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What is a Subject in English Grammar?

Updated on September 19, 2020
What is a Subject?
What is a Subject? | Source

What is a Subject?

A subject is the part of the sentence that performs the action or it is a person or thing that is being described. Every verb must have a subject. Without a subject, it is impossible to make a complete sentence. Every sentence contains a subject, which is either explicit or implicit. For example, the highlighted words in the first four sentences are explicit subjects, while the fifth sentence contains an implicit subject:

  1. He is writing a book.
  2. They play cricket.
  3. She is reading a novel.
  4. Dogs are barking.
  5. (You) Come here.

How to Identify Subjects?

You might be wondering how to identify a subject in a given sentence. Don’t worry about that! I’m going to tell you how to identify the subject of a sentence. A subject answers the questions WHAT and WHO. Thus, we use the formula WHAT+VERB or WHO+VERB to find out the subject. Ask some questions using the above formula, and the answer you get is the subject. For example:

  1. Ahmad is writing a book.
  2. The book is on the table.

Ask the question, “Who is writing a book?” The only answer you get is Ahmad. That’s why; it is a subject. Similarly, when you ask the question, “What is on the table?” you get the answer, book. Thus, book is the subject of the sentence.

In the second sentence, there is a linking verb is, which connects the table to the book. That’s why; book is a subject.

Types of Subjects

There are three kinds of subjects: Simple, Complete and Compound Subjects

Simple Subjects

A simple subject is the most important word of a sentence. It is a kind of subject, which consists of only one word and has no additional describing words. For example, the highlighted words in the following sentences are simple subjects:

  1. The car collided with a truck.
  2. Ahmad got injured in the accident.
  3. The king will address the nation tomorrow.
  4. She was a paragon of virtue.

Complete Subjects

A complete subject is a kind of subject, which consists of a simple subject along with describing words. It is a combination of many words describing the simple subject. Look at the following sentences:

  1. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  2. The big man is coming.
  3. The pleasant weather in Dubai is a blessing in disguise.
  4. The undaunted captain will win the match for us.

In the above-mentioned, sentences, the highlighted words are complete subjects, while the words, fox, man, weather and captain are simple subjects. The additional words used with the simple subjects are describing words.

Compound Subjects

A compound subject is a kind of subject, wherein more than one subject is used. When there are two or three persons, places, things, nouns or pronouns doing the action, then such a combination of words in a sentence is called a compound subject. Look at the following sentences:

  1. Ahmad and Farooq will attend the seminar.
  2. The dog and mice will play with each other.
  3. The King and Queen will jointly address the nation.
  4. One car and two pickups will accompany us to the station.

In the above-mentioned sentences, each verb has got two subjects instead of one. That’s why; such like subjects are called compound subjects.

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© 2015 Muhammad Rafiq


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