The subject is sometimes called the naming part of a sentence or clause. The subject usually appears before the predicate to show (a) what the sentence is about, or (b) who or what performs the action.
Types of Subjects
A subject may be one word or several words.
(1) The subject may be just a single word: a noun or a pronoun. In this first example, the proper noun Felix is the subject of the sentence:
Felix laughed.In the next example, the personal pronoun he is the subject:
He laughed.(2) The subject may be a noun phrase--that is, a word group made up of a head noun and any modifiers, determiners (such as the, a, her), and/or complements. In this example, the subject is The first person in line:
The first person in line spoke to the television reporter.(3) Two (or more) nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases may be linked by and to make a compound subject. In this example, the compound subject is Winnie and her sister:
Winnie and her sister will sing at the recital this evening.
A Note About Subjects in Questions and Commands
In a declarative sentence, as we've seen, the subject usually appears before the predicate:
Bobo will return soon.In an interrogative sentence, however, the subject usually appears after a helping verb (such as will) and before the main verb (such as return):
Will Bobo return soon?Finally, in an imperative sentence, the implied subject you is said to be "understood":
[You] Come back here.
Examples of Subjects
In each of the following sentences, the subject is in italics.
- Time flies.
- We will try.
- The Johnsons have returned.
- Dead men tell no tales.
- Our school cafeteria always smelled like stale cheese and dirty socks.
- The children in the first row received badges.
- The birds and the bees are flying in the trees.
- My little dog and my old cat play hide-and-seek in the garage.
- Could you carry some of these books?
- [You] Go home now.
To learn more about subjects, see our glossary entry for subject along with the following articles: