What Are Noun Clauses? (with Examples)

What Are Noun Clauses? (with Examples)

A noun clause is a clause that plays the role of a noun. For example (noun clauses shaded):
  • I like what I see.
  • I know that the tide is turning.
  • I've met the man who won the lottery.
  • (Not all agree this is a noun clause. See Note on the right.)
Compare the three examples above to these:
  • I like cakes.
  • I know London.
  • I've met Madonna.
The words in bold are all nouns. This shows that shaded clauses in the first three examples are functioning as nouns, making them noun clauses.

Like any noun, a noun clause can be a subject, an object, or a complement.

In a sentence, a noun clause will be a dependent clause. In other words, a noun clause does not stand alone as a complete thought.

Examples of Noun Clauses

Here are some examples of noun clauses:
  • A person who trusts no one can't be trusted. (Jerome Blattner)
  • (This noun clause is the subject of the sentence.)
    (Not all agree this is a noun clause. See Note on the right.)
  • That he believes his own story is remarkable. (Jerome Blattner)
  • (This noun clause is the subject of the sentence. Be aware that starting a sentence with a noun clause starting That is acceptable, but it grates on lots of people's ears. As a result, many writers prefer to precede it with "The factů".)
  • Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he's buying. (Fran Lebowitz)
  • (This noun clause is the direct object of ask.)
  • He knows all about art, but he doesn't know what he likes. (James Thurber, 1894-1961)
  • (This noun clause is the direct object of know.)
  • It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man. (H L Mencken, 1880-1956)
  • (This noun clause is the direct object of believe.)
  • I never know how much of what I say is true. (Bette Midler)
  • (This noun clause is an object of a preposition.)
  • Man is what he eats. (Ludwig Feuerbach)
  • (This noun clause is a subject complement.)
  • My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. (Woody Allen)
  • (This noun clause is a subject complement.)

  • An economist is a man who states the obvious in terms of the incomprehensible. (Alfred A Knopf)
  • (This noun clause is a subject complement.)
    (Not all agree this is a noun clause. See Note on the right.)

See Also

What is a clause? What are nouns? What are noun phrases? What is the subject of a sentence? What is an object? What is a complement? What is a direct object? What is the object of a preposition? What is an interrogative adverb? Glossary of grammatical terms