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How To Write a Proper Sentence

Updated on July 25, 2013

English Sentence Structure: Subject and Predicate

Every sentence must have a subject and predicate to be complete and proper.

  • The subject is whom or what the sentence is about.
  • The predicate tells you about the subject.

It is fairly easy to know what is the subject and what is the predicate.

  1. Find the verb (the action word) in the sentence.
  2. The word the verb is describing is the subject.
  3. The predicate, which includes the verb, tells about the subject.


  • The dog ate its dinner.

Subject: The verb "ate" is describing what the dog did. You can ask the question, "Who or what ate?" The answer is: the dog. Thus, the dog is the subject.

Predicate: The predicate is what the dog did. The dog ate its dinner. Thus, ate its dinner is the predicate.

  • The beautiful girls danced until dawn.

Subject: beautiful girls (The who or what of the sentence. This is also known as a complex subject because it includes the modifying word beautiful with the simple subject, girls.)

Predicate: danced until dawn. (What the girls did. This is also known as the complex predicate because it contains more than just the verb or simple predicate.)

Simple Predicate

The simple predicate is the verb of the sentence and not all of the words that modify it.

  • The beautiful girls danced until dawn.

The (complex) predicate: danced until dawn

The simple predicate: danced

Simple Subject

The simple subject is the subject without all the other words that may modify it.

  • The beautiful girls danced until dawn.

The (complex) subject: the beautiful girls

The simple subject: girls

Compound Predicate

A compound predicate contains more than one verb describing the subject and any modifiers.

  • The traffic violation was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign.

Compound predicate: was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign.

Compound Subject

A compound subject may include more than one who or what of a sentence and any modifiers.

  • My sister and I played volleyball in high school.

Compound subject: My sister and I

Be careful...

A few sentences can be tricky.

  • If a sentence is a command, many times the subject is implied and that subject is "you".

Go sit at the table in the back. (The subject, you, is implied in this command.)

  • Be careful with sentences beginning with "there" followed by a "to be" verb. "There" is not the subject.

There is a baby crying in the movie theater. (The subject is baby. Again, ask the question, Who is crying? The answer is the baby.)

Examples of Linking Verbs

  • be (all forms)
  • appear
  • look
  • act
  • taste
  • smell
  • sound
  • get
  • grow
  • seem
  • become

Subject Complements and Linking Verbs

  • Sometimes sentences contain intransitive verbs like linking verbs. In these cases we may have a subject complement which has a predicate noun that renames the subject or a predicate adjective that describes the subject. A subject complement is connected to the subject by a linking verb.

The crystal has a rainbow glow.

Subject: the crystal

Linking verb: has

Subject complement (predicate adjective): rainbow glow

The rat was so large it looked like a possum.

Subject: the rat

Linking verb: looked

Subject complement (predicate noun): a possum

Comments, Thoughts, Questions?

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    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Miss Long, thanks for the comments. I appreciate the link. :)

    • misslong123 profile image

      Michele Kelsey 4 years ago from Edmond, Oklahoma

      You have done a great job at helping writers with the basic skill of writing a proper sentence. I went in to some grammar elements in the HubPage I am writing, but it was not this detailed. May I include a link to your HubPage for my readers? It should also bring you more traffic. Michele

    • profile image

      Richard 5 years ago

      We are coming with. On a commercial and makes me crazy. Isn't the proper sentence....we are coming with you. .?

    • profile image

      Den 5 years ago

      "Please be informed that I'm on leave on 10th June 2012".Is this a right sentence?

    • profile image

      Jolene 5 years ago

      Is this a proper sentence?

      "The three (3) forms include the Company Information (SMS-57), Primary Contact Profile (SMS-57a), and Billing Contact Profile (SMS-57b) forms."

    • rdholtz profile image

      rdholtz 5 years ago

      I was one of those day dreamers growing up and didn't pay attention in writing and grammer class. Now that I'm too old to use my back to make a living I need to go back and learn the basics so I can create content on the Internet and generate income from it. I need Hubs like yours because I stumble on the basics and this is a good example of what I need.

