Whoever thought of that idea is a genius. reference

whoever=anyone that reference

I am confused by this clause and I think it should be a relative clause, because "a person" can be a genius instead of that clause "Whoever thought of that idea".


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    It is a 'fused' relative construction where "whoever thought of that idea" is not noun clause but a descriptive noun phrase meaning "the person x satisfying the description 'x thought of that idea'". The single word "whoever" fuses (combines) the functions of antecedent and the relativized element in the relative clause, cf. "the person who thought of that idea". – BillJ Apr 28 '18 at 17:22
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    It does function as the subject of the sentence and that is the function of a noun or pronoun. – mahmud k pukayoor Apr 28 '18 at 17:30
  • @BillJ Thanks for your keyword "Fused relative constructions" :) So "Whoever thought of that idea" is a relative clause, right? – Big Shield Apr 28 '18 at 17:41
  • Haha, very good! No, it's a special construction, where "whoever thought of that idea" is a noun phrase where the head of the NP is also the relativized element in the relative clause – BillJ Apr 28 '18 at 17:50

It's both a relative clause and a noun clause.

The term relative clause describes the internal structure of the clause: it starts with a relative pronoun ("whoever") that plays a nounlike role inside that clause (subject of "thought of that idea").

The term noun clause describes the role the clause is playing in the larger sentence: it's the subject of "is a genius".

Relative clauses are usually adjective clauses ("the book that we read was very interesting"), but they also can be noun clauses (as in your example) or adverb clauses ("I talked to him, as you suggested").

  • Sorry, but that's not quite right. It's actually a noun phrase whose head is also the relative word in the relative clause, hence the term 'fused relative construction. – BillJ Apr 28 '18 at 17:52
  • @BillJ "construction" is harder to understand than "clause" :( Can a fused relative construction be used as a relative clause? – Big Shield Apr 28 '18 at 19:37
  • @ruahk Thanks for your answer. It is reasonable :) – Big Shield Apr 28 '18 at 20:01
  • @BigShield Think of "whoever" as meaning "the person who", and then you'll see the noun phrase more clearly. The meaning is thus comparable with that of the non-fused "the person who thought of that idea", which is clearly a noun phrase. – BillJ Apr 28 '18 at 20:13

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