Grammatical names (noun clause, adverbial clause and adjectival clause) and their functions

Tamuno Reuben Posted by
April 25, 2018
This is one the topics (in English) English teachers shy away from due to its complexity; thus, leaving their students to walk in ignorance when they come across it in any English examination. If you are reading this article and part of those who have little or no understanding of the topic, I advise you pay rapt attention as we sail.
Grammatical names (noun clause, adverbial clause and adjectival clause) and their functions

THE MEANING OF GRAMMATICAL NAMES AND GRAMMATICAL FUNCTION(S)
A Grammatical name is the name given to a word, phrase or clause depending on its function in a given clause or sentence. There are different grammatical names such as noun phrase, adverbial phrase, adjectival phrase, prepositional phrase, noun clause, adverbial clause and adjectival/relative clause. However, in this episode, only the clauses (i.e., the noun clause, adverbial clause and adjectival/relative clause) are discussed.

On the other hand, grammatical function is the syntactic role played by a word, phrase or clause in the context of a given clause or sentence. In English, the grammatical function of a word, phrase or clause is determined by the position of that word, phrase or clause in a particular clause or sentence.
Examples
1. Tammy slapped the man.
2. The man slapped Tammy.

Whereas in example 1 Tammy (which is a noun) functions as the subject of the verb, "slapped", in example 2, Tammy functions as the object of the verb, "slapped". Therefore, in determining the grammatical function of a word , phrase or clause, one must take into cognizance the position of that word, phrase or clause in a given clause or sentence.

Let's now discuss these grammatical names and their grammatical functions.

READPHRASES AND THEIR GRAMMATICAL FUNCTIONS

NOUN CLAUSE
A noun clause or nominal clause is a dependent or subordinate clause that does the work of a noun in a sentence. It generally functions as an appositive, the subject or the object of a transitive verb, complement of subject, object and preposition.

Forms of a noun clause
A noun clause can take either of these forms:

i. The TH-clause (or that clause).
Example:
He said that he was coming.

ii. The WH-clause.
Examples:
What he said propelled me.
How he did it surprised everyone.

iii. The to-infinitive clause.
Example
To say the truth is very important.

Please note that the expressions in bold are the noun clauses.


Functions of a noun clause
A noun or nominal clause plays the following functions in a clause or sentence:

1. A noun clause functions as the subject of a verb in a given clause or sentence.
Examples:
i. What the students did is quite appalling.
ii. How he passed his exam remains a mystery.

In example 1, "What the students did" is a noun clause functioning as the subject the verb, "is", in the main clause. The complete statement, What the students did is quite appalling, is the main/independent clause housing the noun clause (which is also a dependent clause), "What the students did".

Similarly, in example 2, "How he passed his exam" is a noun clause functioning as the subject of the verb, "remains". This noun clause is housed by the main clause, How he passed his exam remains a mystery.

2. A noun clause functions as the object of a verb in a given clause.
Examples
i. I don't know why I am here.

"Why I am here" is a (WH) noun clause functioning as the object of the verb phrase, "don't know".

ii. The man said that he was coming.

"That he was coming" is a noun clause functioning as the object of the verb, "said".

3. A noun clause functions as a subject complement.
Examples
i. The point is what caused the fire.
ii. The most important thing is how I get home.

A subject complement follows a linking verb and modifies or refers to the subject. In the examples above, "what caused the fire" and "how I get home" are noun clauses which function as the complement of the subjects, "The point" and "The most important thing", respectively. It is obvious that each of these noun clauses follows the linking verb, "is", and refers to the subject which it complements.

Providing the correct answers to these questions will let you know that each of these noun clauses in the examples above refers to the subject which they complement:
Q1: What caused the fire?
A: The point.

Q2: How I get home is what?
A: The most important thing.

4. A noun clause functions as an object complement.
Example:
They made her husband what she liked.

"What she liked" is a noun clause functioning as the complement of the object of the sentence, "her husband".

