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Lesson 193: Qualifying nouns with subordinate clauses


We've already learned how to modify nouns using adjectives. In this lesson we'll learn how to use entire phrases called subordinate clauses to modify nouns. Clauses are the smallest grammatical units that can represent a proposition, which are phrases that can be either true or false.

Disregarding the technical definition, clauses are phrases that look like sentences, and subordinate clauses are clauses that cannot stand alone as a sentence, but are part of another sentence.

A noun can be modified by placing a subordinate clause ending with a verb in the plain form in front of it.

The woman carrying the wood is strong. を はこんで いる おんな は つよい です。
ki wo hakonde iru onna ha tuyoi desu.
The man who didn't take the medicine died.くすり を まなかった おとこ は んだ。
kusuri wo nomanakatta otoko ha sinda.
The car (I) didn't sell was expensive.らなかった くるま は たかかった。
uranakatta kuruma ha takakatta.

Note that it's possible for the noun that is modified to be the object instead of the subject in the subordinate clause. In the third sentence above, the car is not the subject that is selling, but the object being sold. Syntactically this sentence could also mean The car that didn't sell was expensive, but we know from the context that this is not what is meant.

As you can see in the table below, nouns can also be modified by subordinate clauses that end in adjectives.

The tall boy entered the embassy through the exit. が たかい おとこ の  は たい使かん に ぐち を はいった。
se ga takai otoko no ko ha taisikan ni deguti wo haitta.
The girl who likes crocodiles is interesting.ワニ が きな じょ は おもしろい です。
wani ga sukina zyosi ha omosiroi desu.
The black tea that was hot, became cold.あつかった こうちゃ は つめたく なりました。
atukatta koutya ha tumetaku narimasita.

Note in the last sentence, that when we want to use an adjective together with the verb なる, we must turn the adjective into an adverb.

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