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.
What Is The Subject?
If we want to define 'subject' in the simplest way possible, we could say that:
The subject is the person or thing doing something.
The subject is the doer of the action.
Types of Subjects
We have three main types of subjects. They are:
- simple subjects
- compound subjects
- complete subjects
Let's start with the simplest form:
1. Simple Subjects
By simple subject, we mean one simple individual word (sometimes a word plus a definite or an indefinite article) that acts as a subject. It can be:
- subject personal pronouns
- masculine or feminine proper names
- collective nouns
Here the subject is the pronoun 'we'.
'He' is the subject of the sentence. The subject is doing something, in this case, running.
Subject Personal Pronouns
As you saw in the example above, the subject of a sentence can be a personal pronoun.
Personal pronouns can be either subjects or objects in a sentence. In the table below, you can see the list of subject personal pronouns. (To learn all about them, you can read the lesson personal pronouns.)
English Subject Pronouns
2. Compound Subjects
The second type of subject is a compound subject. As their names suggest, these subjects are comprised of two or more nouns or pronouns. Take a look at these examples:
Here we have two separate nouns 'Jake' and 'Sally' that are joined together with 'and'.
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
Complete Subjects are noun phrases or noun clauses. A noun phrases is a group of words that together act like a noun. Look at the examples:
Keep in mind that you can't pick the head of the noun phrase and single out one word (e.g. the boy in the example above) and say it's our subject. Because the subject is not just any boy; it's 'the boy standing next to Max.'
What Does a Subject Do?
A subject in a sentence can do different things:
- 1. The subject
Malcom is playing at the beach.
- 2. The subject is
describedand identified→ the verb of the sentence is a linking verb
My sister is very stubborn. She is the one with red hair.
- 3. The subject
has an action done toit → the sentence is in passive voice
My sister was taken to the hospital.
Pinpointing The Subject
One simple way to find the subject in a sentence is to find the verb first. When you identify the verb, you identify the subject.
- In an declarative sentence, the subject usually appears before the verb
- In an interrogative sentence, the subject usually comes after the auxiliary and before the main verb
- In an imperative sentence, the subject is normally implied and therefore omitted
Eat! → (
1. Inverted Sentences
Sometimes for emphasis or for literary purposes, people change the positions of parts of the sentence. In this case, the subject is usually after the verb.
Behind the picture was
Find the verb first and ask yourself 'what was?' The safety box was. The safety box with all the money was behind the picture.
2. Sentences with Adverb prepositional phrases
If a sentence begins with an adverbial phrase or adverbs like 'here' or 'there', they are never the subject.
After the interview,
The adverbial phrase is part of the predicate, even if it is at the beginning of the sentence.
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:
|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 (
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|