What is a Noun Clause? Definition, Examples of Nominal Clauses in English

Noun clause definition: A noun clause is a clause that plays the role of a noun in a sentence. Noun clauses will contain a subject and a verb, but they cannot stand alone in a sentence.

What is a Noun Clause?

What does noun clause mean? A noun clause is a dependent clause that contains a subject and a verb. A noun clause functions as noun in a sentence.

A noun clause cannot stand alone because it is not a complete thought. It must always be paired with an independent (main) clause.

Noun Clause Examples:

  • I remember what you said yesterday.

Here, the underlined portion is the independent clause that can stand alone. The italicized words, “what you said yesterday,” serve as a dependent noun clause. “What you said yesterday” is a thing, therefore the clause is a noun.

Whats a noun clause definitionThe noun clause is acting as the direct object of the sentence. In the noun clause “you said” is a subject plus a verb. This creates the clause (a subject plus a verb). However, “what you said yesterday” cannot stand alone and therefore must be paired with an independent clause.

In What Way Can a Noun Clause Operate?

Noun clauses can operate just the same as an ordinary noun would. This means they can be the subject of a sentence, the direct object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.

Below we have outlined some of the more popular ways you will see noun clauses in sentences.

In each example, you can identify the sentence that contains a noun clause in italics.

Noun Clause as an Object

What is noun clause or nominal clauseA noun clause can function as a direct object, an indirect object, or the object of a preposition.

Noun Clause Example as Direct Object:

  • The goal of our company is what is explained in the profile.
    • The underlined portion of the sentence contains the subject and the verb. The italicized portion is the noun clause which contains a subject and verb but is a dependent clause. The noun clause is acting as the direct object of the sentence.

Noun Clause Example as Indirect Object:

  • Don’t forget to send whoever attended the conference a follow-up email.
    • The direct object of the sentence is a “follow-up email.” The recipient of that email is the noun clause, also the indirect object.

Noun Clause Example as Object of Preposition:

  • You should speak about how your parents immigrated to this country.
    • The underlined portion of the sentence is a prepositional phrase, beginning with the preposition “about” and ending with the noun clause. The noun clause acts as the object of the preposition.

Noun Clause as a Subject

Grammar noun clause examples sentencesSince a noun clause is a noun, it can function as a subject of a sentence. Here are a few noun clause sentences where the noun clause is the subject of the sentence.

  • Whatever you decide to do is fine with me.
  • How you made that decision baffles me.
  • Why we chose not to include you is none of your business.

In each of these examples, the italicized noun clause is performing the action of the sentence, functioning as the subject.

How to Identify a Noun Clause

Examples of noun clauses-as-noun clause as direct objectA few identifiers will help you locate a noun clause in a sentence.

Noun clauses often begin with one of (but not only) these words:

  • how
  • that
  • what
  • who
  • why

Noun clauses contain a subject and a verb but they cannot stand alone. Noun clauses are dependent clauses that must be paired with an independent (main) clause.

To see if a clause is a noun clause, identify its role in the sentence. If it is acting as a noun, it is a noun clause (as opposed to an adjective clause, for example).

Using Subjunctive in Noun Clauses

Function of noun clause as predicate nominativeThe subjunctive case appears in noun clauses. It is acceptable in formal writing and speaking but is not common in everyday language.

The common use of the subjunctive case in a noun clause is after verbs like advise, ask, demand, insist, urge, require.

The formula for a noun clause in the subjunctive case looks like this:

  • object + infinitive + (object of infinitive)

Examples of noun clauses in subjective case:

  • The school requires students to complete all courses.
  • I asked her to help me.
  • The manager urged his employees to provide exceptional customer service.

Summary: What are Noun Clauses?

Define noun clause: The definition of a noun clause is a clause that functions as a noun in a sentence. Noun clauses,

  • contain a subject and a verb
  • are dependent clauses that cannot stand alone
  • function as a noun in the sentence
  • generally begin with particular words