Noun clause markers

Recognizing a noun clause isn’t all that difficult. They are usually introduced by the conjunctions that, if or whether. Noun clauses can also be introduced by question words (e.g. how, what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, why) and words ending in –ever (e.g. whatever, whenever, wherever etc.)

  • I don’t know why she dislikes me.
  • Whoever said that was right.
  • I don’t know whether she will come.
  • He told me that he was quitting.
  • What he said infuriated me.
  • I don’t know how she managed to do it.

A clause that comes immediately after a verb is usually a noun clause. Some verbs that are commonly followed by noun clauses are: know, understand, tell, say, remember, suggest, propose, request, order etc.

Indirect questions are also noun clauses.

  • I want to know when you intend to start.
  • She will not tell me what her name is.

Yes / No Questions

Yes/no questions (questions that expect either yes or no as an answer) are also noun clauses. Note that yes/no questions are usually introduced by the prepositions if or whether.

  • I would like to know if you are interested in coming with me.

Note that you cannot decide whether a clause is a noun clause or not just by looking at the word used to introduce it.

The words that are typically used to introduce clauses can also be used to introduce adjective clauses and adverb clauses. And this can sometimes be quite confusing. Therefore, instead of looking at the clause marker, students should analyze what the clause does in a sentence. If it serves as the subject or object of a verb, then it has got to be a noun clause.