Online Tutor For English


Online Tutor For English

Go back to Grammar Subjects List


Adjective Clause and Noun Clause in a Complex Sentence

Show me Complex Sentence lesson first



The Complex Sentence: The Basic Structure

To understand the function of noun clause and adjective clause in a complex sentence, first you have to know the basic structure of a complex sentence.

A complex sentence is always made up of two sentences:

Examples: My boyfriend, who is a writer, wants to write about Asian cultures.

The main or independent clause: "My boyfriend wants to write about Asian cultures." This sentence can stand alone on its own as the main or independent clause of this sentence.

The dependent clause: "who is a writer". This sentence can't stand on its own to convey a meaning in this sentence but only gives more information on the subject of the main clause.

Subordinate Connectives are Always Used with Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses always begin with subordinate connectives, such as: before, while, if, where, after, because, whether, whereas, though, since, unless, as, although, when, because, as, and if. Therefore, in a complex sentence a dependent clause is made up of a subject and verb and follows one of the aforementioned subordinate connectives.


I called my daughter before I left work.

She met her husband while she was traveling in Africa.

The doctor had no clue whether the patient needed immediate hospitalization.

She didn't pass the English test though she had studied hard.

They fired him because he was always late to work.

The Use of a Noun Clause in a Complex Sentence

When used in a complex sentence, a noun clause acts like a dependent clause, can’t stand on its own in the sentence, and is connected to the main clause. The noun clause has its own subject and verb and may begin with subordinate connectives, such as why, how, where, who, which and that.

Example: "Italian cars that are small use less fuel than American cars." This sentence is a complex sentence with a main clause and dependent clause. Because the dependent clause, "that are small", modifies the noun "cars", this dependence clause is a noun clause.

The main or independent clause: "Italian cars use less fuel than American cars." This sentence has a subject, verb and expresses a complete thought.

The dependent clause: "that are small". This sentence has no noun in the place of subject, but instead a relative pronoun "that", which modifies the main clause.

Punctuation – Noun Clauses

Because a noun clause takes the place of a noun and is presented as a clause within a clause, no punctuation is used. For example, the following sentences show how a noun can be replaced in a sentence with a noun clause.

The governor announced [his re-election plans].

Becomes: The governor announced that he would not run for governor. 'that he would not run for governor' replaces [his re-election plans].

The magazine would not reveal [their source].

Becomes: The magazine would not reveal who had provided the source. 'who had provided the source' replaces [their source].

Adjective Clause

Adjective clauses always modify a noun in the main clause of a complex sentence. For example, look at the following sentence:

The applicant, who typed fast and spoke good English, got the job.

The adjective clause, 'who typed fast and spoke good English,' modifies the noun 'applicant' in this sentence and therefore is an adjective clause.

Children who played in the park seemed very happy.

The adjective clause 'who played in the park' modifies the noun 'children'.

He didn't read the letter, which was too long, but threw it to the garbage.

The adjective clause 'which was too long' modifies the noun 'letter'.

Relative Pronouns Act as Subordinators in Adjective Clauses

Subordinators for adjective clauses are always relative pronouns. Relative pronouns include the words: who, whom, that, and which.

The teacher, who is a Japanese, speaks English like a native American.

I spoke to a rep in the company to whom I explained my problem.

I know she lied that her father was a very rich man.

I finished all my assignments which were easy for me.

The relative pronoun who represents nouns and pronouns that relate to people. "Whom" also refers to people. The relative pronoun "that" refers to people, animals and things and "which" refers to animals and things.

"When", "whose" and "where" are also relative pronouns. "When" represents time while "where"refers to a place. "Whose" refers to the possessive form of nouns and pronouns.

Types of Adjective Clauses

There are two types of adjective clauses:

More examples of restrictive and non-restrictive adjective clause.


© 2014 Copy Rights Reserved at Online Tutor For English

Online Resources Add Link

English Grammar

Articles, a-an, the

Adjectives and Adverbs

Appositives in Complete Sentence

Complete Sentence



Parts of Speech

Passive Voice


Parallel Structure


Present Perfect Tense

Present Perfect Continuous Tense


Irregular Verbs

English Writing Lessons

How to Write a Good Sentence

An Example of a Four-Paragraph Essay

An Example of a Three-Paragraph Essay

How to Write a Good Paragraph

How to Write a Business Letter

Examples of a Well-Written Paragraph

Steps to Write a Three-Paragraph Essay

How to Write a Good Main Topic Sentence

How to Write Good Supporting Sentences

Recommendations for Writing a Good Paragraph

Writing Resources

Advertise with us

Online Writing Tutorials 25 USD!

English Tutors Directory

English Tutor Plans

Spoken English Tutor, FAQ

English Writing Tutor, FA

Spoken English, Writing Program Online


English Conversation Lessons

English Writing Lessons

Business English

TOEFL Preparation

SAT English

Writing Service

Author Articles


We answer English Language Questions