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Complex Sentences and Clauses in English

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Noun Clauses

Adjective Clauses

Complex Sentence

Nouns Clauses

A noun clause contains a subject and a noun. It is used as a noun, either in place of the subject or the object, in the sentence. Complex sentences can be formed by using clauses (see Complex Sentences). A noun clause begins with a question word in the sentence.

In the sentence below the noun clause takes the place of object.

1. What did he study? I don't know what he studied.

2. When did he study? I don't know when he studied.

3. Where did he study? I don't know where he studied.

4. How did he study? I don't know how he studied.

5. Who is he? I don't know who he is.

Attention: The question word in the sentence comes before the clause and is not in the question form, but it is either in the positive or negative form.

Nouns clauses beginning with Whether or If

Instead of a 'Yes' or 'No' answer to a question, we can give an answer in a complete sentence using whether/If. See the examples below.

Question Noun Clause
Will she come to the party? I don't know whether she will come to the party.
I don't know if she will come to the party.
Did he have a car accident yesterday?

I never heard whether he had a car accident yesterday.

I don't know if he he had a car accident yesterday.

Did Jane pass the test?

I haven't asked her yet whether she passed the test.

I haven't asked her yet if she passed the test.

Has he been given a promotion?

He didn't tell me whether he has been given a promotion.

He didn't tell me if he has been given a promotion.

Noun Clause beginning with 'That'

We can use the word 'that', as a noun clause modifier, to introduce a fact and also omit it before a noun clause. See the examples below where 'that' is crossed out before a noun clause.


Factual sentence Noun Clause
Unemployment is rising these days. We know that unemployment is rising these days.
Barack Obama is the first black man to be US President. We know that Barack Obama is the first black man to be US President.


Attention: Do not forget a noun clause must always include a subject and verb.

Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause takes the place of an adjective in the sentence with a subject and verb. Because an adjective tells something about the noun, an adjective clause does the same. An adjective clause can begin with a close marker, words like 'whom', 'whose', 'which', 'that', or 'when' or 'where'.

Adjective Clauses with Clause Markers
. For more information on clause markers, see the lesson, Complex Sentence.

Adjective Clauses – Their Use in Complex Sentences

Adjective clauses always modify nouns in the main clause of a complex sentence. Look at the this sentence:

The car, which she is driving, runs on electricity.

The adjective clause, “which she is driving,” modifies or refers back to the noun “car” in the sentence and therefore is the adjective clause.

Relative Pronouns Act as Subordinators in Adjective Clauses

Subordinators for adjective clauses are always relative pronouns. Relative pronouns include the words: who, whom, that, and which.

The relative pronoun 'who' represents nouns and pronouns that relate to people. 'Whom' also refers to people while 'which' refers to animals and things.

'When', 'whose' and 'where' are also relative pronouns. 'When' represents time while 'where' refers to a place. 'Whose' refers to the possessive form of nouns and pronouns.

Types of Adjective Clauses

There are two types of adjective clauses:

Restrictive adjective clause – This clause contains information necessary to identify the noun it modifies. They are never separated by commas. The following sentence demonstrates this point:

Linda, who couldn’t swim, should not have jumped into the lake.

Remember: The relative pronoun is always the subject of a verb in an adjective clause. 


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