English Grammar Review
Clauses and Punctuation

Dependent Noun Clauses

A clause is a group of related words containing a subject and a verb:

clause : I prefer the earlier tram

clause : which departs at four o'clock

clause : check the schedule [subject = You]

clause : before you leave

Clauses are either independent or dependent. An independent clause expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence:

I prefer the earlier tram.

Check the schedule.

A dependent clause, also known as a subordinate clause, is not complete and must be attached to some element in an independent clause:

I prefer the earlier tram, which departs at four o'clock.
[The dependent clause modifies the noun tram.]

Check the schedule before you leave.
[The dependent clause modifies the verb check.]

There are three kinds of dependent clauses: noun, adjective, and adverb.

A noun dependent clause can function as a noun in a sentence:

Nadia learned about your comment.
[noun (not a clause)]

Nadia learned about what you said.
[noun clause]

Most noun clauses are connected to an independent clause using a subordinating conjunction such as that. Others include what, which, if, whether, who, whom, when, where, whoever, and whatever.

Noun clauses are most commonly placed after a verb, but they can also serve as a noun in other places in a sentence. Here are some examples, categorized by the vocabulary of English grammar:

predicate nominative:

Our opinion is that sales in Moscow could be better.

Mr. Ivanov's decision was that we should scrap the app.

object of a verb:

Mikhail knows what we have been working on.

Mr. Ivanov decided that we should scrap the app.

object of a preposition:

Sasha is worried about how this will affect us.

Send it to whoever ordered it in Vladivostok.

subject of a verb:

What Ms. Smirnov wants is unknown at this point in time.

Whatever you recommend will be presented to Egor.

subject of a verb, via "it":

It is not clear what we need to focus on next.


What we need to focus on next is not clear.

Lesson: Dependent Noun Clauses
Module: Clauses and Punctuation
Course: English Grammar Review