What is a Noun Clause? Types, Functions and Examples

Welcome to this post I have titled, What is a Noun Clause? Types, Functions and Examples. To understand what noun clause is, you must first ask yourself, ‘what is a noun?’ The understanding of that will help you identify a clause that behaves like a noun. So let us get on with it…

What is a Noun Clause? Types, Functions and Examples

In examining this post, we shall begin with a definition or description of a noun clause which we also refer to as a nominal clause.

What is a Noun Clause?

A noun clause has to do with the Beta Clause, which we also call a dependent or subordinate clause which performs the function of a noun in a sentence or functions like the nominal group. A noun serves as the subject of the verb in a sentence or it serves as the complement of the verb in a sentence; so does a noun clause and even a nominal or noun phrase.

For grammatical classifications that use ‘object’ instead of ‘complement’, noun clauses can equally stand as indirect or direct objects, nominatives (a grammatical form case of nouns and pronouns that identifies the subject of a sentence or clause), objects of a preposition. The following words can introduce a noun clause: what, that, where, why, when, which, whoever, whomever, and other such words. Let us illustrate what we have explained consider some examples:

Examples of Noun Clauses

  • What the man said is not clear (‘What the man said’ serves as the subject of the verb ‘is not’)
  • Where he went remains unknown.
  • Why he came here is not clear.
  • Which way to turn is a bit confusing.
  • Whoever wins the race goes home with fantastic prizes.
  • When he left the house was not recorded.
  • We will accept whomsoever she brings home.
  • They told the politician what he loved to hear.
  • You can pay her whatever you deem fit.

The noun/nominal clause usually answers the question ‘who’ or ‘what’. For instance:

  1. We have been told that the examination starts this week. (We have been told what)
  2. Who wins the tournament remains unknown. (What remains unknown?)
  3. Leaving the school without permission could earn a student suspension. (What could earn a student suspension?)
  4. Whoever arrives first is the winner. (Who is the winner?)
  5. Whomsoever we vote for becomes our governor. (Who is our governor?)

As mentioned earlier, noun clause performs the same functions as a noun in different ways. Let us examine the broad functions of noun clauses…

Functions of Noun Clauses

The following are various functions of noun clauses with examples to illustrate them.

A subject of a Sentence or a Verb

When a noun clause begins a sentence, it functions as the subject of a sentence or the verb that comes after it.

  • Whatever happens to her is none of my business.
  • When you choose to start the job will determine your salary.
  • How you choose to settle the dispute is entirely your responsibility
  • Wherever we decide to buy the car must have a discount facility.
  • Where we choose to reside must have uninterrupted electricity.

Try to generate more sentences on your own to test whether your understanding.

An object of a Sentence or Verb

A noun clause performs this function comes after the verb or when it is the recipient of the action the subject initiates.

  • I like what you do.
  • She dislikes where her parents live.
  • We prefer what we agreed on initially.
  • Nobody knows what the principal is up to.
  • He promised to do whatever his father says.
  • We do not know when the examination will begin.

The complement of the Subject

A noun clause also serves as the complement of the subject when it comes after an intensive or copular verb, which we also refer to as a linking verb; that is, when the complement refers to the subject or when it is the same as the subject.

  • We are what our thinking makes us.
  • Your disposition on the case is what you allow it to be.
  • The girl became what her parents never believed.
  • He is the genius we have always known him to be.
  • His whereabouts remains a mystery that baffles everyone.

The Complement of the Object

Noun clauses serve as the complement of the object when it follows the direct object and refers to the same entity as that object.

  • She can present the thesis that she had completed.
  • The teacher gave the instruction that we must not come late.
  • He bought a book he had always desired to buy.
  • The chef ate the chicken which he had roasted.
  • I gave her the yellow mug which my sister brought from London.
  • He could not find the pen that he used in the examination hall.
  • You can eat any food that she chooses to cook.
  • We paid the money that he demanded.
  • The boy inherited the goods which his father left behind.
  • The children caught the fish which had been playing in the pond.

