Grammar for Authors: Subjects and Predicates

Happy 2019! The new year begins as we enter a new season in Grammar with Beth. We’ve gone through the basics of terminology for parts of speech. I debated long and hard over whether to delve deeper into parts of speech or branch out into an introduction to parts of sentences next.

In the end, I decided that we’ll next address the basics of parts of sentences and types of sentences, then go more in depth with all of them. After that, we’ll enter into rules territory, so that we can finally end up in “how to play with language as an author” land—the really fun stuff.

General Disclaimer: While I love grammar, I’m also new at learning it. I will do my best to explain things correctly. If you find that I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented something, please share that in the comments. Please do so kindly, though. The goal of this is for all of us to learn and become better writers, and people learn better from kindness than troll-ness.

(Disclaimer #2: I experienced my first internet troll over the topic of subjects. I killed him with kindness and we ended up having a decent conversation about grammar, but I’m especially nervous with this post. Please be kind. Seriously, the goal of this series is for all of us, me included, to learn. Hate and yelling don’t help anyone learn, but gentleness and kindness does.

Also, if there’s something I’m wrong about, I really, honestly want to know!)

At the most basic level, a sentence has two parts: A subject and a predicate.


Definition: The subject of a sentence is the noun that is performing the verb.

You can find reminders on what nouns and verbs here and here. If your verb is an action verb, the subject is what’s doing the action. If your verb is a linking verb, your subject is the noun being linked.

In these examples, the subject is in blue and the verb is italicized.

Another way to figure out the subject of a sentence is to find the verb and ask, “Who [verb]ed?” or “What [verb]ed?”

For example, I might have the sentence, “Running is my favorite activity.”

The subject in this sentence might be hard to find, because it could be mistaken for a different part of speech. To find it, I’ll look at the sentence and find a word I’m sure is a verb: “is”.

“Running is my favorite activity.”

Okay, now what is?

Running” is. Therefore, “running” is the subject. (It’s one of those tricky words that sometimes is a verb and sometimes is a noun.)

Now you try it with this sentence: “After dinner, we sang a timeless ballad.”

First, what is the verb? Is it an action, or is it a linking verb?

Second, who or what performed that verb?

Did you ask yourself, “Who sang?”

Did you answer, “we?”

You are exactly right! “We” is the subject of “After dinner, we sang a timeless ballad.”


Definition: A predicate is the verb and the words or phrases with the verb.

On a basic level, a predicate is almost everything in the sentence that isn’t a subject.

Sometimes, the verb and the predicate are the same thing. Sometimes, the predicate can be very long.

I know sometimes I need to see several forms of something in order to understand it. If you’re the same way, you might find this Khan Academy video about subjects and predicates helpful:

Subjects and Predicates, via Khan Academy

Next month, we’ll start breaking the predicate down into smaller pieces, so get excited for different kinds of objects and complements!

I have some exciting plans for this coming year! You can read more about them in this letter I wrote to my newsletter. While you’re at it, you can subscribe to my newsletter for early information on upcoming stories and events, as well as three free short stories!

All right, friends! I’d love to see your own sentences broken down into subjects and predicates in the comments. Show us your creative word-mixing! And have a lovely week :)

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