What is the grammatical name and grammatical function of the part of the sentence that is in bold?

  1. What the teacher taught was not in the students' text.

  2. The principal ate what was left in the pot.

  • 3
    In the first case it's the subject, in the second it's the object. Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 22:33
  • 3
    Yes. But in both cases it's a Embedded Question Complement Clause. The first one is a subject complement and the second one is an object complement. Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 22:48

6 Answers 6


ln the first sentence above,' what the teacher taught' is a Noun Clause. lt is so because it has a subject 'teacher' and a verb 'taught' in the expression. The expression itself functions as the subject of the verb 'was'. Why? lt is so because it is a noun-and pronoun only -that can act as the subject of a verb. ln this case what we have there is acting as a noun;not pronoun. ln the second sentence,'what was left in the pot' is a noun clause. Why? lt has a subject 'what' and a verb 'was left' in the expression. lt functions as the 'object of the verb ate'. How? By explaining the verb 'ate'.lt is the object of a sentence that also explains the verb and functions as a noun.


It's a noun clause.

A noun clause can be used like a noun. It can be a subject, predicate nominative, direct object, appositive, indirect object, or object of the preposition. Some of the English words that introduce noun clauses are that, whether, who, why, whom, what, how, when, whoever, where, and whomever.

A noun clause is a sub-class of subordinate clauses.

  1. In the first sentence, 'what the teacher tought' is a noun clause. It functions as the subject of the verb was in the sentence.
  2. 'What was left in the pot' as used in the second sentence is a noun clause. It functions as object of the verb ate in the sentence. This is because a noun clause funtions as a noun — as a subject, object, subject complement, object complement, etc.

In German grammars such clauses with a determinative pronoun are called "determinative clauses". They are clauses of the type:

1 alles, was ich mir wünsche ... (all I want ... ) 2 everthing that + clause 3 Repeat what you have said / variant: Repeat that which you have said.

I think English grammars don't use the term "determinative pronouns" and "determinative clauses" - at least I haven't read such terms up to now.

But I find these terms useful.


It functions as a subject of a sentence. The gramatical names given to the sentence is noun clause due to existence of the verb made by the subject.

  • I don't know what you mean by "due to existence of the verb made by the subject". The subject doesn't make a verb. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 12:36

It is a noun phrase. It function is subject of the verb was.

  • 1
    This is not written in good English. Also, it only attepmts to answer part of the question. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 15:19

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