Are these all noun clauses? And what part of speech is whatever in each of them? Are they pronouns, determiners, or something else?

  1. I'll take whatever you can give. (direct object)
  2. Using whatever tools were available, they accomplished much. (direct object of the participle)
  3. I am against prejudice in whatever form it takes. (object of the preposition)


Note: The post “whatever” as pure determiner?” did not answer my question, but instead created some of my confusion. Additionally, that post focused on adding the relative pronoun that to the noun clause. It did not focus on what the proper term for a noun clause is, along with the determiners and pronouns that are associated with them. See my own answer to my question in the answer section below.

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    (3) isn't the object of the preposition; it's the object of takes. And what do you think they are? Pronouns, determiners, or something else? And why? Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 1:26
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    (1) you can give whatever – So I would say that whatever is a pronoun that functions as the direct object. (2) whatever tools were available – So I would say that whatever is a determiner. (3) it takes whatever form – So I would say that whatever is a determiner. You say (3) isn’t the object of the preposition? Isn’t “in whatever form it takes” a prepositional phrase that modifies prejudice? If it is, then “whatever form it takes” would seem to be a noun clause that is the object of the preposition “in.” If they are pronouns and determiners, are they a certain kind?
    – josh.r
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 2:10

2 Answers 2


There are two sets of objects to be considered here, and it's easy to confuse them. The important thing to remember is that only noun phrases can be objects, but clauses can be noun phrases.

First, there are the Wh-clauses, all of which are object clauses (and therefore noun clauses):

  • whatever you can give is the direct object of take
  • whatever tools were available is the direct object of using
  • whatever form it takes is the object of the preposition in

Second, the internal structures of the Wh-clauses themselves determine the function of whatever:

  • in whatever you can give,
    whatever is the direct object of give.
  • in whatever tools were available,
    whatever modifies tools;
    and the noun phrase whatever tools is the subject of were available.
  • in whatever form it takes,
    whatever modifies form;
    and the noun phrase whatever form is the direct object of takes.

I had come across a few sources that said whatever is a relative pronoun, and the poster on that other thread called whatever a relative determiner. Also, I thought I had seen examples of people calling these clauses relative clauses.

Now, after doing more research, I see that some people do call the clauses in my examples relative clauses, and they say that the clauses contain either the relative pronoun or the relative determiner whatever. While some do make a distinction and call them free relative clauses, others just call them relative clauses. Of course, most people just call them noun clauses.

People usually learn that a relative clause is an adjective clause and an adjective clause is a relative clause. The clauses in my example sentences clearly do not function as adjectives, so I was trying to figure out what I was missing.

If we call whatever a relative determiner and a relative pronoun, then it only makes sense to call these clauses relative clauses. But that sure creates a problem for the majority of people who learn that a relative clause functions as an adjective and a relative pronoun introduces a relative clause.

I now see that Oxford Dictionaries does list whatever as being a relative pronoun and determiner. Google uses Oxford in their search results, but they only list it as being a pronoun and determiner, and Merriam Webster lists it as being a pronoun and adjective.

In his answer, Mr. Lawler verified what I outlined in my original question and my added comment. Thank you! However, my real question was this: What do we call these things? My confusion was primarily caused by people using different terms for the same concepts. I hope this answer clears up some confusion for others. I now know what I will call them.

I will restate my analysis that I listed in my comment above. I simply reordered the words in the noun clause:

  1. you can give whateverwhatever is a pronoun that functions as the direct object.
  2. whatever tools were available – whatever is a determiner that modifies tools.
  3. it takes whatever form – whatever is a determiner that modifies form.

I now see that I can put “relative” in front of pronoun and determiner as long as I provide additional explanation.

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