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Examples to Identify Subjects in Sentences

A subject simply means who/what does something; subject may be a living thing or a non-living thing. — Mathew B. Christensen

The subject is the person or thing that performs the action of the verb. To find the subject, always look for the verb and then ask who? or what? before the verb. The answer you will find will be the subject.

One important point is that, a subject must precede its finite verb — meaning it must be followed by a finite verbOpens in new window.

Again, we can locate or trace out the subject by asking a question beginning with “who” or “what”, as Who or What is doing the action in a sentence or being the state of being in a sentence?

Consider the examples:
  • John is practicing the piano.
    (who is practicing the piano? — the answer is John. Here John is the subject of the sentence.)
  • Billy is coming home
    (who is coming home? — the answer is Billy. Here Billy is the subject of the sentence.)
  • The sky seemed hazy.
    (what seemed hazy? the answer is the sky. Here the sky is the subject and it indicate a state of being —which in this case is, being hazy.)

From the observation so far, we have been able to establish what a subject of a sentence is or what it means; now we may flex our knowledge further by putting up a detailed definition of the subject.

Subject is a word or a group of words who does something or something is done by him/her or by anything else or about whom or about which something is said.

The subject of a verb names the person or thing about whom or which something is done by the verb. A subject heads a sentence, and requires the verb to agree with it. A noun may be used as a subject of a verb.

NounsOpens in new window can function as subjects of verbs when they answer the question Who or what is doing the action in a sentence or being the state of being in a sentence?

Normally a subject precedes its verb but in some exceptional cases a subject comes after its finite verb.

Consider as example the following:
  • There lived a hobbit in the Valley of Anduin
  • Here is your book that you lost yesterday.
One more thing to add to your knowledge of subject is that subject can can occur in a variety of grammatical forms:
  1. Subject as noun:

    • Alice accepted the job offer.
    • Kelechi visits his mum every Saturday night.
    • Benjamin performed his favorite cultural dance at the new moon festival
    • Gretchen won the prize.
    • My class teacher gave me an assignment.
  2. Subject as pronoun:

    • She accepted the job offer.
    • He visits his mum every Saturday night
    • They found the missing piece.
    • I was at the new moon festival.
    • We love summer holiday.
  3. Subject as infinitive “to”

    • To cook is a daily activity.
    • To pray first thing in the morning is a good habit.
    • To err is human. To forgive is divine.
    • To gossip is a futile act.
    • To skip English class has a repercussion.
  4. Subject as a gerund noun:

    • Cooking is a daily activity
    • Keeping malice is a bad habit
    • Gossiping is a futile act.
    • coming home is a good experience
    • Playing tennis can be fun.
  5. Subject as a subordinate noun clause:

    • When the thief ran away is not known to me.
    • Where Ukeme works at is unknown to his fiancé.
    • Why Gretchen abandoned him is inconceivable.
    • What the reporter reported is not accurate.
    • Who loves his fellowmen is loved by God.

    In all the cited sentences if you observe carefully you will notice the subject is neither a noun, nor a pronoun, nor an infinitive ‘to’ nor a gerund noun, it is a subordinate noun clause. So a subordinate noun clause can be a subject of a sentence.

  6. Subject as a finite verb only:

    • Go.
    • Sit.
    • Dance.
    • Listen.
    • Sing.
  7. In each of these sentences the subject “you” is implied. It appears that somebody is ordering someone to do a certain thing.

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