A Simple Guide to Noun Clauses

This short lesson outlines what a noun clause is and how you can use them to boost your IELTS score. Learning this part of grammar shouldn’t be difficult, but many textbooks make is sound so complicated. Read this short article and look at the PPT slideshow to master noun clauses today.

What is a Noun Clause?

Put simply, a noun clause is just a clause that acts as a noun in a sentence. Simple!

But… what’s a clause? A clause is a group of words containing a subject and verb. Dependent clauses don’t have a fully developed idea and therefore cannot stand alone as a sentence. Therefore, they must be attached to an independent clause in order to form a complete thought. A noun clause is a kind of dependent clause.

Look at this example:

how to use chopsticks

Is this is complete thought? No. It needs something else to finish it.

I don’t know how to use chopsticks.

In this sentence, “how to use chopsticks” is a noun clause. It is the object of the verb “know”.

How to Recognize Noun Clauses

Noun clauses are usually pretty easy to find. Consider them as subjects, objects, or complements in a sentence. Just look for the verb and ask who or what is doing it, or what it is being done to. Then look for the common words that introduce a noun clause:

  1. that
  2. whether / if
  3. question words (who, what, where, when, why, how)
  4. words with -ever (whoever, wherever, whatever)

See these examples:

Wherever you want to eat is fine with me.

We should ask when the food will arrive.

I wonder if it will snow next week.

Why do we Use Noun Clauses?

Noun clauses take the place of an noun in a sentence. They do this because they express an idea better than a single word noun. I could say “I want to eat pizza” or “I want to eat pasta” or “I want to eat a sandwich” but perhaps I don’t really mind and would prefer you choose… In that case, it’s hard to express this thought in a single word or a short phrase. So I could say instead:

I’m happy to eat whatever you want.

Thus, noun clauses give our language more depth and accuracy. They allow us to communicate better and more clearly.

Why are Noun Clauses Important for IELTS?

Noun clauses are an essential part of the English language and therefore they are an essential part of IELTS. You will hear them in the listening exam, see them in the reading exam, and you certainly should be able to produce them for the speaking and writing exams. Although a native speaker doesn’t think much about noun clauses, we use them all the time. Therefore, you should be able to incorporate them into your everyday English language and employ them accurately in the IELTS exam in order to express your ideas clearly.

They are useful for giving more detail and so you will definitely be able to use them in the IELTS speaking part three, where you answers should be longer and more thoughtful:

Q: Do you think that computers will one day replace teachers in the classroom?

A: I don’t know whether computers will replace teachers. It seems that computers are getting smarter every year and so I think it’s definitely possible. However, I’m not certain if people will be happy about that sort of change.

A PPT Guide to Noun Clauses

The PPT attached below is a free learning tool I developed for my own students that I think pretty much covers everything you need to know about noun clauses in a simple way.

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Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel.

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