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Author Topic: When an entire clause functions as a noun or adjective  (Read 142 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: July 14, 2017, 08:11:18 AM »

We all know that a clause is a group of words containing a subject and predicate that can stand by itself as a sentence. In practice, however, clauses always function either as a noun or an adjective in complex or compound sentences, and it would greatly help us  construct such sentences flawlessly if we are sure what a particular clause is doing in them.

   

I’m making these observations to put in context my reply to Forum member Sky, who asked me this question a few days ago: “What are substantive and attributive clauses?” I’ve never been asked this question before, so I’m making my answer as instructive and as comprehensive as I can make it.  

A substantive clause is an entire clause that serves as the subject or object of a verb. Such clauses are introduced by the relative pronouns “that,” “who,” and “how” or by the interrogative words “why,” “where,” and “when.”

SUBSTANTIVE CLAUSES:

Some examples of substantive clauses:

(1) Substantive clause in a statement: “Despite his acquittal, many believe that the accused is guilty.” Here, “that the accused is guilty” is the substantive clause, functioning as direct object of the verb “believe.”

(2) Substantive clause in a command: “King Herod decreed that all first-born males be killed.” Here, “that all first-born males be killed” is the substantive clause, functioning as direct object of the verb “decreed.”

(3) Substantive clause in indirect questions: “She inquired where the residence of the village chief might be.” Here, the question “where the residence of the village chief might be” is the substantive clause, functioning as direct object of the verb “inquired.”

(4) Substantive clause as subject of the verb: “That the accused is guilty is a foregone conclusion.” Here, “that the accused is guilty” is the substantive clause, functioning as subject of the verb “is.”

An attributive clause, on the other hand, is an entire clause that adds more information about a noun, serving as a modifier of that noun. Attributive clauses, more commonly called adjective clauses, can either be restrictive or nonrestrictive.

ATTRIBUTIVE CLAUSES (ALSO KNOWN AS ADJECTIVE CLAUSES):



Restrictive attributive clauses specify precisely which noun is being referred to. For such clauses, the relative pronoun “that” is used, never “which” (at least in American English); when the antecedent noun is a person, the relative pronoun “who” is used.

Some examples of attributive clauses:

(1) Restrictive attributive clause: “She liked the laptop that she saw in the computer shop last night.” Here, “that she saw in the computer shop last night” is the restrictive attributive clause and it modifies the noun “laptop.”

(2) Restrictive attributive clause (for a person as antecedent noun): “The writing contest winner was the young girl who wrote about a thin, beardless Santa Claus.” Here, “who wrote about a thin, beardless Santa Claus” is the restrictive attributive clause and it modifies the noun “girl.”

Nonrestrictive attributive clauses provide more information about the antecedent noun, but it’s presumed that the noun being referred to is already known by the reader either by context or logic. For such clauses, the relative pronoun “which” (never “that”) preceded by a comma is used; when the antecedent noun is a person, the relative pronoun “who” is used. A nonrestrictive attributive clause is optional to the sentence, which remains grammatically and structurally sound without it.

Some examples of nonrestrictive attributive clauses:

(1) Nonrestrictive attributive clause: “Many people from the provinces flock to Manila, which is the capital of the Philippines.” Here, “which is the capital of the Philippines” is the nonrestrictive attributive clause, modifying the antecedent noun “Manila.”

(2) Nonrestrictive attributive clause (for a person as antecedent noun): “Let us all congratulate Bert Cruz, who as we all know has topped the medical licensure exam.” Here, “who as we all know has topped the medical licensure exam” is the nonrestrictive attributive clause, modifying the antecedent noun “Bert Cruz.”

This essay, 722nd  of the series, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the December 25, 2010 issue of The Manila Times, © 2010 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2017, 08:41:56 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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