On these first two examples of dependent clauses within the sentence. Where is the main clause if you remove the dependent clause?

What the girl did was not very helpful.

The trophy goes to whoever wins the race.

You may play outside/ until the street lights come on. (This works on it's own logically followed by a dependent clause).

You could be told ''You may play outside''. But not ''the trophy goes to'' without saying who it goes to.

What do we call this contrast between these sentences. The first two require the dependent clause but the last example could work either way.

  • The first two are noun clauses, acting as subject (1) and object of preposition (2). The last one is an adverbial clause, and like most adverbs, it's extra information, not a necessary constituent of the clause. – John Lawler Jun 1 '18 at 23:09

The first two are examples of "fused relative clauses", where the relative pronoun and its antecedent are merged into a single word. This means that you can't remove the relative clause without removing its antecedent with it.

You can see this by replacing what by the thing that, and whoever by the one that, or whoever it is that.

  • What defines 'What the girl did' as the dependent clause? Against-- was not very helpful. You can't remove them, like you said. It needs both clauses to work as a complete sentence. – user295537 Jun 2 '18 at 17:56
  • I don't know that "dependent clause" is a term with a universal definition. But What the girl did is a noun phrase, acting as the subject of the sentence. was not very helpful is the predicate of the sentence. In my mind, that makes what the girl did to be subordinate, or dependent. You need both clauses because one of them is the whole of the subject, but grammatically you could replace it with any other noun phrase (such as the thing or James, or the colour of magic). – Colin Fine Jun 3 '18 at 16:48

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