I am trying to understand matrix clauses. Today at the lecture, two sentences were discussed, of which one contains a matrix clause and one does not. I'm going to post them here:

  1. He knew immediately that in some way he had erred.
  2. He wondered whether the suggestion was worth trying.

I was told the first sentence consists of only one clause, whereas the second one consists of two clauses. I am puzzled as to how it is possible. Can anyone explain the difference between the two? As I see it, both contain two finite verbs, so I would classify them the same.

Oh, and a matrix clause means that a clause has a subordinate clause embedded within it.

  • He knew he was wrong. Does that have only one clause?
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


I've never heard the term 'matrix clauses' before, but having Googled it, it seems to me that both of your examples are 'matrix clauses'.

See this page: https://www.thoughtco.com/matrix-clause-grammar-1691371, and specfically the description of 'complement clauses' and 'adverbial subordination'.

The first sentence seems to be a matrix clause with a complement clause, and the second example is a matrix clause with adverbial subordination.

The fact that they are both 'matrix clauses' seems to made clear by the fact that both sentences have elements which can form separate sentences on their own.

He knew immediately. What did he know? That in some way he had erred.

He wondered. What did he wonder? Whether the suggestion was worth trying.

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