5. A noun clause functions as a complement or an object of a preposition.
Example
I am responsible for what happened yesterday.

"What happened yesterday" is a noun clause functioning as the object/complement of the preposition, "for".

When a noun clause functions as the complement/object of a preposition, it comes immediately after the preposition. Here is another example:
"It depends on where he wants to go."

"Where he wants to go", as a noun clause, functions as the object/complement of the preposition, "on".

6. A noun clause functions as an appositive. When a noun clause functions as an appositive, it further explains a noun or noun phrase which precedes it.
Example
My question, what happened yesterday, has not been answered.

"What happened yesterday" is in apposition to the noun phrase, "My question".

ADVERBIAL CLAUSE AND ITS GRAMMATICAL FUNCTION
An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb; that is, it modifies a verb or verb phrase, an adjective and a fellow adverb. Like every other clause, an adverbial clause has a subject and a predicate although sometimes its subject is implied.

There are different types of adverbial clause: adverbial clause of time, place, manner, reason, condition, concession, etc.
Examples
1. It was raining when I woke up

"When I woke up" is an adverbial clause of time.

Grammatical function: It modifies the verb phrase, "was raining".

2. He died because he was stabbed.

"Because he was stabbed" is an adverbial clause of reason.

Function: It modifies the verb, "died".

3. The incident occurred where three roads meet.

"Where three roads meet" is an adverbial clause of place.

Function: It modifies the verb, "occurred".

4. Tammy sang as if he was hungry

"As if he was hungry" is an adverbial clause of manner.

Function: It modifies the verb "sang".

5. I will never leave you unless you bless me.

"Unless you bless me" is an adverbial clause of condition.

Function: It modifies the verb phrase, "will leave".

6. Although he had the time and space, he didn't do his assignment. 

"Although he had the time and space" is adverbial clause of concession. This type of adverbial clause shows a contrast between the main clause and the subordinate clause.

Function: It modifies the verb phrase, "did do".

ADJECTIVAL CLAUSE AND ITS GRAMMATICAL FUNCTION
An adjectival or relative clause is a subordinate clause which gives more information about the noun or pronoun it refers to in the main clause. The marketers of an adjectival clause are relative pronouns such as who, that, whose, which, whom, which, what and compound words such as whosoever, whichever and whatever. An adjectival clause chiefly functions as a modifier of a noun or noun phrase.

Please note that an adjectival clause is usually close to the noun it describes. Aside taking note of its marketers, this is another way one can easily identify an adjectival clause.
Examples
1. I know the place where they hid the book.

"Where they hid the book" is an adjectival clause.

Function: It modifies the noun phrase, "the place".

2. This is the boy whose result was stolen.

"Whose result was stolen" is an adjectival clause.

Function: It modifies the noun phrase, "the boy".

3. I like eating oranges that are sweet.

"That are sweet" is an adjectival clause.

Function: It modifies the noun, "oranges".

In sum, to correctly and easily identify the grammatical name and function of a given expression, one must always look at the position of the subordinate clause in the main clause. As regards this topic, position plays a vital role. It is not just enough knowing the meaning and functions of these grammatical names.

  1. Not all SSCE students know this and always come out in WAEC and NECO. Thanks bro

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  2. "The now prevails"what is the grammatical name and its function

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  3. Pls, what's grammatical name and function of WE CAUGHT in this sentence.
    THE LORRY WE CAUGHT WAS VERY SLOW...

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    Replies
    1. "we caught" is an adjectival clause. You may also refer to it as a "zero relative clause". The clause marker, "which" or "that" has been omitted. That is to say,the sentence could have been THE LORRY WHICH/THAT WE CAUGHT WAS VERY SLOW. You will therefore realize that "we caught" is an adjectival clause functioning as a qualifier of the noun phrase, "the lorry".

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    2. Correct
      Thanks for the explanation

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  4. "whose parents are highly learned and financially stable".
    What is the grammatical name and function?

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  5. The grammatical name is relative clause, it modifies the noun parents

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  6. Please what is the grammatical name and function on ".... whose parents are highly learned....."