Prepositional Complement or Object of a Preposition

  • The players deliberated on who should lead the team.
  • Children sometimes quarrel about what is flimsy and unnecessary.
  • The students agreed on the best route to follow to the school.
  • The desperate staff signed for a loan he might not be able to repay in a year.
  • We cannot say particularly under which condition the authorities permitted him to participate in the bid.

Now that we have seen the functions of noun clauses with illustrative examples, let us look at manifestations or types of noun or nominal clauses…

Types of Noun/Nominal Clause

The nominal clause has different types or manifestations and it will be beneficial for us to consider the various types. They include the following:

“That –” Clause

This usually begins with ‘that’. For example:

  • It is clear that you are up to the job.
  • That you are hungry is obvious.
  • He said that he was there.
  • That you have been there before gives you an advantage.
  • That he speaks flawless English does not mean he is educated.


In instances where the ‘that-clause’ serves as the object of the complement, the conjunction ‘that’ might be omitted. For instance:

  • It is clear you are up to the job.
  • He said he was there.
  • It was obvious he could not continue the game.
  • The magazine stated women were more than men.
  • She admitted she did not attempt all the questions.

Nominal –ing Clause

This is a noun clause that begins with a gerund or verbal noun. Examples include:

  • Going home at this time is not advisable.
  • She loves baking cake.
  • Sleeping at work is a dereliction of duty.
  • The children love playing in the rain.
  • Watching action movies is his pastime.

To-infinitive Clause

This is noun clause begins with a to-infinitive. See these examples below:

  • To go out like this is not good.
  • Her problem is to trek a long distance.
  • To go to school is a worthy pursuit.
  • To behave like that is barbaric.
  • He loves to travel.

“Wh–” Clause

This clause derives its name because it begins with the ‘wh-‘ words. Examples include:

  • What he said was bad.
  • I want to know why she is here.
  • Nobody knows where they went.
  • I cannot hear what the man said.
  • She does not know what to wear.
  • Where to sleep is their concern.
  • What to do after school is not clear.
  • When to move is not currently clear to the soldiers.
  • I prefer what she cooks to the food she buys
  • He does not know what to eat for dinner.

Yes/No Interrogative

We usually form the yes/no interrogative with the use of ‘if’ or ‘whether’. Let us see some examples:

  • Do you know if the banks are open?
  • Can you ask if she will come visiting?
  • Should we ask whether we could sit down?
  • Will they know if there is free transportation?
  • Would you ask if that was her husband?
  • Could they check whether the goods are safe?
  • Do you mind if I borrow your laptop?


This post has considered one of the major sub-types of the subordinate clause or the dependent clause, the noun clause with its types, functions and examples. Ensure you check the two other sub-types, the adverbial clause and the relative clause. Do not forget to check the post, what is a clause as it would help you put all the sub-types in perspective. Remember to share this post and others with your friends by using our Social Media share buttons.


  • Jaymz Boanerges

    I am a teacher of English. I have a passion is to impart the knowledge of the English language to the teeming populace in Nigeria and beyond, especially students at all levels of education, so that they can acquire both linguistic competence and linguistic performance in the language, gaining mastery of and comprehending the nitty-gritty of the language.

27 thoughts on “What is a Noun Clause? Types, Functions and Examples”

  1. Hi. Great job.
    I don’t think the ones starting with infinitives and gerunds are clause in the first place since clauses have subjects and verbs.
    “Going home at this time” for instance, has no subject or verb.
    I believe they are noun phrases. I’ll appreciate some clearance.

    • Thank you, Ahmad.
      At the secondary school level, they could be referred to as phrases; but at the higher level of learning, THEY ARE ACTUALLY CLAUSES – INFINITIVAL CLAUSES! They contain a non-finite verb. It is not all clauses that have verbs. Imperative sentences do not have subjects. Watch our lecture on TYPES OF VERBS and you will understand more. Kindly subscribe to our Channel.

  2. Please I may be wrong but if not then kindly reexamine the last two sentences under the object complement function. I believe those clauses are indirect objects to the verbs TOLD and PAY respectively

    • Thank you, Stephen. Your observation is appreciated. You were actually right. The sentences have been moved under the general examples of noun clauses while appropriate and more examples have been provided under Noun Clause as Complement of the Object.


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