Thinking Box

Fundamentals of English Grammar - Chapter 14: Noun Clauses

14-1 Noun Clauses: Introduction

  • (a) I(S) know(V) his address(O).
    (b) I(S) know(V) where he lives(O).

    Verbs are often followed by objects. The object is usually a noun phrase.*
    In (a): his address is a noun phrase; his address is the object of the verb know.

    Some verbs can be followed by noun clauses.*
    In (b): where he lives is a noun clause; where he lives is the object of the verb know.

  • (c) I(S) know where he(S) lives.(V)(O)

    A noun clause has its own subject and verb.
    In (c): he is the subject of the noun clause; lives is the verb of the noun clause.

  • (d) I know where my book is.

    A noun clause can begin with a question word.

  • (e) I don't know if Ed is married.

    A noun clause can begin with if or whether.

  • (f) I know that the world is round.

    A noun clause can begin with that.

*A phrase is a group of related words. It does NOT contain a subject and a verb.
A clause is a group of related words. It contains a subject and a verb.

14-2 Noun Clauses That Begin with a Question Word

These question words can be used to introduce a noun clause: when, where, why, how, who, (whom), what, which, whose.

Information Question -> Noun Clause

  • Where does he live?
    (a) I don't know where he lives.

    When did they(S) leave(V)?
    (b) Do you know when they(S) left(V)?

    What did she say?
    (c) Please tell me what she(S) said(V).

    Why is Tom absent?
    (d) I wonder why Tom(S) is(V) absent.

    Notice in the examples:
    Usual question word order is NOT used in a noun clause.
    INCORRECT: I know where does he live.
    CORRECT: I know where he lives.

  • Who is(V) that boy(S)?
    (e) Tell me who that boy(S) is(V).

    Whose pen is(V) this(S)?
    (f) Do you know whose pen this(S) is(V)?

    A noun or pronoun that follows main verb be in a question comes in front of be in a noun clause, as in (e) and (f).

  • Who(S) is(V) in the office?
    (g) I don't know who(S) is(V) in the office.

    Whose keys(S) are(V) on the counter?
    (h) I wonder whose keys(S) are(V) on the counter.

    A prepositional phrase (e.g., in the office) does not come in front of be in a noun clause, as in (g) and (h).

  • Who came to class?
    (i) I don't know who(S) came(V) to class.

    What happened?
    (j) Tell me what(S) happened(V).

    In (i) and (j): Question word order and noun clause word order are the same when the question word is used as a subject.

*A question mark is used at the end of this sentence because Do you know asks a question.
Example: Do you know when they left?
Do you know asks a question; when they left is a noun clause.

14-3 Noun Clauses That Begin with If or Whether

  • Yes/No Question -> Noun Clause

    Is Eric at home?
    (a) I don't know if Eric is at home.

    Does the bus stop here?
    (b) Do you know if the bus stops here?

    Did Alice go to Chicago?
    (c) I wonder if Alice went to Chicago.

    When a yes/no question is changed to a noun clause, if is usually used to introduce the clause.

  • (d) I don't know if Eric is at home or not.

    When if introduces a noun clause, the expression or not sometimes comes at the end of the clause, as in (d).

  • (e) I don't know whether Eric is at home (or not).

    In (e): whether has the same meaning as if.

14-4 Noun Clauses That Begin with That

  • (a) I(S) think (V) that Mr. Jones is a good teacher.(O)
    (b) I hope that you can come to the game.
    (c) Mary realizes that she should study harder.
    (d) I dreamed that I was on the top of a mountain.

    A noun clause can be introduced by the word that.

    In (a): that Mr. Jones is a good teacher is a noun clause. It is the object of the verb think.

    That-clauses are frequently used as the objects of verbs that express mental activity.

  • (e) I think that Mr. Jones is a good teacher.
    (f) I think Ø Mr. Jones is a good teacher.

    The word that is often omitted, especially in speaking.
    Examples (e) and (f) have the same meaning.

  • Common Verbs Followed by That-clauses
    agree that / dream that / know that / realize that
    assume that / feel that / learn that / remember that
    believe that / forget that / notice that / say that
    decide that / guess that / predict that / suppose that
    discover that / hear that / prove that / think that
    doubt that / hope that / read that / understand that

14-5 Other Uses of That-Clauses

  • (a) I'm suer that the bus stops here.
    (b) I'm glad that you're feeling better today.
    (c) I'm sorry that I missed class yesterday.
    (d) I was disappointed that you couldn't come.

    That-clauses can follow certain expressions with
    be + adjective or be + past participle.

    The word that can be omitted with no change in meaning:
    I'm suer Ø the bus stops here.

  • (e) It is true that the world is round.
    (f) It is fact that the world is round.

    Two common expressions followed by that-clauses are:
    It is true (that) ...
    It is a fact (that) ....

  • Common Expressions Followed by That-clauses
    be afraid that / be disappointed that / be sad that / be upset that
    be angry that / be glad that / be shocked that / be worried that
    be aware that / be happy that / be sorry that
    be certain that / be lucky that / be sure that / It is a fact that
    be convinced that / be pleased that / be surprised that / It is true that

14-6 Substituting So for a That-Clause in Conversational Responses

  • (a) A: Is Ana from Peru? B: I think so. (so = that Ana is from Peru)
    (b) A: Does Judy live in Dallas? B: I believe so. (so = that Judy lives in Dallas)
    (c) A: Did you pass the test? B: I hope so. (so = that I passed the test)

    Think, believe, and hope are frequently followed by so in conversational English in response to a yes/no question.
    They are alternatives to yes, no, or I don't know.
    So replaces a that-clause.

    INCORRECT: I think so that Ana is from Peru.

  • (d) A: Is Jack married? B: I don't think so. / I don't believe so.

