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Object Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

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Sport legend Jesse Owens.

In general when we look at an English sentence to see who is doing what to whom (grammatically speaking), we can say that the subject does something to the object:

{subject} + does something to + {object}

Jesse Owens + won + 4 gold medals.

I + believe + your sister.

The objects in these two examples above are two noun phrases‏‎: 4 gold medals and your sister.

However, we can also use a complete clause as the object of a sentence (a clause contains a verb and a noun). Here is a simple clause:

You are wrong.

When we use this as an object in a sentence, it becomes an object clause:

{subject} + {verb} + {object clause}

I + believe + you are wrong.

Examples of Object Clauses

Each of the following sentences has its object clause highlighted:

I know he is lying.

We didn’t realize she was so ill.

The company has admitted to supplying the tax authorities with false information.

Object Clauses and Passive Voice

Here is a sentence which has an object clause:

{subject} + {verb} + [that] + {object clause}

People + say + that + Jesse Owens was one of the most important athletes of the 20th Century.

To make this passive we use what is known as the impersonal passive form:

{it} + {passive verb} + [that] + {object clause}

It + is said + that + Jesse Owens was one of the most important athletes of the 20th Century.

If the verb in the object clause is in the present simple‏‎ or past simple‏‎ we can build the passive sentence in yet another way.

{object} + {passive verb} + {passive infinitive}

Jesse Owens + is said to be + one of the most important athletes of the 20th Century.

This happens when you talk about an opinion, suggestion or belief which uses a verb like: believe, claim, estimate, say, think and so on.

We often use these patterns with reporting verbs such as: agree, arrange, announce, believe, consider, decide, expect, fear, feel, find, hope, intend, know, mention, regret, report, say, suppose, think, understand.

Useful Links

Sentences in English – a general look at making sentences in English

Subjects and Objects in English grammar

Passive Voice‏‎ in English – for more on the passive voice

2 Responses to Object Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

  1. Philip says:

    Hi Jenny.

    I have a question re the following sentence written above: “If the verb in the object clause is in the present simple‏‎ or past simple‏‎ we can build the passive sentence in yet another way.” Is the verb referred to here (the present simple tense or present past tense verb in an object clause) in the active voice?

    Secondly, is “… one of the most important athletes of the 20th Century” an object clause or just a noun phrase?

    Thank you.

    • Pete West says:

      HI Philip, in answer to your questions:

      1. in the active voice
      2. an object clause can also be a noun phrase

      I hope this helps. Thanks for reading us!

Leave a Reply to Philip Cancel reply