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Chapter 06-06: Clauses II – Nominal Clauses

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chapter 6: nominal clauses

The most common nominal clauses are interrogative clauses and (nominal) THAT-clauses. Nominal clauses are formed when an interrogative or nominal-THAT precedes the subject of the clause. On occasion, they may replace the subject, but that is more commonly a marker for relatives, so be careful. As it implies, nominal clauses function nominally and can serve any noun role in another structure.  In short, nominal clauses can fill any nominal FUNCTION SLOT: subject, direct object, object of the preposition, subject complement, object complement, indirect object, adjective complement, or appositive.
 
The first nominal clause form is an interrogative clause, which is a dependent clause beginning with an interrogative. The most common interrogatives are who, whom, whose, which, where, when, and why.  As you can see, this list is basically the same as the list of  relatives, so, once again, it is important that you always analyze in context: interrogatives normally precede the subject and the clauses will always function nominally; relative normally replace the subject and the clauses will always function adjectivally.
  • Whoever borrowed my iPad is in big trouble.
  • I know when the train will arrive.
  • The mediator will give what you said full consideration before negotiating the deal.

The second nominal clause form is a THAT-clause, which is a dependent clause with the expletive THAT preceding the subject and indicating its nominal function. NOTE: there are plenty of cases where the THAT as part of the THAT-clause, may be deleted:
  • The truth was that the moving company lost all your furniture.
  • The truth was the moving company lost all your furniture.
  • I am pleased that you are studying noun clauses.
  • I am pleased you are studying noun clauses.
So whenever you see a clause that seems like an independent clause following immediately after, especially, a Main Verb Phrase (or non-finite verb) without a dependent clause marker or punctuation, you should suspect a deleted THAT.
 
Nominal clauses perform nominal functions, which means that they can do anything that a noun can do:
 
Subject (SUBJECT SLOT)
 
  • Whoever ate my lunch is in big trouble.
  • SOMEONE is in big trouble.
Subject complement (SUBJECT COMPLEMENT SLOT) – Sentence Type IV
 
  • The truth was that the home team came back from a 30-point halftime deficit.
  • The truth was SOMETHING.
Direct object (DIRECT OBJECT SLOT) – Sentence Type V
 
  • I know when the train will arrive.
  • I know SOMETHING.
Object complement (OBJECT COMPLEMENT SLOT)
 
  • Her grandfather considers his biggest mistake that he sold his Apple stock in 1978.
  • Her grandfather considers his biggest mistake SOMETHING.
Indirect object (INDIRECT OBJECT SLOT)
 
  • The mediator will give what you said full consideration before negotiating the deal.
  • The mediator will give SOMETHING full consideration before negotiating the deal.
Object of the preposition (OBJECT OF THE PREPOSITION SLOT)
 
  • Those children run happily through whatever obstacles are placed before them.
  • Those children run happily through SOMETHING.
Appositive
 
  • That man, whoever he is, tried to steal some library books.
To reiterate, as we discussed with Clause Types, our language does occur in consistent patterns, and that certain functional slots appear in the same places:
  • subject before the Main Verb  Phrase;
  • direct object following the Main Verb Phrase;
  • subject  complement following a Linking Main Verb;
  • object of the preposition following a preposition;
Keep this in mind, especially, when  analyzing for nominal clauses.
 
Finally, remember that when analyzing clauses, always begin by identifying the Main Verb Phrase to determine if it is actually a clause. In other  words, before you can determine if a clause is independent or dependent,  you have to find the main verb phrase. The ability to recognize a clause and to know  whether a clause is independent or dependent is essential to make  appropriate punctuation and stylistic choices in writing.
You can use the following flow chart to help guide your analysis: