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How to Identify Subjects and Predicates

Learning how to identify subjects and predicates will help students and employees comprehend sentences and avoid sentence fragments and run-ons in their writing.

Sentence Subjects

Definition: The simple subject is the common noun, proper noun, or pronoun that the verb acts upon. The subject is the “do-er” or the “be-er” of the sentence. It tells whom or what the sentence is about. When additional words help name or describe the simple subject, this is known as a complete subject.

Simple Subject

The girl liked to dance. (girl)

Complete Subject

The kind police officer helped at the accident. (kind police officer)

How to Identify Sentence Subjects

The simple subject is usually found at the start of a declarative sentence. To find the subject of the sentence, first identify any prepositional phrases and eliminate the nouns and pronouns found in these phrases from consideration. The subject of the sentence is not part of a prepositional phrase. Frequently, in imperative sentences, the simple subject, “you,” is implied (suggested, not stated).

Sentence Predicates

Definition: The simple predicate is the verb that acts upon the subject of the sentence. It does the work of the “do-er” or the “be-er” of the sentence. The simple predicate shows a physical or mental action or it describes a state of being. When additional words help describe the simple predicate, this is known as a complete predicate. The complete predicate consists of the rest of the sentence other than the subject.

Simple Predicates

He thought of an idea. (thought)

She was a nice lady. (was)

An angry man tried to run me off the road. (tried)

Complete Predicate

He always thought of an idea. (always thought of an idea)

She was a nice lady. (was a nice lady)

An angry man tried to run me off the road. (tried to run me off the road)

How to Identify Sentence Predicates

To find the predicate, first identify the subject and ask “What?” The answer to this question should be the predicate. The predicate usually follows the subject in a sentence. However, it can be placed before the subject in a question (Was it your mother’s purse?), in an implied (suggested, not stated) sentence (Look out!), or in a phrase or clause at the beginning of a sentence to add special emphasis (Even more interesting was the fact that she knew it would probably rain).

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