I was told from my teacher that only "noun" rather than "clause" follows after the verb "illustrate." This rule also applies for the verb "criticize."

I did not have the slightest idea of such rule because I always thought I can treat a clause(that + S + V) as a noun.

First, is it true that I need to be careful to use only noun or clause for some verbs? If so, what is the term for this grammatical rule?

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

  1. Democrats club president Shrayat Shetty criticized (him saying) that his speech only caused hatred among students and cannot be tolerated.

  2. Ahmed illustrates(explained) that there have been two significant historical events associated with cross-burning which happened in 1993 and 2002.

The one in parenthesis was how my instructor wanted me to change

  • Different verbs take different kinds of object or complement. Some take an infinitive clause with 'to'; some take and infinitive clause without 'to'. Some take an -ing clause. Some take a that clause. Some take an embedded question. And often they will take several of the above, but not necessarily all of them. But in general you cannot "work out" which kinds of clause a particular verb may take: not from logic, not from meaning, and not from considering other verbs with similar meaning. THERE IS NO RULE. You just have to learn the possible objects as part of learning the verb.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 25, 2019 at 16:03

1 Answer 1


This brief example illustrates how easy it is to find data by using existing databases

But these examples illustrate the use of noun phrases.

I'd say that how easy it is... there is a more of a "clause", whereas the use [of something] is a straightforward "noun phrase".

The reason OP's example #2 seems a little "awkward" is because [some] native speakers tend to avoid following illustrate with a that- clause. I can't say exactly why this should be so, because there's no grammatical rule being broken - it's just that many of us would choose to use show rather than illustrate before that [blah blah].

But here's a (admittedly, relatively uncommon) counter-example from The Guardian1...

Del Toro's real training ground, though, would have to be Pan's Labyrinth, which illustrates that he can realistically convey the experience of life under a regime

Although as implied above I would almost certainly use choose myself in the above context (and/or feasibly change that to how), I consider this to be a minor point of style, not a matter of "grammatical correctness". And not everyone agrees on matters of style.

1 The Grauniad is a nickname for the UK national newspaper, the Guardian, because of a now ill-founded reputation for typos. But nobody would suggest that my cited example above represents any kind of "typo", or that the writer wasn't a perfectly competent native Anglophone.

  • Very nice explanation. Thank you so much.
    – able20
    Dec 25, 2019 at 19:20

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