Using noun phrases instead of clauses

In academic writing, subject and object nouns (the headwords) are often 'loaded' with information. Writers do this by adding one or more modifiers to the headword.

Show example

Sometimes a very long noun phrase is used. Can you identify the headword in this sentence?

The average distance travelled to their 'main' store by the 276 respondents who switched to the new store, fell by 2.25 kms in the pre-intervention period to 0.98 kms in the post-intervention period.

Show answer

These activities provide practice in using noun phrases instead of clauses, to give your academic writing a more concise and formal style.

Activity 1: Rewriting relative clauses as noun phrases

You are going to practise using noun phrases instead of relative clauses .Writers often use a noun phrase instead of a relative clause, particularly instead of a defining relative clause.

Look at these examples. What different ways of forming a noun phrase do they show?

Show comment

Change the following noun + relative clause fragments into noun phrases.

1. people who create web pages

Show answer

2. research that has been done recently

Show answer

3. plants that are grown in this way

Show answer

4. the fossils that have been newly unearthed

Show answer

5. some of the radio stations that broadcast on shortwave

Show answer

6. researchers who know a lot about the subject

Show hint

Show answer

7. children who speak two languages

Show hint

Show answer

8. a company that is run by the state

Show answer

9. women who do not have enough iron in their blood

Show hint

Show answer

10. the research that has been reported here

Show answer

Show comment


Activity 2: Rewriting clauses as noun phrases

Noun phrases can replace other types of clause. You are now going to practise transforming sentences so that they contain a noun phrase instead of a clause.

Look at the examples in the table below. Compare the two versions of each sentence that is shown: one with a clause and one with a noun phrase.What do you notice about how the word class changes in the two different versions?

Contrasting sentences with clauses and sentences with noun phrases
Sentence with clause
Sentence with noun phrase
Researchers have to judge how valid and reliable the web sites are.
Researchers have to judge the validity and reliability of the web sites.
How the babies moved their limbs was tracked by sensors.
The movement of the babies' limbs was tracked by sensors.
Results suggest that students use the WWW widely.
Results suggest widespread use of the WWW by students.
It is now possible to mass produce pure human antibodies.
The mass production of pure human antibodies is now possible.
Women have a weaker immune response to allergens with each successive pregnancy.
Women's immune response to allergens weakens with each successive pregnancy.

Show comment

Rewrite the following sentences using noun phrases instead of clauses. Part of each sentence has been given to help you.

1. The test aimed to prove how playable the game was.

Show answer

2. There was a clear pattern to how participants self-assessed their performance.

Show answer

3. The blades were extremely sharp and this made them highly effective weapons.

Show answer

4. The map shows where the new areas of forestry are.

Show hint

Show answer

5. This study clearly demonstrates that diet greatly influences toddlers' behaviour.

Show answer

Show comment