Kinds of Subordinate Clauses

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Kinds of Subordinate Clauses :

There are three kinds of subordinate clauses.

1. noun clauses
2. adjective clauses
3. adverb clauses

A noun clause does the work of a noun. It can be….

1. Subject of a verb :

What he said was interesting. (Subject of WAS)
That she will arrive today is certain. (Subject of IS)
How she can manage is not clear. (Subject of IS)

2. Object of a verb :

She said that she wouldn’t come. (object of SAID)
I asked why he was late. (object of ASKED)
I know where he lives. (object of KNOW)

3. Object of a preposition :

There is no truth in what he has said. (Object of IN) Everything now depends on who is in control. (Object of ON) She laughed at what I had done. (Object of AT)

4. Complement of a verb :

The truth is that he has deceived us. (Complement of IS)
My belief is that she would not come. (Complement of IS)
The news was that the boy was drowned. (Complement of WAS)

5. in apposition to a noun or pronoun :

The fact that you are lazy is known to everyone (in apposition REPORT)

The report that he was killed is untrue. (In apposition to REPORT)

It isn’t clear who has done this. (In apposition to IT)

IF we look closely at the examples above, we can see that the noun clause can be replaced by a noun or pronoun. When in doubt about how a clause functions, see what you can use in its place.

For example…. we might have, instead of the first six sentences above.

His story was interesting.
Her arrival is certain.
It is not clear. She said something.
I asked a question.
I know his address.

All the words or groups of words used in place of the clauses are noun-like. So, they are noun clauses. In short, if a clause can be replaced by IT or THAT, it is usually a noun clause.

An adjective clause, like an adjective, describes (or qualifies) a noun or pronoun. An adjective clause is introduced by a relative pronoun (who, whom, which, that) or relative adverb (where, when, why).

The clause usually follows the noun it qualifies.

1. What is the name of the girl who danced last night? (Qualifies GIRL)
2. Here is the book which you want. (Qualifies BOOK)
3. This is the place where the accident happened. (Qualifies PLACE)
4. The boy who is standing there is my nephew. (Qualifies BOY)
5. The film that I told you about is on at the Anand. (Qualifies FILM)
6. The man whom I was travelling with could speak French. (Qualifies MAN)

As in the last three examples above, the adjective clause may divide the main clause. When the relative pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition, as in the last two examples, it is often left out.

An adverb clause, like an adverb, tells more about (or modifies) a verb, an adjective or an adverb.

The meeting began before I arrived. (modifies BEGAN) - tells when the meeting began.

She is prettier than I thought. (modifies PRETTIER) - tells how pretty she is.

He speaks so fast that you can't understand a word. (modifies FAT) - tells how fast he speaks.

Note : Don’t be misled by the word that introduces a subordinate clause. We can say what kind a subordinate clause is by asking : is it doing the work of a noun, an adjective or an adverb?

Some conjunctions can introduce clauses of more than one type.

Look at the following :

I had left when he arrived. (Adverb clause….modifying HAD LEFT)

I don’t know when he arrived. (Noun clause….object of DON’T KNOW)

Do you remember the time when he arrived? (Adjective clause….qualifying TIME)

Notice also that a subordinate clause modifies / qualifies the words in another clause on which it depends.

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