Dependent Clauses

Q:  What is a dependent clause?

A1:  One of Santa’s children that he claimed on his tax return.

A2:  A sentence fragment with a subject and a verb that adds information to the sentence, but cannot stand on its own as a sentence.

There are several types of dependent clauses:

•       Noun clauses

•       Relative or adjectival clauses

•       Adverbial clauses

We’ll go through several types of clauses in the next few Tips of the Day so you will be able to recognize them and use them correctly.

First, we will start with a noun clause, which acts as a noun because it can be used as a subject or object.

If you can substitute a pronoun for the clause, it’s a noun clause.


Whoever took the last cup of coffee without making more ought to be fired. (subject)

He ought to be fired. (pronoun substituted)
The boss ought to fire whomever took the last cup of coffee without making more. (object)

The boss ought to fire him. (pronoun substituted)

Noun clauses are often introduced by the following words:

That, what, when, where, why, how, who, whoever, whom, whomever, and whether


I don’t know what he was thinking.

I don’t know why he did such a bad thing.

He should know where all the supplies are. The cupboards are clearly labeled.

I don’t know whether I should speak to him or not.

Sometimes you don’t need to use “that” in dependent clauses, as mentioned in a recent Tip of the Day.


I know that he took the last cup of coffee.

I know he took the last cup of coffee.

I know it. (pronoun substituted)

Note that who and whoever would be used as a subject noun clause, but whom and whomever would be used as an object noun clause, as in the first set of examples above.

So, does Santa even have kids? I can name his reindeer, but I cannot for the life of me name one of his children. Are the elves his children? Anybody out there in the Peanut Gallery know the answers to these and other perplexing questions?

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”

– Henry Ford, American car manufacturer and businessman, 1863-1947

PS: Can you find the noun clauses in this quote?


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