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Subject and Predicate Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 22, 2011

Subject and Predicate

Grasp the subject, the words will follow.

CATO THE ELDER (234 B.C.–149 B.C.)

ROMAN ORATOR AND POLITICIAN

In this lesson, you will learn to identify the most basic parts of a sentence, looking at simple and complete subjects and predicates.

Sentences are the most necessary element of speaking and writing; they allow us to communicate with others. A basic sentence can be divided up into two major components: the complete subject, which includes whom or what the sentence is about, and all words related to the subject; and the complete predicate, which includes what the subject is doing or what condition the subject is in, and all the words related to the predicate. Within the complete subject and predicate are the simple subject—one or more nouns or pronouns, and the simple predicate—one or more verbs.

Simple Subjects

Finding the simple subject of a sentence is, well, simple. You just need to ask who? or what? about the verb. For example:

Who likes [lasagna]? Gina; thus, she is the subject.

A subject can also be a common noun:

What has [a Memorial Day parade]? The town; thus, it is the subject.

A subject can also be a pronoun:

Who listened [to the radio]? We did; thus, it is the subject.

There can also be more than one subject in a sentence:

What are [Leo's favorite pizza toppings]? Sausage and mushrooms are the subjects.

When two subjects share the same verb, this is called a compound subject.

Tip

Usually the subject of a sentence is found at the beginning of the sentence, but it can also be found in the middle or at the end of a sentence:

    In the middle:
    At the end: .

Tricky Subjects

Sometimes you might see a sentence that doesn't seem to have a subject. Usually, these are imperative sentences, sentences that make a request or command. Imperative sentences always have an implied subject, and that subject is you:

Please make your bed before leaving for school.

If you ask who? or what? is to make [your bed before leaving], there isn't a noun or pronoun that will answer that. That is because in imperative sentences, the subject is implied; the answer to the question is always you.

What if the sentence is a question? In order to find the subject of a question, simply turn the question into a statement, which will place the subject at the beginning of the sentence:

Why didn't he make his bed before leaving for school?

Restated, it becomes:

Who did not make [his bed]? He is the subject.

Simple Predicates

A simple predicate (or verb) describes the action or condition of the subject or subjects in a sentence. In order to identify the predicate(s) in a sentence, ask what word shows what the subject(s) is doing? Or what word shows the condition of the subject(s)?

Nathan and Sara did what? Helped is the predicate. Just as with subjects, there can be more than one predicate in a sentence. When two predicates share the same subject, this is called a compound predicate.

Danielle did what? Sketched and painted are the predicates.

Eleanor and Leslie what? They are (best friends) and they support. Are and support are the predicates.

Complete Subjects and Complete Predicates

Identifying any sentence's complete subject and complete predicate is easy as well. Once you find the simple subject and the simple predicate, you should be able to notice a natural division between the telling part of the sentence and the doing or condition part. For example:

In the first sentence, the subject, Brielle, and the appositive phrase that gives more information about Brielle —an artist—form the complete subject of the sentence. Likewise, the complete predicate is made up of the verb that tells what Brielle did, sold, and other words that give more information about what she sold and where she sold it—some of her art at the auction.

Similarly, in the second sentence, notice that the adverb always is part of the complete predicate. Even if you didn't know that adverbs modify verbs, you could see that always gives more information about the verb sing, not the noun bird, so it belongs with the complete predicate.

A grammar exercise for this concept can be found at Subject and Predicate Practice Exercise.

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