I have been wondering that if a wh-word (what, who, which, whom and etc) comes first in a sentence, would it make the sentence a noun clause as well as an interrogative sentence?

Example: When did he go to school?

Is all the sentence above after the wh word "When" considered a noun clause?

  • We know (that) he went to school. {When he graduated} is unknown.
    – TimR
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


I think it all depends on how you use the wh-words. Sometimes they form noun clauses and other times they form interrogative sentences. Your example sentence is only an interrogative sentence. If you use a wh-word at the beginning of a sentence and it becomes a complete sentence by that clause itself with "?" at the end like your example sentence, it's not a noun clause and it is an interrogative sentence. A noun clause would be something like

A: What do you want to eat for dinner?

B: Whatever you want to eat is fine with me.

Here, the "whatever you want to eat" is working as a noun clause.

As to the noun clauses, this site might be helpful:http://www.k12reader.com/term/noun-clause/

  • Wait... there are ones that start with a wh-word and end with a ? and the wh-word clause forms a noun clause like "Whoever did this got away with it?" I'm leaving this to native speakers to answer... X(
    – Mikiko
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 2:24

No, the presence of a wh-word does not turn the sentence into a noun clause. A noun clause is built around a noun, but “When did he go to school?” is built around the verb “go”, so it's a verb clause.

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