    • profile image

      furthen 5 years ago

      someone is missing beside it a correct sentence

    • profile image

      shar 5 years ago

      What is the simple subject in the sentence

      My sister Amy is nice.

      is it sister or Amy?

    • profile image

      georgina dioneda 6 years ago

      can u teach me how to make sentence right?

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 6 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      Love your hubs. Keep them coming

    • profile image

      ayo 6 years ago

      i need someone to give practical advice on how to write flawless sentence in English language , i left school almost ten Years ago, i need to be able to write good sentence because of the new project am bout to embark on demand extensive writing. thanks

    • profile image

      benson 6 years ago


    • profile image

      Jack Moore 7 years ago

      This is great. Thanks so much. I'm currently struggling in English but these simple examples were able to help me understand what I got wrong. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      alyssa. 7 years ago

      "The picture is of me and Jaden,"

      "Jaden and i went to the grocery store,"

      both are proper, correct?

      when i take away the second subject from the first sentence, it will still be read properly as,

      "The picture is of me,"

      when i take away the second subject from the second sentence, it will still be read properly as,

      "I went to the grocery store,"

      someone PLEASE tell me i'm right!

    • profile image

      Sean Sheedy 8 years ago

      Is it okay to start sentences with the words "should" or "Using"?

    • profile image

      Tyler Watkins 8 years ago

      what is a linking verb and how do u use it send a comment back

    • profile image

      colin 9 years ago

      i have a question. is the following a proper sentence?

      Six minutes until she walks into the deli and immediately slips and falls on her face.

    • profile image

      Rob 9 years ago

      Your page states:

      The traffic violation was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign.

      Compound predicate: was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign

      But this is not a compound predicate. It's a compound object of the preposition "for." "Speeding" and "running" are gerunds.

    • profile image

      Monica 9 years ago

      When to use indicate/indicates:

      Evaluation of the patient's history, laboratory data, diagnostic tests, radiological studies, and treatment protocol indicate/indicates little improvement in his overall condition.

    • profile image

      CPSToo 9 years ago

      Robin, do you ever consider helping write for people? I am in the process of making a brochure for our business. I have the thoughts, but not sure if I'm forming my sentences properly. Don't mind paying a fee. Let me know.

    • profile image

      Bob 9 years ago

      The Sentence: Sally's father traded his hused car for a new one.

      What is the simple predicate?

    • profile image

      Jonathon VS 10 years ago

      A good rule of thumb to determine whether a verb is an action verb or a linking verb is to replace it with a form of "be" (e.g. am, are, is, was, were). If the sentence conveys a similar idea, it's usually a linking verb (not always the case, but 80-90% of the time).

      The opera singer sounded terrible.The opera singer was terrible. (Basically the same idea; "sounded" is a linking verb)

      The night watchman sounded the alarm.The night watchman was the alarm.(Totally different connontations; therefore, "sounded" is an action verb in this case)

      One thing I noticed in your article: in the sentence, "the crystal has a rainbow glow," "has" is actually an action verb.

      The (article/adjective) crystal (subject noun) has (action verb) a (article/adjective) rainbow (adjective) glow (direct object/noun).

      It's not a predicate adjective because "glow" is a noun, and it's not a predicate nominative (predicate noun) because "has" is an action (predicate nominatives are used with linking verbs, direct objects with action verbs).

      Also, in your sentence, "The rat was so large it looked like a possum," "possum" is not a predicate noun, but an object of the preposition "like" ("like a possum" is a prepositional phrase). Surprisingly, that actually makes "looked" an action verb in that sentence (N-AV), even though it has the same meaning as, "she looked the part," (N-LV-N) or, "she looked nervous" (N-LV-A).

      Pardon me for splitting so many hairs, but I figured that as a fellow grammarian with such a strong reputation, you'd appreciate the correction. I hope I'm not attacking your article! I really appreciate your posts! They're a breath of fresh air! :)

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for reading, Wajay! ;)

    • profile image

      wajay_47 10 years ago

      This is a very informative hub. Thanks, Robin.