What are noun clauses?

A noun clause is a kind of subordinate clause. It serves the same purpose as a noun. That means it can be the subject or object of the verb in the main clause.

Study the examples given below.

He said that he would help me.
He said what? – that he would help me.

Here the noun clause ‘that he would help me’ acts as the object of the verb ‘said’.

Another example is given below.

I cannot express how sorry I am.
I cannot express what? – how sorry I am.

Here the noun clause ‘how sorry I am’ acts as the object of the verb express.

Tell me where you put the keys.
Tell me what? – where you put the keys.

Here the noun clause acts as the object of the verb ‘tell’.

That we have been betrayed is the truth.
What is the truth? – that we have been betrayed.

Here the noun clause ‘that we have been betrayed’ acts as the subject of the verb ‘is’.
Noun clauses are usually introduced by the conjunctions that, when, where, how, why, if, whether etc.

More examples of noun clauses are given below.

  • It is difficult to understand why she distrusts her own children.
  • I think that you are making a mistake.
  • We need to accept the fact that we have lost.
  • We expect that we will get good rains this year.
  • We do not know how many prisoners have escaped from the prison.


A noun clause needs to be attached to an independent (main) clause. It cannot stand alone.
Sometimes the conjunction ‘that’ is dropped.

  • I think we are making a mistake. (= I think that we are making a mistake.)

A sentence that contains a main clause and a noun clause is a complex sentence. An ability to write complex sentences will improve your band score dramatically. The other two types of subordinate clauses are: adjective clauses (also known as relative clauses) and adverb clauses.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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