Grammatical rules exist in every language. In English, a complete sentence must always contain a subject and predicate. Learning how to identify them will help you conjugate a verb and write better sentences.
Keep reading to learn the difference between subjects and predicates and how to spot them in sentences. Then, test your knowledge with the printable quiz and worksheet answers at the end!
Subject and Predicate Definition
A basic grammar rule is that a complete sentence always has a subject and predicate. So, a subject is what or whom the sentence discusses, and the predicate discusses the subject.
What is a Subject?
The subject in a sentence is a noun or a pronoun which the sentence is all about. To determine the sentence’s subject, you need to isolate the verb and then ask, “what?” or “who” before it. Take a look at this example:
- The students went to the bookstore to get some classic books today.
The verb in this sentence is “went.” We ask, “who went?” because we refer to a person or persons. The students did. Therefore, the complete subject of the sentence is the phrase “the students.” But the simple subject is just “students.”
Here are other sentence examples with their subjects in bold.
Elon Musk officially opened Tesla’s first manufacturing facility in Europe on Tuesday (CNBC)
Here is its significance. Afghans know how to fight. (Aeon)
Kounde is very much the modern defender personified. (ESPN)
Chile is becoming an attractive country for entrepreneurs from India. (Entrepreneur)
The study builds on previous research from the team. (Forbes)
Difference Between a Simple, Complete, and Compound Subject
There are different kinds of subjects in sentences. Take a look at these three types.
The simple subject is the word or words that show what or whom the sentence is all about. It does not include modifiers like adjectives or possessive pronouns. It only wants to find out who or what is performing an action.
The simple subject only has a singular subject compared to a compound subject–for example:
- Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
In this sentence, “Alexander Graham Bell” is “doing” the verb, “invented.” Therefore, Alexander Graham Bell is the simple subject.
- The lady in red only wasted her time.
In this sentence, “the lady in red” is “doing” the verb, “wasted.” But it contains an article and a modifier. Remove “the” and the prepositional phrase “in red,” and you’ll get the simple subject, “lady.”
A prepositional phrase is a type of phrase in a sentence that includes the preposition and the object of the preposition.
The complete subject is the opposite of the simple subject since it includes all the modifiers of the subject in the sentence. All of the words tell whom or what a sentence is all about. Here are some simple examples.
- The new action film series will go live available on Tuesday.
What “will go live”? The new action film series will. The complete subject, “the new action film series” does the verb phrase, “will go live.” But its simple subject is “series.”
- The fascinated students spent thirty minutes of class time on the experiment.
“The fascinated students” is the complete subject because it answers the question “Who spent?”
A sentence includes a compound subject if there is a combination of subjects. Simple sentences may consist of compound subjects–for example:
- KFC and McDonald’s are fast-food chains.
In this sentence, the two subjects are “KFC” and “McDonald’s because they are both fast-food chains.
- My friends and I went to the art fair.
The compound subjects here are “my friends” and “I.”
Subject in an Imperative Sentence?
An imperative or compound sentence gives a demand, request, or instruction, typically beginning with a verb. The difference between subjects in imperative and declarative sentences is that imperative sentences always have a hidden “you” subject.
“You” is a stand-in for the audience or whoever receives the command. In the sentence “get your bag,” “you” is the subject because it is “you” who’s being told to get the bag. Here’s another example:
Take a walk around Saranac Lake and you’ll notice its density of Victorian-style homes with long porches. (BBC)
Who does the action of taking a walk? You are. Therefore, the subject is “you.”
What is a Predicate?
The predicate is a part of the sentence that modifies the subject or clause. It tells what the subject is doing or acknowledges the subject’s existence without action. Here are some examples of sentences with predicates in bold:
- The proposal aims to capture more of the wealth created by the soaring stock market of the last few years. (BBC)
- Romney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. (Business Insider)
- Political polarization in the U.S. was evident and intensifying long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, two years ago. (ABC News)
The simple predicate is a type of predicate that only includes the verb or verb phrase–for example:
- She danced.
In this sentence, the word that modifies the single subject “she” is the simple predicate “danced.”
- The receptionist nodded at me.
In this sentence, the simple predicate is “nodded” because it’s the verb that tells what the subject, “receptionist” is doing.
The complete predicate contains the verb combined with all the other words that modify the action. In the previous example, “she nodded at me,” the complete predicate is “nodded at me.” Here’s another example:
- I drank all the milk yesterday.
The complete predicate in this sentence is “drank all the milk yesterday,” which describes the action that “I” did.
- My father cooked dinner.
While the simple predicate is “cooked,” the complete predicate is “cooked dinner.”
A compound predicate is a predicate where there is more than one predicate–for example:
- She runs, jumps, and plays too much for her age.
The compound predicates here are “run,” “jumps,” and “plays.”
Sentences can also have both compound subjects and predicates–for example:
- Lily and James text and call each other.
The compound subject here is “Lily” and “James,” while the compound predicate is “text” and “call.” Notice how compound subjects and predicates are combined by correlative and coordinating conjunctions.
Subjects and Predicates in Compound Sentence
Aside from simple sentences, many other types of sentences might make you wonder where the subject and predicate are. A compound sentence is one with two or more simple sentences or independent clauses. Here’s an example:
- I ran to the garden, and she hid behind the tree.
The subject in the first independent clause is “I,” while the complete predicate is “ran to the garden.” In the second clause, the subject “she” is modified by the predicate “hid behind the tree.”
Subjects and Predicates in a Complex Sentence
More complicated sentences will challenge you to look for the subjects and predicates like the complex sentence. This type of sentence contains one independent clause and one dependent clause.
Dependent clauses may come before independent clauses to become inverted sentences. Make sure to use a comma to separate them–for example:
- Because of my husband, I already like this band.
The subject of the sentence is not “husband” or “band,” but “I.” And the complete predicate is “already like this band because of my husband.”
Subject and Predicate Sentences That Uses Passive Voice
A passive voice sentence usually has the word “by.” The person or object that’s performing the action is at the end of the sentence or not in the sentence at all. You can determine the subject by looking at what the verb agrees with–for example:
- The emails were sent this morning.
Instead of asking, “who sent?”, we ask “what was sent?” The subject in this example is “the emails” or “emails.”
The predicate is the action performed on the subject instead of being the action performed by the subject. In this example, the predicate is “were sent this morning.”
Learn the Different Parts of the Sentence
One of the most essential grammar rules is that a basic sentence structure always has a subject and a predicate. The subject is the thing or person doing the action, while the predicate contains the action.
Have you mastered subjects and predicates and their simple, complete, and compound types? Take the quiz and check the worksheet answers to see if you got the items correct!