Last week’s column discussed the two general forms of noun clauses in English, namely finite noun clauses and nonfinite noun clauses. A finite noun clause is a subordinate clause in which the operative verb is in its normal form—meaning that it is inflected or marked for tense, person, and number. A nonfinite noun clause is a subordinate clause in which the operative verb isn’t inflected and takes the infinitive form, the gerund form, or its base form instead.
In the context of these two forms of the noun clause, let’s now examine through examples the eight functions that it can perform in a sentence—as subject, subject complement, direct object, object complement, indirect object, prepositional complement, adjective phrase complement, and noun phrase complement.
1. The noun clause as subject performs the action of the verb or acts upon the verb.
Finite clause as subject—(1) “That”-clause: “That his reputation has sunk to rock-bottom is not a mystery to me.” (2) “What”-clause: “What’s remarkable is that she topped the bar exams without reviewing.” (3) “Whether”-clause: “Whether he made his millions honestly is a big question.”
Nonfinite clause as subject—(1) Infinitive: “To find a job should be your top priority.” (2) Gerund: “Searching for the missing plane has taken a heavy toll on the company’s finances.”
2. The noun clause as subject complement describes the grammatical subject with which it is connected by a linking verb.
Finite clause as subject complement—(1) “That”-clause: “The effect of your intervention is that the feuding tribes laid down their arms.” (2) “Whoever”-clause: “The winner will be whoever reaches the beach first.”
Nonfinite clause as subject complement—(1) Infinitive: “Your job is to ensure adequate funding for our imports.” (2) Gerund: “Our major concern is raising the academic standards of the college.”
3. The noun clause as direct object receives the action of the transitive verb in the main clause.
Finite clause as direct object—(1) “Whatever”-clause: “We’ll buy whatever you have left in your inventory.” (2) “If”-clause: “The picnickers were wondering if they took the right path.” (3) “For”-clause: “We are praying for you to succeed.”
Nonfinite clause as direct object—(1) Infinitive: “The couple preferred to travel with close friends.” (2) Gerund: “He loved taking siesta after lunch.”
4. The noun clause as object complement immediately follows and describes the direct object.
Finite noun clause as object complement—“Whatever”-clause: “You can give your first-born child whatever name you deem suitable.”
Nonfinite noun clause as object complement—Infinitive: “The governor asked his deputies to be role models in their communities.”
5. The noun clause as indirect object indicates to or for whom or what the action of a transitive verb is performed.
Finite noun clause as indirect object—“What”-clause: “Our manager refuses to give what we have recommended any importance.”
Nonfinite noun clause as indirect object—Gerund: “My school considers participating in athletics a must.
6. The noun clause as prepositional complement directly follows a preposition and completes the meaning of a prepositional phrase.
Finite noun clause as prepositional complement—““What”-clause: “The committee is deliberating on what the task force recommended.”
Nonfinite noun clause as prepositional complement—Gerund: “Our neighbor berated us for hammering on the walls that night.”
7. The noun clause as adjective phrase complement completes the meaning of an adjective that’s modifying the subject of the main clause.
Only finite noun clauses can function as adjective phrase complement—“That”-clause: “The board is delighted that all divisions of the company met their sales quotas.”
8. The noun clause as noun phrase complement completes the meaning of a noun.
Only finite noun clauses that begin with “that” can function as noun phrase complement: “Our goal that zero waste will be achieved in one year’s time is not doable.”
This ends our discussion of the noun clauses.
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