    Negative usage of think so and believe so:
    do not think so / do not believe so

  • (e) A: Did you fail the test? B: I hope not.

    Negative usage of hope in conversational responses: hope not.
    In (e): I hope not = I hope I didn't fail the test.
    INCORRECT: I don't hope so.

  • (f) A: Do you want to come with us? B: Oh, I don't know. I guess so.

    Other common conversational responses:
    I guess so. / I guess not.
    I suppose so. / I suppose not.
    NOTE: In spoken English, suppose often sounds like "spoze."

14-7 Quoted Speech

Sometimes we want to quote a speaker's words --- to write a speaker's exact words. Exact quotations are used in many kinds of writing, such as newspaper articles, stories, novels, and academic papers. When we quote a speaker's words, we use quotation marks.

  • (a) SPEAKERS' EXACT WORDS
    Jame: Cats are fun to watch.
    Mike: Yes, I agree. They're graceful and playful. DO you have a cat?

    (b) QUOTING THE SPEAKERS' WORDS
    Jane said, "Cats are fun to watch."
    Mike said, "Yes, agree. They're graceful and playful. Do you have a cat?"

  • (c) HOW TO WRITE QUOTATIONS

    1. Add a comma after said.* -> Jane said,
    2. Add quotation marks.** -> Jane said,"
    3. Capitalize the first word of the quotation. -> Jane said, "Cats
    4. Write the quotation. Add a final period. -> Jane said, "Cats are fun to watch.
    5. Add quotation marks after the period. -> Jane said, "Cats are fun to watch."
  • (d) Mike said, "Yes, I agree. They're graceful and playful. Do you have a cat?"
    (e) INCORRECT: Mike said, "Yes, I agree." "They're graceful and playful." "Do you have a cat?"

    When there are two (or more) sentences in a quotation, put the quotation marks at the beginning and end of the whole quote, as in (d).

    Do NOT put quotation marks around each sentence. As with a period, put the quotation marks after a question mark at the end of a quote.

*Other common verbs besides say that introduce questions: admit, announce, answer, ask, complain, explain, inquire, report, reply, shout, state, write.
**Quotation marks are called "inverted commas" in British English.

14-8 Quoted Speech vs. Reported Speech

QUOTED SPEECH

  • (a) Ann said, "I'm hungry."
    (b) Tom said, "I need my pen."

    QUOTED SPEECH = giving a speaker's exact words. Quotation marks are used.*

REPORTED SPEECH

  • (c) Ann said (that) she was hungry.
    (d) Tom said (that) he needed his pen.

    REPORTED SPEECH = giving the idea of a speaker's words. Not all of the exact words are used; pronouns and verb forms may change.
    Quotation marks are NOT used.*

    That is optional; it is more common in writing than in speaking.

*Quoted speech is also called direct speech. Reported speech is also called indirect speech.

14-9 Verb Forms in Reported Speech

  • (a) QUOTED: Joe said, "I feel good."
    (b) REPORTED: Joe said (that) he felt good.

    (c) QUOTED: Ken said, "I am happy."
    (d) REPORTED: Ken said (that) he was happy.

    In formal English, if the reporting verb (e.g., said) is in the past, the verb in the noun clause is often also in a past form, as in (b) and (d).

  • --- Ann said, "I am hungry."
    (e) What did Ann just say? I didn't hear her.
    --- She said (that) she is hungry.

    (f) What did Ann say when she got home last night?
    --- She said (that) she was hungry.

    In informal English, often the verb in the noun clause is not changed to a past form, especially when words are reported soon after they said, as in (e).
    In later reporting, however, or in formal English, a past verb is commonly used , as in (f).

  • (g) Ann says (that) she is hungry.

    If the reporting verb is present tense (e.g., says), no change is made in the noun clause verb.

  • QUOTED SPEECH -> REPORTED SPEECH(formal or later reporting) -> REPORTED SPEECH(informal or immediate reporting)

    He said, "I work hard."
    He said he worked hard.
    He said he works hard.

    He said, "I am working hard."
    He said he was working hard.
    He said he is working hard.

    He said, "I worked hard."
    He said he had worked hard.
    He said he worked hard.

    He said, "I have worked hard."
    He said he had worked hard.
    he said he has worked hard.

    He said, "I am going to work hard."
    He said he was going to work hard.
    He said he is going to work hard.

    He said, "I will work hard."
    He said he would work hard.
    He said he will work hard.

    He said, "I can work hard."
    He said he could work hard.
    He said he can work hard.

14-10 Common Reporting Verbs: Tell, Ask, Answer/Reply

  • (a) Kay said that* she was hungry.
    (b) Kay told me that she was hungry.
    (c) Kay told Tom that she was hungry.
    INCORRECT: Kay told that she was hungry.
    INCORRECT: Kay told to me that she was hungry.
    INCORRECT: Kay said me that she was hungry.

    A main verb that introduces reported speech is called a "reporting verb." Say is the most common reporting verb** and is usually followed immediately by a noun clause, as in (a).

    Tell is also commonly used. Note that told is followed by me in (b) and by Tom in (c).

    Tell needs to be followed immediately by a (pro)noun object and then by a noun clause.

  • (d) QUOTED: Ken asked me, "Are you tired?"
    REPORTED: Ken asked (me) if I was tired.

    (e) Ken wanted to know if I was tired.
    Ken wondered if I was tired.
    Ken inquired whether or not I was tired.

    Asked is used to report questions.

    Questions are also reported by using want to know, wonder, and inquire.

  • (f) QUOTED: I said (to Kay), "I am not tired."
    REPORTED: I answered / replied that I wasn't tired.

    The verbs answer and reply are often used to report replies.

*That is optional.
**Other common reporting verbs: Kay announced / commented / explained / remarked / stated that she was hungry.

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