Clause from statements are introduce by the conjunction that. They
may have nominal function except that of object of a preposition. That noun
clauses are used as subjects of sentences only with certain verbs (e.g. the linking
verbs, causative verbs, and verbs expressing emotions).
That noun clause subjects occur less frequently in subject position that in
predicate position after anticipatory.

It is very encouraging that the child’s fever has gone down.

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Verbs Followed by THAT Clauses

Those noun clauses take place most frequently as objects of verbs. Such
verbs usually have subjects that refer to human beings. They are mostly verbs of
indirect speech (e.g. admit assert, claim, swear, aver) and verbs expressing
mental activities (e.g. grant, feel, forget, wish, conclude, dream).

That clauses used in proposition with nouns may be either restrictive or


PESTRICTVE CLAUSES: Such clauses are in apposition with nouns derived from
verbs or adjectives that normally take that clauses.
He carefully concealed his indignation that he was not given the
appointment he had asked for.

NONRESTRICIVE CLAUSES: Such clauses are often in apposition with this or

Things may yet come to this-that no place will be safe from unclear

Omission of THAT

In informal speech, that is frequently omitted from object clauses if the

meaning is clear without it.
He says (that) they plan to come to the dance.
That may also be omitted from clauses after predicate adjectives.
I’m sorry (that) I couldn’t meet you at the station.
That is sometimes omitted informally from clauses functioning as predicate nouns.
The truth is, (that) I don’t remember where I met him.

That clauses after Wish

That clauses after the verb wish often contain subjective forms similar to
those in unreal conditions. These forms are used when the wish is difficult to
1. The wish refers to present time (past subjunctive form):
I wish (that) I were at the beach now.
2. The wish refers to past time (past perfect form):
I wish (or wished) (that) I had been at the beach yesterday.

- Noun clauses derived from questions can perform any function that a
noun can fulfill, including object of a preposition. Subject noun clauses
derived from questions appear with many of the same main verbs as do
clauses derived from statements.
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How the fire started I a mystery to me.
Also, noun clauses from questions may serve as objects of prepositions
after adjectives, verbs, or nouns. And they may function as one or both objects
after verbs that take double objects.


Whether is donate a positive or negative choice since it introduces a noun

clause from yes-no question. The negative choice may be explicitly expressed by
the addition of or not.
- Certain verbs that take that clause object may also take whether
clause objects. These verbs are often negative, interrogative or imperative
1. Verbs of indirect speech- announce, ask, tell, debate, and
2. Verbs from mental activity- care, choose, see, and wonder.

Interrogative Words
Noun clauses from questions may begin with interrogative words
functioning as :
1. Pronoun
2. adjective
3. adverbs
As in direct questions, the forms of who and whoever in noun clauses are
determined by the function of these pronouns.

Who vs. Whoever

The use of the pronoun who in noun clause is more limited that that of
whoever. Who does not appear in noun clause subjects. Who in noun clause
objects occur mainly after some verbs of indirect speech or mental activity.

What vs. Whatever

Introductory what or whatever may appear in all noun functions. The –ever
forms are often interchangeable with what, depending on the degree of generality
desire. Also, in older style the pronoun who was used in sentences that today
would require whoever.

Noun Clauses from Requests

Noun clauses from requests are introduced by that, just like noun clauses
from statements. Such clauses take place merely as objects of verbs that often
combine with the idea of requesting some degree of urgency, advisability or
desirability. Also, the verbs in noun clauses from requests usually take present
subjunctive form.
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The doctor recommended that he take a vacation.

Sequence of Tenses in Noun Clauses

Sequence of tenses occurs most frequently with noun clause objects.

Informally, the past tense is frequently used instead of the past perfect in noun
clauses after past main verbs- He said that the train arrived late.
- if a noun clause object refers to a general truth or to a customary
action, the present “timeless” form is also possible in the noun clause.
However, even in noun clause objects containing generalizations, the past
tense maybe or common because of the pressure of sequence of tenses.

Position of Noun Clauses

Noun Clauses appear in the same position as nouns, that is, subjects
appear before the verb, objects after the verb, etc. Like nouns, noun clause
objects may occupy primary place for larger emphasis.
Why he had to buy three suits instead of one I’ll never understand.

Punctuation of Noun Clauses

There is no punctuation sets off noun clauses in these function, just like no
punctuation sets off nouns as objects.
He said that he had lost his wallet.
He asked why she had done that.
- Questions marks or exclamation marks are dropped from noun clauses made
from questions or exclamations.

Abridgement of Noun Clauses

1. Auxiliary verb (substitution)

Most people feel that she won’t succeed in that job, but I know that she

2. Infinitive ( with noun clauses from questions)

I don’t know how to do it.

I don’t know whether to go or not.

This kind of abridgment clause has as its “subject” either (1) the subject of the
main clause, as in the above example, or (2) the subject of the main verb- He told
me when to go.