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1.2: Together Forever, Subjects and Predicates

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    We’ll begin with declarative sentences, sentences that make a statement instead of asking questions or giving orders. All of the examples you’ll see in the next several chapters are declarative sentences.

    As we begin, it’s helpful to know that declarative sentences in English usually follow this basic pattern:

    Subject + Predicate

    The subject comes first, and the predicate follows—usually.


    The subject is the star, the prima donna, of the sentence. It’s the part of the sentence that names who or what the sentence is about.

    The predicate always tells us something about the subject. Usually, the predicate tells us what the subject is doing (or has done), or it describes the subject.

    These very simple sentences follow the simple Subject + Predicate pattern:


    The cat Carroll
    Birds Hammerstein

    + Predicate

    fell. smiled. wrote. sang. swim.
    fly. composed.

    As these sentences illustrate, the subject and the predicate can each be only one word, so it’s possible to write a complete declarative sentence in just two words. (We cheated with The cat smiled.) In longer sentences, which we’ll see shortly, identifying the subjects and predicates of sentences becomes easy with practice.


    Every simple declarative sentence that we’ve seen contains a subject and a predicate, and the subject usually appears to the left of the predicate, at the beginning of the sentence or near it.

    In these cases, the complete subject and the complete predicate are each just one-word long. There’s one exception: The cat.

    We can add more words to those subjects and predicates. We can add modifiers, words that describe the subject and the predicate:

    Birds fly.
    Most birds in the United States fly well.

    In this longer sentence, we call birds the simple subject and fly the simple predicate.

    We call Most birds in the United States the complete subject, and we call fly well the complete predicate. That is, the simple

    subject and all its modifiers make up the complete subject. And the simple predicate with all its modifiers is the complete predicate. So, in Birds fly, the simple subject and the complete subject are identical, and so are the simple and complete predicates.

    Here are more examples, with the simple subjects and predicates in boldface:

    A beautiful day like today comes too seldom. Mary’s cat ran away yesterday.

    As the examples above show, some modifiers appear immediately before the word they modify: A, beautiful, Mary’s, too. But some modifiers can appear afterward, too: like today, seldom, away, yesterday.

    In the next examples, we begin with the sentence Irises grow. In each example, the simple subject and predicate are in bold; the complete predicate is underlined; and the rest of the sentence (the part not underlined) is the complete subject:

    Sometimes irises In the spring irises

    grow well near the garage. grow well in our garden.

    Here again, some modifiers of grow appear immediately before or after the word they modify: sometimes, well, near the garage, in our garden. And some modifiers of the predicate can even appear at some distance from grow: Sometimes, In the spring.

    Here are some more pairs of sentences, with the simple subject and the simple predicate in bold type and the complete predicate underlined:

    Many birds in the U. S. fly south in the winter. In the winter, many birds in the U. S. fly south.

    Oscar Hammerstein composed rapidly in the winter of 1927. In the winter of 1927, Oscar Hammerstein composed rapidly.

    As you see in the second sentence of each pair, parts of the complete predicate can appear before the subject. This is a common sentence pattern, and we’ll have more to say about it in later chapters.


    In some sentences, it’s possible to put the entire predicate before the subject; this is called transposed order (also known as inverted order). In the following sentences, the simple subjects and predicates are in bold type, and the complete predicate is underlined:

    Softly fell
    Gently came
    Into the quiet village roared

    the rain.
    the dawn.
    the steam locomotive.

    Use transposed order with restraint, or it can become just a way of showing off with words.

    In the next few chapters, we’ll learn more about subjects, predicates, and modifiers.


    Answers to these exercises are in the back of the book. After you answer one set, check your answers before you go on—sometimes the answers will help you with the next set.

    1a. Write the definitions of the simple subject and the simple predicate.

    Together Forever: Subjects and Predicates | 5

    1b. In the following sentences, identify the simple subject and the simple predicate. To help you, the complete predicate is underlined.

    1. Rain falls.
    2. Edward knocked at the door.
    3. In the morning, the family ate on the porch.
    4. In the morning, pancakes seemed like a good idea.
    5. Into the night, into the darkness, recklessly rode Rudolpho.

    1c. You’ll get no help with these! Once again, identify the simple subject and the simple predicate. Then identify the complete subject and the complete predicate.

    1. Wendell behaved politely.
    2. Tonight that nice family ate on the porch again.
    3. Backward ran sentences. [Modified from Wolcott Gibbs.]
    4. In the spring, the calla lilies were in bloom again.
    5. This morning Rudolpho was waiting on the porch for


    1.2: Together Forever, Subjects and Predicates is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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