Nouns and Noun Clauses

What are count nouns and non-count nouns?
Count nouns and non-count nouns can be identified by the use of the following noun markers or articles:

  • These words indicate singular count nouns:  a/an, each, every, either, neither
  • These words indicate plural count nouns:  these, those, a few, several, many
  • These words indicate singular non-count nouns:  this, that
  • These words indicate plural non-count nouns:  some, any

The definite article the 
Use the definite article the in the following situations:

  • Cultural context: The writer refers to common knowledge

For example:  Did you see the sun come up today?

  • Linguistic context: The writer refers back to a previous occurrence in the text

For example:  She said her cat was missing.  We looked for thecat for hours.

  • Descriptive context: The writer tells the reader about something specific

For example:  Please give me the green book that is on the table.

What is a noun clause?
A noun clause has a subject and a verb and can be used like a noun, either as a subject or an object.  For example:

  • A noun clause used as a subject:                  What he discovered was important.
  • A noun clause used as an object:                  People believed what he discovered.

Noun Clauses are introduced by the following words: when, where, why, how, who/whom, whose, what, which, whether, if, or that.

Noun clauses beginning with a question word
Question words such as when, where, why, how, who/whom, whose, what, and which can introduce a noun clause.


Noun Clause

When did he discover it? I’m not sure when he discovered it.
Where did he discover it? Where he discovered it is not known.
Why did he discover it? I don’t care why he discovered it.
How did he discover it I’m not certain how he discovered it.
Who is Faraday? I don’t know who Faraday is.
Whose discovery is that? It is not certain whose discovery that is.
What did he discover? What he discovered is not certain.

Remember! Do not use the same word order for a noun clause that you use for a question. The subject comes before the verb in the noun clause.

Noun clauses beginning with whether or if

When a yes/no question is changed to a noun clause, the words whether or if are used to introduce the clause.


Noun Clause

Will her solution work? He wonders whether her solution will work.
  He wonders if her solution will work.
Did they believe him? I don’t know whether they believed him.
  I don’t know if they believed him.

Noun clauses beginning with that
For a statement of fact or an idea, the word that is used to introduce the noun clause.


Noun Clause

The world is round. We know that the world is round.
  We know the world is round.
  That the world is round is a fact.

Nouns beginning with a gerund

A gerund is an –ing verb that is used as a noun.

  • A gerund used as a subject:             Smoking cigarettes is bad for you.
  • A gerund used as an object: Lisa’s favorite activity is writing poetry.
Last updated 7/30/2009
Posted in Grammar and Sentence Mechanics, Grammar Resources, Writing Resources