Noun Clause: A complete study of Formation, Function with examples


Look at the following sentences:

(i) I believe your story.

(ii) I believe what you say.

In sentence (i) ‘your story’ is a noun phrase which functions as the object of ‘believe’ But in the (ii) sentence ‘your story’ has been replaced by the clause ‘what your say’.

The function and position of this clause are the same as the noun phrase in (i).  So this clause is called a Noun Clause. Hence, a Noun clause does the function of a noun. It answers the question who? Or what?

For example:

(i) He told me that they were ready.

(ii) He told me What?

Ans.That they were ready.  And it is a Noun Clause.

FORMATION of the Noun Clause

Now study the examples:

(i)  Ajay remembers that it was a Sunday.

(ii) I can’t say where Amit has gone.

(iii) No one knew whether/if the rumour was true.

Sometimes we leave out ‘that’  in informal English.

(iv) Everybody knows (that) Sarat is a good student.

The underlined clauses are  Noun Clauses. A Noun Clause begins with ‘that’ or a question word i.e., a wh-word / if/whether.

The function of the Noun clause

Noun Clause as the Subject

1. Mark the following examples:

(a)  What he says is helpful to us (=His opinion is helpful to us.)

(b) That his father has come is true. (=His father’s arrival is true.)

(c ) Whether he will be able to succeed depends on a lot of things. (His success depends on a lot of things)

The underlined clauses in the above sentences have replaced the corresponding noun phrases in the subject position in each case, so these clauses are noun clauses and they have taken the subject position in each complex sentence.

Study the following sentences:

(a) It is clear that you are in safety.

That you are in safety is clear.

(b) It isn’t easy to know which route would be best.

Which route would be best isn’t easy to know.

(the use of a ‘that’ clause as the subject of a sentence is rare in speech)

Note that:

(a)  We don’t leave out ‘that’ or ‘Wh-words‘ when the noun clause is the subject of a verb in a sentence.

(b) We use ‘whether‘, but not ‘if‘ when the noun clause is subject.

Noun Clause as Object of a Verb

2. Study the examples:

(a) Goapl said (that) he was happy.

(b) I asked the boy how old he was.

In the above sentences ‘said’ and ‘asked” are transitive verbs and the noun clauses (that) he was happy‘ and ‘how old he wasare the object of the transitive verbs. So a noun clause can be the object of a verb.

We may drop the conjunction ‘that ‘ if the noun clause is in the object position.

Noun Clause as the Object of the Preposition

3. Study the examples:

(a) Pay careful attention to what I am going to say.

(b) There is no meaning in what you say.

(a) Pay careful attention to (it), (b) There is no meaning in (it) are the Main Clauses. The Noun Clauses in the above examples are given in italics. They act as the objects of the prepositions i.e ‘to’  and ‘in’.

Noun Clause as the Complement of a Verb

4. Mark further examples:

(a) The difficulty was how we would arrange the fund.

(b) The problem is that we do not have any money.

In the above sentences, the noun clauses are ‘how we would arrange the fund’ and ‘that we do not have any money’. They are complements of the be verbs (was, is) in the above sentences respectively. Hence, a Noun Clause can be the complement of a verb.

Noun Clause as the Apposition

5. Study these examples:

 (a) The news that his father has come is true.

(b) The statement that she found the money in the street isn’t believable.

The Main clauses in the above examples are (a) The news is true, (b) The statement is not believable. The italicized clauses are noun clauses in apposition to the nouns or pronouns that precede them.

We don’t usually leave out ‘that’ in this pattern.

What is an Apposition in English Grammar?

A relationship between two or more words/phrases in which the two units are grammatically parallel and have the same referent.

Noun Clause Rules (Points to remember)

  1. A noun clause can replace a noun phrase.
  2. A noun clause can take the position of the subject, the object, the complement, the object of a preposition or in apposition to a noun phrase.
  3. We use the noun clauses after.
    • (a) Some adjectives:       It is obvious that he has failed.
    • (b) Some nouns:              It is a pity that he missed the train.
    • (c.) Some verbs:               I know that he has missed the film.
  4. We often use noun clauses after reporting verbs like say, tell, think, know, and ask.
  5. We may sometimes omit ‘that’ if the noun clause is in the object position of a sentence.

Exercise for Noun Clause


Pick out the Main clauses and Noun clauses in the following sentences:

  1. I can’t express how sorry I am.
  2. Do you know when the next rain will arrive?
  3. All depends on how it is done.
  4. He says that her mother is ill.
  5. It is clear that he is honest.
  6. What he says is true.
  7. The point is that he was absolutely dishonest.
  8. When my friend will return is uncertain.
  9. His great fear is that he may not succeed.
  10. It is feared that he will not help us.


Complete each of the following sentences using a “Noun clause”

  1. Her looks prove__________.
  2. Can you tell me __________?
  3. He admitted that __________.
  4. He wanted to know__________.
  5. Copernicus proved that __________.
  6. We all thought that__________.
  7. The teacher said that__________.
  8. We want to know__________.
  9. I have no objection to__________.
  10. His plan is that__________.


Pick out the Noun Clauses in the following sentences. Say whether they are the subjects or the objects of the verbs/ objects of the prepositions/complements of the verbs / in apposition to another noun phrase.

  1. That he is an honest man is admitted by all.
  2. Shanti didn’t know that her maternal uncle had come.
  3. Can you tell me who wrote ‘The Ramayan’?
  4. The matter is that they have cheated us.
  5. The mystery depends on how the detective caught the murderer.
  6. My decision is that I shall help you.
  7. It is not clear who has done it.
  8. No one can say how the dispute will come to an end.
  9. You know when the next train arrives.

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