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Author Topic: The seven uses of noun clauses - 2  (Read 139 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: December 21, 2017, 09:18:08 AM »

Being functionally nouns, noun clauses can very well do any of the seven roles that nouns can do. Let’s now discuss precisely how they work as subject, direct object, indirect object, predicate noun, object of a preposition, object complement, and appositive to a subject or object.

Noun clauses as subject. As we all know, the subject of a sentence is a word or word group denoting that of which something is predicated; in plainer terms, something concerning which something is said or done. Thus, in the sentence “Jennifer makes my heart beat faster,” the noun “Jennifer” is the subject because it’s what the statement refers to as the agent that makes the speaker’s heart beat faster. If the speaker wanted to be more precise and expressive, however, he could use a subject more descriptive and semantically superior to the plain noun “Jennifer.” This is where noun clauses come in handy.


Take, for instance, the noun clauses in “That Jennifer walks that way makes my heart beat faster” and “How Jennifer smiles so demurely makes my heart beat faster.” In both cases, we have a subordinate noun clause that serves as the subject of the sentence and at the same time gives telling details that put the statement in better context.

Now, compare those two noun-clause-using sentences with these other ones that attempt to say the same thing without the benefit of a noun clause: “Jennifer walks that way. It makes my heart best faster.” “My heart beats faster because of the way Jennifer smiles so demurely.” These two sentences are unquestionably grammar-perfect, but we can see that the emotion and sense of immediacy evoked by the noun-clause-using sentences given earlier have all but disappeared.

Noun clauses as direct object. We will recall that a direct object is a word or phrase denoting the goal or the result of the action of a verb. It directly receives the action of the verb. For instance, in the sentence “She finally saw the man of her dreams,” the direct object is the phrase “the man of her dreams,” which directly receives the action of the verb “saw.”


Now, if we want to put more information and give texture to the statement without starting another sentence, we could very well use a noun clause to replace “the man of her dreams” as the direct object: “She finally saw what she had been dreaming about as an ideal man.” This construction using a noun clause as direct object certainly evokes a much stronger feeling than this flat, two-sentence statement: “She finally saw her ideal man. She had been dreaming about him for a long time.”

Comparatively, the construction using a noun-clause is also much more forceful and emphatic than this one-sentence construction using an appositive phrase: “She finally saw her ideal man, the one she had been dreaming about.”

Noun clauses as indirect object. Unlike a direct object, an indirect object is a grammatical object that represents the secondary goal of a verb’s action; the primary goal, of course, is the direct object). For instance, in the sentence “We gave her stalled car a big push,” “her stalled car” is the indirect object and “a big push” is the direct object.


Now, we can make that sentence more engaging by converting its indirect object into a noun clause that gives more information: “We gave what we thought was her stalled car a big push.” By using the noun clause “what we thought was her stalled car” as the indirect object, we are able to express more dramatically what would have been this nonchalant two-sentence statement: “We gave the car a big push. We thought it was hers.”

We’ll take up the remaining four uses of noun clauses next.

(Next: The seven uses of noun clauses - 3)   December 28, 2017

This essay, 1071st  in the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Section of the December 21, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
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