What are noun phrases and noun clauses?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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A noun phrase is a unified group of words that has a noun as a head word. The group may have modifying words before the noun and modifying prepositional phrases or restrictive, defining relative clauses after the noun. A noun phrase may also be a single noun. Examples of noun phrases follow:

apple
the apple
a sweet apple
the third sweet apple
this tiny third sweet apple
the third, tiny sweet apple from western Oregon farms that grow organic produce
the sweet apple from farms that grow organic produce
your tiny apple from Oregon farms
the red apple
an apple
apple
 
Clauses can be identified by a number of different classifications within a number of different grammatical approaches. For example, clauses may be identified as finite or nonfinite, restrictive or nonrestrictive, relative defining or nondefining, subordinate or matrix, dependent or independent. They can also be identified as adverbial clauses (e.g., in order to attend the show) or adjective clauses (e.g., the show that was promoted) or noun clauses (e.g., went that they might appreciate the art).

A noun clause is a nonfinite clause that is subordinate, dependent, and restrictive. All these terms define a different aspect, characteristic, or function of the same clause.

A noun clause fills any sentence slot that a noun can fill. A noun clause can function as a Subject, a Subject Complement (after linking verbs), an Object, or the object of a preposition. In addition, a noun clause can be an adjective complement though a noun cannot be. Examples are as follows:

  • That Sue sang (Subject) was (Verb) surprising. [Subject of the Verb]
  • Ballet is (be linking Verb) the form of dance she likes (Complement). [Complement of the Subject]
  • He heard (Verb) that she saw the air show (Object). [Object of the Verb]
  • The girl was thankful for (preposition) what the performer did. [object of the preposition]
  • The girl is happy (adjective) that her dog was found. [complement of the adjective]

Noun clauses can be introduced by any wh-word and any -ever word (e.g., whichever). They can be introduced by "how" or even by "the," often when "that" is omitted after the Verb. They can be introduced by any "who" form: who, whom, whose, who's, or by if/whether. Very often, they are introduced by "that," which indicates a restrictive/defining clause (a clause that can not be omitted from the logical message of the sentence).

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