Grammar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjective or Noun Clause?

You have probably seen Venn diagrams that show how two sets overlap.

Well, creating a Venn diagram on a web page is a bit difficult, but I'm going to do my best using tables. Consider the following two sets:

Words That Can Introduce a
Noun Clause

  • how
  • what
  • whatever
  • whether
  • whichever
  • whoever
  • whomever
  • if
  • that
  • who
  • whom
  • when
  • where
  • which
  • why

 

 

Words That Can Introduce an
Adjective Clause

  • that
  • who
  • whom
  • when
  • where
  • which
  • why
  • whose

By sliding these tables closer together so that they overlap, we can see the set of words that can introduce EITHER a noun clause OR an adjective clause.

Noun Clause
Only

Both / Either

Adjective Clause
Only
  • how
  • what
  • whatever
  • whether
  • whichever
  • whoever
  • whomever
  • if*
  • that
  • who
  • whom
  • when*
  • where
  • which
  • why
  • whose

The words in the middle present a bit of a problem. A subordinate clause that starts with one of the "green" words could be a noun clause, or it could be an adjective clause. How can we tell the difference? (And to make matters even more confusing, "when" and "if" can also be used to introduce an adverb clause!)

Thus—to confidently identify a clause that starts with a "green" word—we must consider the function of the clause within the sentence.

So let's review:

Based on these things, we can conclude:

In other words—to determine the type of clause—look at the word that preceeds it.

Study the following examples:

I cannot remember who came yesterday.

"remember" is a verb, so who came yesterday must be a noun clause.

I remember the man who came yesterday.

"man" is a noun, so who came yesterday, in this instance, is an adjective clause

I saw where he hid the money.

"saw" is a verb, so where he hid the money is a noun clause.

I saw the cave where he hid the money.

"cave" is a noun, so where he hid the money is an adjective clause.

I know why you left.

"know" is a verb, so why you left is a noun clause.

I know the reason why you left.

"reason" is a noun, so why you left is an adjective clause.

Santa knows when you are bad.

"knows" is a verb, so when you are bad is a noun clause.

Grandpa remembers the old days when there was no television.

"days" is a noun, so when there was no television is an adjective clause.

I cried when my dog ran away.

Watch out! Although "cried" is a verb, the clause that follows is not the object of "cried". In this example, when my dog ran away is an adverb clause.

I contacted the agent with whom I play golf.

"with" is a preposition, so whom I play golf is a noun clause.

The cousin whom we met at the family reunion is coming to visit.

"cousin" is a noun, so whom we met is an adjective clause.

 

Instructions for the Quiz

Identify the subordinate clause (highlighted in green).

Quiz