A noun clause is a type of
dependent clause, which means it has a
subject and a
verb and it cannot stand alone.
A noun clause contains a subject and a verb and is performing the job of a noun.
Because it is a noun clause, it does the job of a noun.
I want to tell you (what I saw).
In this case, what I saw is a noun clause because it performs the job of a noun and contains a subject and a verb.
Because this clause is not the main clause of the sentence, we know that it is a dependent clause.
All noun clauses are dependent clauses.
(What I saw) was in the water.
Because of (what I saw), I was so shocked that I nearly drowned.
(What I saw) had a tail, scales, and was an excellent swimmer.
(What I saw) was neither a fish nor a human.
We can use question words like
which to ask questions in English.
But we can also use them followed by a subject and a verb to make a
In both of these sentences, the noun clause is functioning as an object.
Do you know (where I kept my pencil)?
I know (where you put your pencil).
He wants to know (where you are).
You know (where I am).
He would like to know (what you're doing).
(What I'm doing) is none of his business.
(What she's doing) is none of your business.
(Where I am) is at work.
(What I am doing) is working.
He wants to know (why you didn't call him back).
Don't worry about (why I didn't call you back).
if and whether
We can also begin a noun clause with
Noun clauses that begin with
whether are for embedded
Emily wonders (if Jake is at work today). She wonders (whether Jake is at work today).
It is acting as an object.
She wants to know (if Jake is looking for something).
(Whether or not I find you today) is irrelevant.
Whether or not I find you today is the noun clause.
This is just another option for communicating the same idea.
It is the same as saying,
(Whether I find you today) is irrelevant.
(Whether I find you or not) is irrelevant.
- Let me know (if you need help).
- Let me know (whether you need help).
- Let me know (whether or not you need help).
- Let me know (whether you need help or not).
- Let me know (if you need help, or not).
All of these sentences mean the exact same thing.
whether is slightly more
if slightly more
Let me show you (what I mean).
Do you know (what Jake was looking for)?
Tell me (if you know what Jake was looking for).
I wonder (if she ate that after it had been sitting on the ground).
How to reduce certain noun clauses to infinitive phrases.
An infinitive is the simple form of a verb, usually proceeded by
to. For example,
Will you tell me (where I can get some ice cream)?
This is the full noun clause.
To reduce it to an infinitive phrase, we simply remove
can. And add
to, to make
where to get.
Will you tell me (where to get some ice cream)?
Here's another example.
My doctor told me (why I should not eat ice cream). My doctor told me (why not to eat ice cream).
We can do this same thing with noun clauses that have
I'm not sure (whether I should listen to my doctor or not).
I'm not sure (whether to listen to my doctor or not).
Careful, the subject
in the main verb and
the noun clause must be the
same in order to reduce it to an infinitive phrase.
tell, say and ask.
He told us (that we should dress professionally).
He told us (to dress professionally).
He said (that we should dress professionally).
He said (to dress professionally).
This child asks his mother, will you ride the carousel with me?
The child asked his mother (if she would ride the carousel).
The child asks his mother, may I ride it again?
The child asked (if he could ride the carousel again).
Agree, decide, promise, pretend, hope, expect, remind and require
I decided (that I would stop at a cafe for lunch).
I decided (to stop at a cafe for lunch).
I promised my sister (that I would watch her dog).
I promised (to watch my sister's dog).
You can also reduce some noun clauses to gerund phrases.
What is a gerund? Do you remember? A gerund is simply a verb with
-ing that acts as a
reviewing is a gerund.
I recommend (that you review noun clauses).
I recommend (reviewing noun clauses).
propose are used similarly.
Jan recommended (that they come up for air).
Jan recommended (coming up for air).
I appreciate (that I can be your leader).
I appreciate (being your leader).
We appreciate (that you are showing us the way).
We appreciate (your showing us the way).
My dogs don't understand (that they have to be in the other room while I try to work).
My dogs don't understand (having to be in the other room while I try to work).
My dogs don't understand (that I need to work right now).
My dogs don't understand (my needing to work right now).