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Relative pronouns can also work without antecedents when they introduce realtive clauses that act as nouns: (how can an adjectival clause act as a noun?)

She thinks she can do whatever she likes. (is likes the adjective?)

I think I know whose mistake it was. (is mistake the adjective?)

They couldn't care less about what I think. (is care the adjective?)
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Hello jamez101

You have some misconceptions about subordinate clauses.
jamez101Relative pronouns can also work without antecedents when they introduce realtive clauses that act as nouns: (how can an adjectival clause act as a noun?)
Relative clauses are not nouns, they are modifiers of nouns. You can call them adjectival clauses if you like, but that's not standard terminology.
jamez101She thinks she can do whatever she likes. (is likes the adjective?)
This is NOT a relative clause. 'She can do whatever she likes' is a complement clause. Likes is a verb.
jamez101I think I know whose mistake it was. (is mistake the adjective?)
This too is NOT a relative clause. It's an interrogative complement clause. The sentence can be glossed as "I think I know the answer to the question 'who made the mistake?'". 'Mistake' is a noun.
jamez101They couldn't care less about what I think. (is care the adjective?)
The underlined sequence is a 'fused relative construction' introduced by the fused relative pronoun 'what'. 'What' here means 'the thing which', so the sentence is 'They couldn't care less about the thing which I think'. 'Care' is a verb.

BillJ

Comments  
I am not an expert, but maybe I can give you a few ideas until one of

the experts answers you.

Let's take your first sentence as a model.

She thinks (that) she can do whatever she likes.

Here's the problem for native speakers and learners: whatever she

likes is called an adjective clause by some books; a noun clause by

other books.

Why do some call it an adjective clause? Well, those books say

that your sentence =

She thinks that she can do anything that she likes. Those books

explain that "that she likes" is an adjective clause that modifies

"anything."

Other books say that there is an easier way to analyze your

sentence:

Whatever she likes is simply a noun clause (introduced by an

indefinite relative pronoun). The noun clause is simply analyzed

as the object of the verb can do.

(No, likes is not an adjective. It is a verb.

She thinks (that) she can do + she likes whatever.

For "good" English, the indefinite relative pronoun has to be

changed to the front -- whatever she likes.)

I personally like the first book's explanation (it's an adjective

clause). But since you are a learner, it would probably be easier

to follow the second book's analysis (it's a noun clause). I am

guessing that most teachers would also use this analysis.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
 BillJ's reply was promoted to an answer.
Hello jamez101

May I add something that I omitted in my reply concerning your first example?

'She thinks she can do [whatever she likes]'

Within the underlined complement clause there is a special kind of relative clause (bracketed) called a 'fused relative clause' where, in effect, the antecedent and the relative word are fused together into the single word 'whatever' instead of being expressed separately. The meaning is comparable to that of the non-fused 'She thinks she can do anything that she likes'. You may find it helpful to think of 'anything' as being the antecedent, and 'that' as the relative word. The pattern is the same as in your third example using 'what' (also a fused relative) with just a slight change of meaning between the relative words 'whatever' and 'what'.

To sum up, your first and third sentences are examples of 'fused' relative clauses using the relative words 'whatever' and 'what', but the second is that of an interrogative complement clause introduced by 'whose' in its role as an interrogative word, not a relative word.

I hope that's a bit clearer now.

BillJ