I recently came across a sentence in an academic text that was similar in structure to "I eat what is considered healthy." I interpreted the grammar as "what is considered healthy" being a noun clause. Someone then pointed out to me that a clause needs a subject and verb, and "what" should be the subordinator, not the subject.

Can anyone explain this to me? Thanks!

  • 2
    The clause contains a verb ("is") and a subject ("what"). What is the problem? – Acccumulation Feb 22 '19 at 22:54
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    There are four main types of noun complement clauses: infinitives, gerunds, that-clauses, and wh-clauses (also known as embedded questions or headless relatives). What is considered healthy is a wh-clause functioning as the direct object of eat. As a clause, it has a subject (what) and a verb (is considered). – John Lawler Feb 23 '19 at 0:09

I eat what is considered healthy

In this sentence, "what" serves a dual purpose as a subordinator and a subject.


"what is considered healthy" is a nominal relative clause, as it can be broken down into:

  • the things (noun phrase) that are considered healthy (relative clause), or

  • any food (noun phrase) that is considered healthy (relative clause)

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