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Phrases can sometimes be paraphrased into clauses. For example, the importance of something can be paraphrased as how important something is.

It seems that the clause version is used mainly as the object position. Can it be used as the subject position? For example, in (1) which sentence is better? Is either ok? Which is more appropriate in (2)?

  1. a. The degree of dependence on nuclear energy varies from country to country.
    b. How dependent on nuclear energy varies from country to country.

  2. a. How to read books varies from person to person.
    b. The way of reading books varies from person to person.

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You've got the generalization backwards: it's clauses that come first; they are often shortened into phrases by deletions. Deletions remove redundant material, and often cause ambiguities when the speaker considers something redundant that isn't. As for your question about nominalization vs full clauses, each verb and each noun have their own patterns, and there aren't any simple rules. Sorry. –  John Lawler Jul 4 '12 at 16:17
    
In English, we generally follow the linguistic Subject-Verb-Object (S-O-V) construction for a sentence and occasionally use OSV structure. The formation is simple and usually starts with a subject and uses a verb performing action on an object. I guess you will need to study subject/object quantifiers and a lot on Subject–verb–object, Verb–subject–object, Verb–object–subject, Subject–object–verb, Object–subject–verb and Object–verb–subject constructions. Explaining all the rules here is out of scope. –  Fr0zenFyr Jul 4 '12 at 16:58

2 Answers 2

In your examples either can be correct with some small changes ...

  1. a. The degree of dependence on nuclear energy varies from country to country.
  2. b. How dependent countries are on nuclear energy varies.

  3. a. How books are read varies from person to person.

  4. b. The way books are read varies from person to person.
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  1. The phrases and clauses you're constructing are not really paraphrases of one another because a portion of meaning is lost in one and added in another.

  2. Noun Phrases and Noun Clauses, being extended Nouns, can each hold the position of Subject or Object equally. It depends on the meaning of the whole sentence that the writer wants to impart.

  3. If you're trying your hand at making Noun Clauses, you haven't made a lot. Most of the examples above are only Noun Phrases.

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