Grammar 20


Main, Adverb, or Noun Clause?

Can you recognize a noun clause when you see one?


Identify the underlined clause.

  1. I think that George is cute.
main (independent) clause
subordinate adverb clause
subordinate noun clause
subordinate adjective clause

Answer = C

If the answer isn't immediately obvious, you'll have to use the process of elimination.

Could "that George is cute" be the main clause?

No, because it cannot stand alone. "That George is cute" is not a complete sentence.

Could it possibly be an adjective clause (choice D)?

Well, not yet, because I haven't yet taught you about adjective clauses, so the answer won't be "D", at least for now.

That leaves the two middle choices:

So let's review what each of these clauses look like:

An adverb clause is linear. It's usually found before or after the main clause, like this:

I ate pizza



because I was hungry.



I ate pizza.

Because I was hungry,


Occasionally, an adverb clause can be found between the subject and the predicate of the main clause, like this:



ate pizza.


because I was hungry,


In any case, adverb clauses can always be removed, and the remaining clause (the main clause) still makes perfect sense, because adverb clauses are not an integral (essential) part of the main clause.

In contrast, noun clauses act like one big noun, and most often they are found in the subject, object, or complement position. Consider this example:

"I love you" is a noun clause, but it's also the object of the main clause. We can't just remove the "I love you" part without destroying the main clause. If we did, we'd be left with:

And that doesn't feel complete, does it? In fact, it's not complete, because "said" is a transitive verb, and transitive verbs needs an object. Our brain cries out for an answer: What did Bob say?

In short, noun clauses cannot be removed, unless, perchance, they serve as the object of a preposition, like this:

In this case, we could remove the entire prepositional phrase.

But let's get back to our original sentence:

In this case, "that George is cute" is a clause that cannot be easily removed. It's acting like one big noun. That should tell us all we need to know: It's a noun clause.

Instructions for the Quiz

Identify the underlined clause.