For example:

Attack them directly won't do anything

"Attack them directly" is a partial sentence. In this sentence, we treat that whole phrase as a subject and make a sentence from the phrase. Is it correct?

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    While it can be done, attack them directly won't do anything is not a good sentence. But attacking them directly won't do anything does work as a sentence. – Jim Mar 21 '15 at 5:31
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    Your (in my opinion clearer – the quotes delimit the scope of the phrase) alternative is in your question: "Attack them directly" is a partial sentence. – Ulrich Schwarz Mar 21 '15 at 7:19
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    Yes, a clause (not "sentence") can function as the subject of another clause. But only, as @Jim points out, if the clause is one of the proper type. Clauses can function as direct object, too, with the right verb. These subject and object clauses are called Complement clauses, and English has four types of them; which type to use depends on the predicate. – John Lawler Mar 21 '15 at 15:12
  • @JohnLawler Thanks. Could you make it an answer? – Amumu Mar 22 '15 at 15:05
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    @JohnLawler I meant that you make it an actual answer so that I can accept it instead of a comment which I could not accept. Or if you don't like, that's fine. – Amumu Mar 22 '15 at 15:29

The only serious constraint on using appropriate whole or partial sentences as subjects of other sentences is comprehension: The longer the embedded "subject" sentence, the harder the combined sentence is for hearers or readers to parse. A sentence such as

"I think therefore I am" serves as the starting point of Descartes's epistemology.

is easy to follow and doesn't break any grammatical rules that I'm aware of. But a sentence like

"The soul is presupposed as a ready-made agent, which displays such features as its acts and utterances, from which we can learn what it is, what sort of faculties and powers it possesses—all without being aware that the act and utterance of what the soul is really invests it with that character in our conception and makes it reach a higher stage of being than it explicitly had before" may capture Hegel's essential notion of the human soul, as expressed in his Philosophy of Mind, but that doesn't make it any easier to comprehend.

though still acceptable as a matter of grammar, demands a lot of patience and conceptual processing from a listener or reader. But this is a practical problem, not a grammatical one.

The OP's original example doesn't work because the embedded sentence (or partial sentence, depending on how you use it) "Attack them directly" isn't well matched to the rest of the larger sentence "won't do anything." But it's not hard to think of a sentence where "Attack them directly" makes perfect sense as the subject of a larger sentence. For example:

"Attack them directly" won't work as a military strategy when you're outnumbered a thousand to one.

Here the sentence "Attack them directly" acts as the subject of of the larger sentence, and the quotation marks signal to the reader that the entire quoted sentence is functioning in this way.

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