The subject is the topic of the sentence. The predicate is what is said about the subject.



The balloon

New York City

The lion tamer

floated up through the trees

is a major cultural center

astonished the audience

In most cases, as in the preceding examples, the subject of a sentence comes first, followed by the predicate. However, there are instances when the subject is placed after the predicate, omitted from the sentence, or placed inside the verb.


- Into the valley or death rode the six hundred.

- Wash the car by tonight. (subject is understood)

- Are your parents coming tomorrow?

- There are four chickens in the yard. (There occupies the place of the subject, but four chickens is still the subject of the sentence.)


The most common forms of the subject are nouns, pronouns, and proper nouns.


- Carol came close to flunking her classes this year.

- Why don’t you pick up some lettuce for tonight?

- Who left these socks here?

At times, noun phrases and clauses, gerunds and gerund phrases, and infinitive phrases can also function as the subject.


- The girl on the swing is my niece. (noun phrase)

- What they said upset Francine. (noun clause)

- Swimming is my favorite sport. (gerund)

- Playing checkers kept him from thinking about his injuries. (gerund phrase)

- To see clearly is an artist’s greatest task. (infinitive phrase)

a) Complete Subject

The noun or pronoun and all its modifiers are known as the complete subject.


- The ship in the harbor seemed small and frail.

- What he said in the car surprised us all.

- The trees, which had been damaged in the storm, were cut down the next day and burned.

b) Simple and Compound Subjects

The noun or pronoun by itself is known as the simple subject. It is important to identify the subject because it controls the form of the verb used in the sentence.


- The ship in the harbor seemed small and frail.

- Daffodils reported the fire immediately.

The compound subject is composed of two or more nouns, pronouns, or phrases or clauses to express the topic of a sentence.


- The wheat and oats ripped late this year. (nouns)

- She and I used to be best friends in high school. (pronouns)

- What he wanted and what he got were two different things. (noun clause)

- Hiking in the mountains and camping out at night are experiences everyone should enjoy. (gerund phrase)


The predicate always contains a verb. An action verb generally will have an object as well as various verb modifiers. A linking verb will have a complement along with its verb modifiers. Thus, the predicate usually is composed of a verb, object or complement, and verb modifiers.

a) Predicate with Action Verbs

Ø The most common form of predicate is one in which the verb describes some sort of action. The verb is followed by a direct object (d.o.) and, in some cases, by an indirect object (ind.o.)


- Indiana Hones threw the jewel (d.o.) his partner (ind.o.).

- I brought four sandwiches (d.o.) and one pizza (ind.o.).

- Carl Lewis won four gold medals (d.o.) in the Olympics.

- She called a cab (d.o.) for him (ind.o.).

Ø Some action verbs can drop their objects and still make sense. The predicate then consists of the verb only.


- They have been practicing.

- We were reading.

- The reporter disappeared.

- The weather has changed.

Ø Action verbs can also take complements. Nouns, pronouns, prepositional phrases, adverbs, adjectives, and verb phrases can serve as complements in the predicate.


- He taught the dog to roll over. (The infinitive phrase to roll over is the complement.)

- I call him a prince. (The noun prince is the complement.)

- They made camp on the hill. (The prepositional phrase on the hill is the complement.)

- Her pony behaved beautifully. (The adverb beautifully is the complement.)

- We saw the tornado heading this way. (The participial phrase heading this way is the complement.)

- She lay down in the tall grass. (The adverb down and the prepositional phrase in the tall grass are the complement and predicate direction and location.)

b) Predicate with Linking Verbs

Linking verbs that express being, seeming, or becoming need a predicate or verb complement to complete them. The more common of these verbs include seem, become, grow, taste, smell, appear, look, fee, and sound.


- He looks sick. (He looks is the complete. The adjective sick acts as the predicate complement.)

- I feel that you should apologize for your outburst. (The noun clause that you should apologize for your outburst is the verb complement.)

c) Compound Predicate

At times a sentence will contain more than one verb, object, or complement. These structures are known as compound verbs, compound objects, or compound complements


- The rookie bats like Reggie Jackson and fields like Willie Mays. (Two verbs function as the compound verb.)

- I gave the stove to Francis and the bookcase to Jill. (The two nouns stove and bookcase serve as the compound direct object of the verb gave.)

- Sammy’s week at camp was long and lonely. (The two adjectives long and lonely are the compound complement.)