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    Replies
    1. From the extract, it is an adjectival clause.
      In order to identify the function, it should be joined to the main sentence.

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  7. What literary device is used in the statement: "never must it come into contact with the earth"

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  8. What is the grammatical name and function of this expression " that has eaten deep into the country's health service delivery" Thanks in anticipation

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  9. Pls wat is the grammatical name for "when they returned home"

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  10. i did not benefit from this

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  11. 5. The man whose son was tested positive for coronavirus needs help. the underlined expression whose son was tested positive for coronavirus is what? Thank You.

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    Replies
    1. This is an adjectival clause which modifies the noun phrase " The Man"

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  12. a full time housewife has what grammatical name and function

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    Replies
    1. A Noun phrase
      Functioning as
      Subject or object

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  13. Grammatical name
    The bullion van was hijacked on the way by armed robbers

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  14. "While walking somewhere on the street of Lagos" the grammatical name for it

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  15. What is d grammatical name for this statement "while walking somewhere on the street of Lagos.

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  16. What's the grammatical name for this sentence,he beats the boy so hard that he was unable to walk

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  17. what is the grammatical name for "clear the air"

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  18. What's the grammatical name for 'the daughter of poor parents'

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  19. Please someone should help me
    What is the grammatical expression for
    Which emerged in the mid western region of Nigeria

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  20. What figure of speech is contained in the expression below 'Johnny came back to haunt France '

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  21. What grammatical name is given to this expression'while walking somewhere on the street of lagos

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  22. My father always gave his share of his catch to me to guard.
    " his share of the catch" what it's the grammatical name and it's function?

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  23. What's the grammatical name for the phrase in bracket
    (At the end of the forty days of mourning), she left for her hometown

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  24. What Is the grammatical name of " those who understands language very well...

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  25. What is the grammatical name and function of the expression, which emerged in the Midwestern region of Nigeria?

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  26. This is really educative I must say. Thanks great tutor for simplifying it for us.

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  27. What is the grammatical function of the affluence of past decades


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  28. What is the grammatical function: If you wear a hat like that people will laugh at you

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  29. You explained well.👍
    Your only problem was your faliure to identify the meaning of a clause and a phrase.😔🙄

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  30. What is the grammatical name of full time house wife

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  31. That was their usual way of saying good bye. What is the grammatical name and it function

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  32. No one was ready for the difficulties it brought to our doorsteps, is called what grammatical name?

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  33. ''Our health Personnel''
    What is it's grammatical name and function?

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  34. As the fiercest teacher.
    Please I want the grammatical name and function

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  35. Not long after the governor official proclamation...
    What is the grammatical name and function?

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  36. Pls, what is the grammatical function of what Peter wrote was a surprise to everyone

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    Replies
    1. It's a noun clause functioning as the subject of the verb 'was'.

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  37. What is the grammatical name and function of when he was about fourty

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  38. Please what is the grammatical name of denying a man in distress a favour

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  39. What the grammatical name for
    Which removes all wrinkles and scares from skin

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  40. Please what is the grammatical name of too much and its function

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  41. What is the grammatical name of which grew low along the sand

    What is it's function?

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  42. What is the grammatical name given to
    The fierce rays of the sinking sun

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  43. Which grew low along the sand.... What is the grammatical name given to this expression as it is used in the passage

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  44. "...Whose family member refuse to take advantage of orthodox treatment".
    (1) what grammatical name is given to this expression as it is used in the passage.
    (2) what is it function.

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  45. Grammatical name for which grew low along the sand

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  46. Pls in letter writing in English language, can the address of the writer be written without punctuation? And i need the waec standard answer. The date and the writer's should there be a space between them?

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  47. What is the grammatical name for "thousands of school leavers" and it's function

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  48. Please, what is the grammatical name and function for the expression "bit one of his fingers hard'

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  49. Please, how can I download this article

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  50. Please what is the grammatical structure for "The courage to fail"

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