Author Topic: A daunting question about the usage of noun clauses and relative clauses (2)  (Read 5808 times)

Joe Carillo

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In this column last week, we defined a noun clause as a subordinate clause that functions within a sentence as a noun, whether as subject, direct or indirect object, or complement. The noun clause comes in two general forms depending on the form of the verb it is using: the finite noun clause and the nonfinite noun clause.

A finite noun clause is a subordinate clause in which the operative verb is in its normal form, inflected or marked for tense, person, and number as in this sentence: “The Philippine president has come up with a list that identified seven trial court judges allegedly involved in the traffic of illegal drugs.”

In contrast, a nonfinite noun clause is a subordinate clause in which the operative verb is not inflected or not marked for tense, person, and number; instead, it takes any of three verbal forms: the infinitive form, as in the “Human rights groups are firmly opposing moves in Congress to restore the death penalty”; the gerund form, as in “After catching him red-handed, the police listened incredulously to the illegal drugs courier trying hard to profess his innocence”; and in the verb’s base form (the infinitive minus the “to”), as in “Some people were shocked to hear the President speak of demolishing oligarchs.”

Now let’s take up in some detail the eight functions that noun clauses can perform in a sentence, namely (1) as subject, (2) as subject complement, (3) as direct object, (4) as object complement, (5) as indirect object, (6) as prepositional complement, (7) as adjective phrase complement, and (8) as noun phrase complement.

1. As subject, either performing the action of the verb or acting upon that verb:
(a) Finite clause subject: “That”-clause: “That profits are down is not surprising.” “What”-clause: “What’s remarkable is that the boxer is now a senator.” “Whether”-clause: “Whether she won fair and square is in doubt.” “Whatever”-clause: “Whatever happens tonight is your sole responsibility.”

(b) Nonfinite clause as subject: Infinitive clause: “To win this fight is a must.” Gerund clause: “Treating her ailment has been difficult.”

2. Noun clause as subject complement describing the grammatical subject with which it is connected by a linking verb:
(a) Finite clause as subject complement: “That”- clause: “The unintended outcome of the business shakeup was that they lost their principal partner.” “Whoever”-clause: “The winner will be whoever gets there first.” “Wherever”-clause: “Our first rest stop is wherever we need to gas up.”

(b) Nonfinite clause as subject complement: Infinitive clause: “It’s a must to ensure we get there on time.” Gerund clause: “Our goal right now is raising adequate working capital.”

3. Noun clause as direct object, receiving the action of the transitive verb in the main clause:
(a) Finite clause as direct object: “Whatever”-clause: “We will sell whatever you produce.” “If”-clause: “She wondered if she had chosen the correct course.” “For”-clause: “She is praying hard for you to win.”

(b) Nonfinite clause as direct object: Infinitive clause: “The partners preferred to travel together.” Gerund clause: “He loved jogging one mile every morning.”

4. Noun clause as object complement, which immediately follows and describes the direct object:
(a) Finite noun clause as object complement: “Whatever”-clause: “You can give your beach resort whatever name is suitable.”

(b) Nonfinite noun clause as object complement: Infinitive clause: “The patriarch asked his sons to be role models as businessmen.”

5. Noun clause as indirect object to indicate to or for whom or what the action of a transitive verb is performed:
(a) Finite noun clause as indirect object: “What”-clause: “The company owner refuses to give what the manager has initiated any importance.” 

(b) Nonfinite noun clause as indirect object: Gerund clause: “Her parents consider participating in beauty contests totally irrelevant.”

We will continue this discussion of the functions of noun clauses next week.

This essay appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times in its August 13, 2016 issue, © 2016 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.