Securing the Subject of Subjects

Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Last week we discussed how predicates form half of a clause. This week we’ll look closer at the other half, subjects.

If the predicate is the engine of the action we communicate, the subject is the body of the vehicle being driven by it, including parts and accessories.

The subject includes at least one noun (or noun equivalent, such as a pronoun, a noun clause, or a gerund or infinitive phrase) and all its modifiers. It usually precedes the predicate and answers the question who? or what? in front of the predicate. It also is further categorized as a simple subject or a complete subject.

The simple subject is the main noun or nouns.
Examples:
The second-year slugger from Knoxville hit the baseball out of the park.
The thirsty tiger and her cubs went to the river to drink.
A well-appointed, neatly coiffed, fast-talking man on TV is selling kitchen cutlery.

The complete subject consists of the simple subject and all its modifiers.
Examples:
The second-year slugger from Knoxville hit the baseball out of the park.
The thirsty tiger and her cubs went to the river to drink.
A well-appointed, neatly coiffed, fast-talking man on TV is selling kitchen cutlery.

In our discussion of predicates, we pointed out they can be broken down into smaller parts of speech when they contain a linking verb such as be (in all its forms), seem, appear, become, remain, taste, look, smell, sound, or feel. We identified those parts as predicate nominatives, predicate adjectives, and predicate adverbs.

A synonymous term for these parts is subject complements, which either rename or modify the subject of the clause while completing the meaning of the verb. When we’re reviewing subjects in this context, we can refer to subject complements; when we’re examining predicates, we can refer to the predicate parts.

Subject complements can be nouns, pronouns, or possessive nouns or pronouns; adjectives; or adverbs of time or place.

Examples:
Raquel became a doctor after her diligent work in medical school (subject complement: noun).
As far as I’m concerned, it might as well be you (subject complement: pronoun).
Next week the house becomes the Changs’ (subject complement: possessive noun).
Your table settings look elegant (subject complement: adjective).
They don’t know if the field trip will be this week or next week (two subject complements: both simple adverbs).
Is that my car in your driveway (subject complement: adverbial prepositional phrase)?

Combined with our brief study of predicates, this overview of subjects should help with our basic understanding of the most elemental parts of a clause.

 

Pop Quiz

Using what you’ve learned in this article, identify the subject or subject complement in each sentence.

1. My guitar sounds spectacular with this amplifier.
a. Simple subject
b. Complete subject

2. Do you know if Margaret will be at the party?
a. Simple subject
b. Complete subject

3. He seems a fine candidate for library chairman.
a. Simple subject: noun
b. Subject complement: noun

4. Next month remains the likeliest time for a decision.
a. Subject complement: adverb
b. Subject complement: adjective

5. The chord change in that song sounds abrupt to me.
a. Subject complement: adverb
b. Subject complement: adjective

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. My guitar sounds spectacular with this amplifier.
b. Complete subject

2. Do you know if Margaret will be at the party?
a. Simple subject

3. He seems a fine candidate for library chairman.
b. Subject complement: noun

4. Next month remains the likeliest time for a decision.
a. Subject complement: adverb

5. The chord change in that song sounds abrupt to me.
b. Subject complement: adjective
Note: For some of our readers, this answer might have been elusive. If you chose a. Subject complement: adverb, consider the context even more closely. Abrupt is the adjective form, and abruptly is the adverb. Sounds here is used as an intransitive verb (linking verb) that does not take an object; it helps describes the subject. If sounds was used as an object-taking transitive verb in a sentence such as He sounded the chord change abruptly, the answer would be a. Subject complement: adverb.

Leave a Comment

Predicating Our Knowledge of Predicates

Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, at 11:00 pm

A thorough review of English structure includes understanding subjects and predicates in broader terms. While the concepts of subjects and predicates in their totality may not be as commonly taught as they once were, a brief study will both reinforce our facility as writers and grammarians and further acquaint us with grammatical terminology. Today, we’ll focus on the predicate, the engine of the …

Read More

Adjectives and Adverbs: Forms for Comparison

Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at 11:00 pm

A common error in using adjectives and adverbs arises from using the wrong form for comparison. Incorrect:  She is the poorest of the two women. Correct: She is poor. (positive form) She is the poorer of the two women. (comparative form/two items) She is the poorest of them all. (superlative form/more than two) Many one- …

Read More

More Ear-itating Word Abuse

Posted on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Although Arnold Schwarzenegger's star has faded, the erstwhile weight lifter-actor-governor hasn't quite left the building. Recently, a phonics teacher e-mailed her exasperation with broadcasters who mispronounce the first syllable in "Schwarzenegger," saying "swartz" instead of "shwartz." "There IS a difference!" she said. "It's gotten to the point that it's like nails on a chalkboard when …

Read More

Forging Sentence Ties That Bind

Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Strong writing—writing that moves, directs, and connects people—conveys thoughts and ideas with clarity and efficiency. Badly placed words create vagueness and confusion; well-placed ones achieve logic and unity. Careful writers join elements that are related in thought and separate those that are not. Consider the following sentence: He noticed a glass on the table that …

Read More

1 2 3 87