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Noun Clauses

Noun clauses act the same as nouns. Anytime that you use a noun in a sentence, then it is possible to also use a noun clause. For example,
  • I don't know this book.
  • I don't know where to buy this book. (noun clause)

  • I will give her a present.
  • I will give whoever comes first a present. (noun clause)
Noun clauses start with these words: that, if, whether, who, what, where, when, why, how.

A noun clause can be in any verb tense. Here are four examples.
  • I think that it was good.
  • I think that it is good.
  • I think that it will be good.
  • I think that it has been good.
The verb at the beginning of the sentence can also be in different tenses.
  • I think that it is good.
  • I thought that it was good.
Let's take a look at some of the ways that noun clauses are used.

1. We use noun clauses with "that" when we are talking about a statement, fact, opinion, or idea.

Fact: Her name is Jane.
  • I know that her name is Jane.
  • I heard that her name is Jane.
  • I remember that her name is Jane.
Opinion: Chocolate ice cream is the best.
  • I think that chocolate ice cream is the best.
  • I believe that chocolate ice cream is the best.
  • I agree that chocolate ice cream is the best.
Here is a list of verbs that are often followed by a noun clause.


Remember the word "that" can be omitted. Meaning you do not have to use it.

Example Sentences
  • I agree we need to work harder.
  • She heard that he wasn't sick last week.
  • They think that it will be good enough.
  • I see that you bought a new shirt.
  • My company understands that it is hard to learn English.
  • I feel that you are not listening.
  • She hopes that he will come.
  • They suppose that it will be finished by next week.
  • He always forgets she doesn't work every Friday.
  • I doubt that he will come.
  • My boss knows I work hard.
  • I guess that I will go.
  • She remembered he didn't come to the last meeting.
  • They recalled that you are a big golf fan.
  • She told me that it was good.
  • They said the movie was pretty good.
2. We use noun clauses with "if" or "whether" when we are talking about a yes/no question.

Question: Will it rain?
  • I don't know if it will rain.
  • I have no idea whether it will rain or not.
Question: Does he like pizza?
  • I can't remember whether he likes pizza.
  • I don't know if he likes pizza.
  • I forget if he likes pizza.
Question: Has he been to China?
  • I don't know if he has been to China.
  • I can't remember if he has been to China.
  • I forget if he has been to China.
  • Tell me if he has been to China.
Question: Is this magazine interesting?
  • I wonder if that magazine is interesting.
  • I don't know if this magazine is interesting.
3. We use noun clauses with question words for information questions (not yes/no questions). Pay attention to the word order. We do not use question word order. We use sentence word order.

Question: Where is the bank located?
Answer: I don't know where the bank is located.

Question: Where should he go?
Answer: He doesn't know where he should go.

Question: How do I make kimchi?
Answer: I don't know how to make kimchi.

Question: Why is the sky blue?
Answer: We don't understand why the sky is blue.

Question: Where did he go yesterday?
Answer: I would like to know where he went yesterday.

Question: Who wrote this book?
Answer: I can't remember who wrote this book.

Question: What instrument does he play? / Which instrument does he play?
Answer: I don't know what/which instrument he plays.

4. We can also use noun clauses that start with question words as the object. These are not related to questions. Look at some examples.
  • I eat what looks good.
  • I read what I want.
  • I know how to make kimchi.
  • She knows where to go.
  • They know why I did it.
  • I can't imagine what I would do without my family.
5. Noun clauses are used with indirect speech. So, we use noun clauses with words like say, tell, ask, whisper, yell, etc.
  • She asked whether we will come.
  • He asked if I went to the conference last year.
  • She said that the meaning of life is happiness.
  • He yelled that he was innocent.
There are so many ways to use nouns. Therefore, there are also many ways to use noun clauses.

Noun clauses are extremely important and you must know them. If you know how to use noun clauses then your English will sound fluent and natural. This an advanced grammar point that has many different uses, so do not worry if it is hard at first.

We will cover more ways to use noun clauses in the next lesson.

Practice your speaking with these sentences. Then try making your own sentences.

I don't know what _______________.
I don't know where _______________.
I don't know how _______________.
He doesn't know why _______________.
She doesn't know how to _______________.
I can't understand why _______________.
I can't imagine what I would do without _______________.
I heard that _______________.
She told me that _______________.
He asked me whether _______________.
I will ask her if _______________.
They told us that _______________.

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