Content clause
In grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

, a content clause is a subordinate clause that provides content implied by, or commented upon by, its main clause. The term was coined by Otto Jespersen
Otto Jespersen
Jens Otto Harry Jespersen or Otto Jespersen was a Danish linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language.He was born in Randers in northern Jutland and attended Copenhagen University, earning degrees in English, French, and Latin...

. There are two main kinds of content clauses: declarative content clauses (or that-clauses), which correspond to declarative sentences, and interrogative content clauses, which correspond to interrogative sentences.

Declarative content clauses

Declarative content clauses can have a number of different grammatical roles. They often serve as direct objects
Object (grammar)
An object in grammar is part of a sentence, and often part of the predicate. It denotes somebody or something involved in the subject's "performance" of the verb. Basically, it is what or whom the verb is acting upon...

 of verbs of reporting, cognition, perception, and so on. In this use, the conjunction
Grammatical conjunction
In grammar, a conjunction is a part of speech that connects two words, sentences, phrases or clauses together. A discourse connective is a conjunction joining sentences. This definition may overlap with that of other parts of speech, so what constitutes a "conjunction" must be defined for each...

 that may head
Head (linguistics)
In linguistics, the head is the word that determines the syntactic type of the phrase of which it is a member, or analogously the stem that determines the semantic category of a compound of which it is a component. The other elements modify the head....

 the clause, but is often omitted:
  • He told her (that) she was smart.
  • She thought (that) he was friendly.
  • I hear (that) they've started dating.
  • They wish (that) they had met earlier.

Similarly with certain verb-like adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

  • I'm not sure (that) he was right.
  • Convinced (that) he could manage it without help, he decided to proceed.

They also often serve as complements
Complement (linguistics)
In grammar the term complement is used with different meanings. The primary meaning is a word, phrase or clause that is necessary in a sentence to complete its meaning. We find complements that function as an argument and complements that exist within arguments.Both complements and modifiers add...

 of nouns — both nouns corresponding to the above verbs, and nouns like fact, idea, and so on. Here, that is almost always included:
  • … our hope that someday the whole world will know peace …
  • … the fact that all matter obeys the same physical laws …
  • … the idea that a son would do such a thing to his father …

Finally, they can serve as subjects
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

, or as direct objects of verbs that link them to adjectives or other predicative
Predicative may mean:* Predicative * Predicative * Lacking impredicativity...

s. In this use, they are commonly postponed to the end of their main clause, with an expletive
Syntactic expletive
Syntactic expletives are words that perform a syntactic role but contribute nothing to meaning. Expletive subjects are part of the grammar of many non-pro-drop languages such as English, whose clauses normally require overt provision of subject even when the subject can be pragmatically inferred...

it standing in their original place:
  • It startled me that the students were so advanced.
  • It is important that we remember this day.
  • I find it sad that he doesn't know the answer.
  • It annoys me that she does that.

Here as before, a conjunction is almost always included, although it does not need to be that:
  • I'd prefer (it) if you didn't mention this to anyone.
  • I like (it) when she comes to visit.
  • It bothers me how she doesn't care what he wants.

Interrogative content clauses

Interrogative content clauses can be used in many of the same ways as declarative ones; for example, they are often direct objects of verbs of cognition, reporting, and perception, but here they emphasize knowledge or lack of knowledge of one element of a fact:
  • I know what you did.
  • I can't guess how he managed it.
  • I wonder if I looked that bad.

Semantically, they can serve as adjective and noun complements, but unlike their declarative counterparts, they are generally introduced by a preposition, especially of:
  • … the question (of) who was responsible …
  • … his curiosity over how it happened …
  • … sure of what he had seen …

And like declarative content clauses, they are often postponed to the end of their main clause, with an expletive it standing in their original place, when they serve as the subject of a verb, or as the direct object of a verb that links them to a predicative:
  • It is not known where they came from.
  • I find it encouraging how many young women are pursuing careers in science.

External links

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