In English grammar, the subject of a clause is the noun referring to the person or thing that is doing the action of the verb. We will learn all about it here.

"Subjects" in the English Grammar

What Are Subjects?

In grammar, the subject is the noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that performs the action or is the focus of the sentence. It is what or whom the sentence is about.

Subjects: Types

There are three main types of subjects. They are:

  1. Simple subjects
  2. Compound subjects
  3. Complete subjects

Let's discuss each in more detail:

1. Simple Subjects

'Simple subject' refers to a single noun or pronoun (sometimes preceded by a definite or an indefinite article) that functions as the subject of a sentence. It can be a:

  1. Subject personal pronoun
  2. Masculine or feminine proper name
  3. Collective noun

We are watching TV.

A subject pronoun

He's running to catch up to the bus.

A subject pronoun

Lucy sleeps at 9 P.M.

A female proper name

Mathew is seven years old.

A male proper name

The team failed to score.

A collective noun

Subject Personal Pronouns

As you saw in the examples above, the subject of a sentence can be a personal pronoun. In the table below, you can see the list of English subject personal pronouns.

Singular Pronouns Plural Pronouns
First Person I We
Second Person You You
Third Person (M) He They
Third Person (F) She They
Third Person (N) It They

2. Compound Subjects

Compound subjects, as their name suggests, consist of two or more nouns or pronouns that are joined by a coordinating conjunction. Take a look at these examples:

Jake and Sally began singing 'Happy Birthday' to me.

Here, we have two separate nouns 'Jake' and 'Sally' that are joined together with 'and.'

Jake and his sister began singing 'Happy Birthday' to me.

As you can see, sometimes we have a mix of nouns and pronouns, but they're all still the subject of our sentence.

3. Complete Subjects

A complete subject is the entire noun phrases or noun clauses that includes the simple subject (the main noun or pronoun) and any words or phrases that modify it. Look at the examples:

The eight-year-old boy who won the contest dedicated the reward to his mother.

The boy standing next to Max is Michelle's new boyfriend.


Keep in mind that you cannot pick the head of the noun phrase and single out one word (e.g. the boy in the example above) as the subject of the sentence. Because the subject is not just any boy; it is 'the boy standing next to Max.'

What Does a Subject Do?

the subject of the sentence is 'the bear'

A subject in a sentence can do different things:

  • The subject performs an action

Malcom is playing at the beach.

  • When the verb of the sentence is a linking verb, the subject is described and identified

My sister is very stubborn. She is the one with red hair.

  • When the sentence is in passive voice, the subject has an action done to it

My sister was taken to the hospital.

Finding The Subject

One simple way to find the subject in a sentence is to find the verb. When you identify the verb, you can identify the subject.

  • In an declarative sentence, the subject usually appears before the verb;

The bear eats honey.

Does the bear eat honey?

  • In an imperative sentence, the subject is normally implied and therefore omitted

Eat! → (You) eat!

Tricky Subjects!

1. Inverted Sentences

Sometimes people change the positions of parts of the sentence for emphasis or for literary purposes. In such cases, the subject usually appears after the verb.

Behind the picture was the safety box with all the money.

Find the verb first, and then ask yourself 'what was?' The safety box was. The safety box with all the money was behind the picture.

2. Sentences with prepositional phrases

When a sentence begins with an adverbial phrase or adverb, it is important to identify the subject of the sentence because the subject is never the adverbial phrase or adverb itself. Rather, it is typically a noun or pronoun that comes after the adverbial phrase or adverb. For example:

After the interview, I went to a bar to relax.

The adverbial phrase is part of the predicate, even if it is at the beginning of the sentence.

Here are the books you wanted.

You can rearrange the sentence to its normal order: 'The books you wanted are here'. In this case, 'here' is an adverb.


Subjects are usually used at the beginning of the sentences to show who does the action or sometimes the subject is something which the whole sentence is about, and it actually does nothing. There are three types of subjects as follows:

Subjects Simple Compound Complete
Examples you/Alex/a girl/the boy my sister and I/Nina and her boyfriend A five-year-old boy/The woman in charge of the disaster

Remember that it is not forced to have a subject at the beginning of a sentence. For example, in imperatives most of the time the subject (you) is omitted. Sometimes subjects are in the middle of a sentence as it follows another clause which is put at the beginning.

Look at the subject pronouns below:

Subjective pronouns Suitable to be verb
First person singular I am
Second person singular You are
Third person singular He is
Third person singular She is
Third person singular It is
First person plural We are
Second person plural You are
Third person plural They are


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