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Writers Workshop: Writer Resources

Grammar Handbook: Subjects and Predicates

In English, every sentence has two essential parts: a complete subject and a complete predicate.

Subjects

The complete subject is the simple subject (a noun or a pronoun) plus any word or group of words modifying the simple subject that tells who or what the sentence is about:

To find the complete subject, ask Who? or What? insert the verb, and finish the question. The answer is the complete subject:

The simple subject is the essential noun, pronoun, or group of words acting as a noun that cannot be left out of the complete subject. In order to identify it, remove the complements and modifiers and whatever is left is the simple subject:

article simple subject prepositional phrase predicate
The high from my Mountain Dew usually lasts about an hour.

TIP: Does the sentence make sense with just the word ("high") identified as the simple subject?

Additional Facts About Subjects

The "Understood You"

Sometimes, as in the case of imperative sentences (see verb mood ), the subject does not actually appear in the sentence. At such times the invisible subject is called the "understood you":

Positioning

Although the subject most commonly appears before the verb, it can also appear afterwards in sentences that begin with "there is" or "there are." "There" is an expletive or empty word which simply gets the sentence started:

Sentences can also be inverted for effect:

Predicates

The complete predicate is the verb plus its objects, complements, and adverbial modifiers that tell what the complete subject does or is:

To find the complete predicate, ask "What does the subject (the high) do?" (It) usually lasts about an hour.

Simple Predicate

The simple predicate is the essential verb or verb phrase that cannot be left out of the complete predicate. Again, remove the modifiers and complements to identify it:

article simple subject prepositional phrase adverb simple predicate prepositional phrase
The high from my Mountain Dew usually lasts about an hour

TIP: Does the sentence make sense with just the word identified as the simple predicate?

Compound Subjects and Predicates

Although the examples so far have contained only one subject and one verb, a sentence may contain a compound subject, a compound predicate, or both.

Compound Subject

The compound subject consists of two or more subjects that have the same verb and are joined by a conjunction such as "and" or "or":

Compound Predicate

The compound predicate consists of two or more verbs that have the same subject and are joined by a conjunction such as "and" or "or":