Securing the Subject of Subjects



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 an intransitive 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.

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

If you wish to respond to another reader's question or comment, please click its corresponding "REPLY" button. If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

4 Comments on Securing the Subject of Subjects

4 responses to “Securing the Subject of Subjects”

  1. p frazier says:

    You go back and forth from subject to verb and back again in explaining subject complements. It’s a bit confusing.

    Also – the example “Is that my car in your driveway (subject complement: adverbial prepositional phrase)?” is a little confusing.

    Can’t the sentence read as “that” – subject; “is” – verb ; “my car” – subject complement; “in your driveway” – prepositional phrase?

  2. richard woods says:

    Recently,I’ve read a sentence “For a lot of machines, an outage of fifteen seconds and one of fifteen minutes or fifteen hours produces precisely the same kind of damage and takes roughly the same time to put right again.” In the quoted sentence, the subject is “an outage and one,” but the predicate verb is “produces” and “takes.” I’m wondering if this usage is right and why.

    • You are correct that the sentence contains two subjects and therefore should be followed by plural verbs. We would also add a word to aid clarity:
      For a lot of machines, [both] an outage of fifteen seconds and one of fifteen minutes or fifteen hours produce precisely the same kind of damage and take roughly the same time to put right again.

Leave a Reply to richard woods Cancel reply

Please ensure that your question or comment relates to the topic of the blog post. Unrelated comments may be deleted. If necessary, use the "Search" box on the right side of the page to find a post closely related to your question or comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *