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What is a Clause

A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate. Some clauses can express a complete thought whereas some clauses cannot. Clauses that express a complete thought and stand alone as sentences are known as independent clauses. The clauses that cannot express a complete idea are known as subordinate clauses or dependent clauses. Subordinate clauses can be mainly divided into three categories based on their functions. They are noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverbial clauses. In this article, we are focusing our attention on noun clause.

What is Noun Clause

A noun clause is a dependent clause that functions as a noun. Since it is a dependent clause, it cannot stand alone as a sentence. Noun clauses perform the same functions of a noun. Noun clauses generally begin with words such as how, that, what, whatever, when, where, whether, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, and why.

What you did was wrong!

You can do whatever you want.

If you observe the two underlined clauses in the above examples carefully, you can note that both of them are acting as nouns. Since they are acting as nouns, we can also replace them with pronouns.

What you did was wrong! – It was wrong.

You can do whatever you want. – You can do it.

What is Noun Clause

What you did was punishable by law.

Functions of Noun Clause

Like any other noun, a noun clause can act as the subject, object or the subject complement.


What the little girl did was downright inspiring.

Whoever wrote this book deserves a Pulitzer.


I didn’t realize that the car was moving.

When the teacher is not there, the students can do whatever they like.

Subject Complement

Whatever you choose is fine by me.

His mistake was that he failed to understand cheating is wrong.

Object of a Preposition

It is important to think about why she behaved like that.

Buy gifts to whomever you want.

Examples of Noun Clauses

Given below are some more examples of noun clauses.

He knows that he is not an expert on art.

What he did to me cannot be pardoned.

A good speaker talks about what he really feels.

We didn’t know that the directions were wrong.

He refused to talk about what was bothering him.

What he revealed surprised all of us.

Everybody wondered where you went.

It is important to note that the relative pronoun that can be omitted from the noun clause. Removing this relative pronoun doesn’t affect the meaning of the sentence in any way.

He knows that he is not an expert on art. → He knows he is not an expert on art.

We didn’t know that the directions were wrong. → We didn’t know the directions were wrong.

Noun Clause – Summary

  • A noun clause is a dependent clause that functions as a noun.
  • A noun clause cannot stand alone since it does not express a complete thought.
  • A noun clause can function as a subject, object and subject complement.