skip navigation

Subject / Predicate

Identifying basic elements in a sentence

Charlie raised his hand.
 

 

The Subject and the Predicate

SUBJECT: NP  PREDICATE: VP

A basic element in every clause is the subject. The subject is the person or thing doing the action, "the agent" or the "doer". The subject is realized by a noun phrase (NP) which is composed of a noun (N) any determiner (Det) or any modifiers (Adj., Adv. + Adj.). N – person, animal, place, thing, or concept

The other basic and necessary element of a clause is a predicate which includes a verb phrase (VP). The verb (V) may require an object (He gave a gift.)  and/or an indirect object (He gave me a gift.), or a predicative complement (It seems good.)  The predicate may also include other elements such as adverb phrase (AdvP) with one or more adverbs (Adv), a prepositional phrase (PP), or a clause, etc.

SUBJECT: NP PREDICATOR: V COMPLEMENT: NP  

Charlie  proper noun

rose.  *(rise – rose)

 

The verb doesn't require a complement.

The boy   determiner + noun

raised 

his hand  (obj.)

The verb requires a complement.

That boy    determiner + noun

gave

me  (ind. obj.)  his hand.  (dir. obj.)

The verb  requires two complements.

  †STATE-OF-BEING VERB PREDICATIVE COMP  

He    pronoun

is / seems    copula

content(adj.) 

The verb requires an adjective complement.  

Categories:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective
Functions: Subject:  Subject,   Predicate: Predicator (V) Complements: Object, Indirect Object, Predicative Complement  Adjuncts: (modifiers) Adj, Adv

Complements: dependents of the verb or verb phrase: Object, Indirect Object
Adjuncts: dependents (modifiers) or supplements, elements that are more loosely attached to the clause (Huddleston 15 §5)
Supplements: interpoloations, appendages  (clauses or phrases tacked on but not closely related the central idea of the sentence)

 

*See rise / raise,
A related page is Clause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subject

A Head Noun and its Modifiers

Sentence subject
 

 

 

Subject — head noun and its modifiers

A subject includes the head noun (main noun) which may or may not require a determiner, and one or more aduncts (additional words not required, such as modifiers).

MOD. TO MODIFIER 1 MODIFIER 1 HEAD NOUN MODIFYING CLAUSE 2 *MOD. TO MODIFIER 2
PRE-POSITION  PRE-POSITION    POST POSITION  POST POSITION 

 

Junior / Master / Mister / Professor
(Noun Modifiers) 

Charles
subject

who knows the answer 

all of the time 
(adverb of time) 

 

The / This / Our   (determiner)

[who is] next to you 
(Reduced clause or Prep Phrase)

 

Exceptionally 
(Degree adverb)

clever 
(adjective)

knowing the answer  
(reduced clause)

 

Very 
(Degree adverb)

enthusiastic 
(adjective)

who(m) you met   

 very recently 
(Adverbs ofdegree & time)

 

Feeling confident, 
(reduced modifying clause)

in the white T-shirt 
(prep phrase)

 

 

While smiling,**
(time-related clause)

in order to impress me   (infin. clause)

with his knowledge 
(prep. phrase - modifies clause before it)

Degree adverb modifies
Modifies the following modifier by telling "How much?"

modifies head noun
Modifies the head noun

modifies head noun
Modifies the head noun

modifies head noun
Modifies the clause or phrase directly before it.

Pre-position modifiers are placed before the noun.  Post-position modifiers are placed after the noun.
Head noun – the head noun is the main noun. It is distinguished from other nouns which may function as modifiers or as parts of other phrases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predicate

A Verb and Its Complements and Adjuncts

 

sentence predicate
 

 

Predicate 1 – a verb and its complements and adjuncts

A predicate includes the verb, its complements (a word or words required by the verb to complete its meaning, such as a direct / indirect object), and may include adjuncts (additional words not required, such as adverbs for degree, frequency, manner, focus, opinion, time, and place). 

 

MOD. TO ADVERB 1 ADVERB 1 VERB OBJECT NOUN    ADVERB 2

rather (adv. degree)

quickly (adv. manner)

raised 

his hand.

 

all  (modifies too) / too (modifies often)

often  (adv. frequency)

put 

his hand    

up.   (adverb of place)

 

now   (adverb of time)

raised 

his hand    

in the air.   (preposition of place)

 

only (adv. focus)

waved

his hand

for a moment. (preposition of time)

very (adv.degree)

confidently (adv. manner) 

rose (intransitive)

 

upward.  (in that direction)  (adverb of place)

 

whenever he can

shows   

me his hand  (indirect & direct objects)

 

 

all of a sudden 

stretched   

his hand  

high.   (adverb of place)

modifies modifier to verb
Modifies the adverb by telling "How much?"

modifies verb
Modifies the verb by telling "How?"
 

 

 

modifies verb
Modifies the verb by telling "Where?"

*rose (v.) – stood up
intransitive
– a verb that does not take an object. See Intransitive Verb List.
transitive – a verb that takes an object direct and indirect objects

 

 

 

Subject and Predicate — together with complement and multiple adjunct words (modifiers)

Very clever Charlie who sits behind me suddenly raised his hand up high in the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predicate

Copula or State of Being Verb

 

 

 

Predicate 2 – a state-of-being verb and its complements and adjuncts

A predicate may also have a "be" verb, also called a copula or copular verb, meaning "linking" because it links two elements: the subject with a second element. For a list of "be"–like verbs, see States of "Being".

MOD. TO ADVERB 1 ADVERB 1 "STATE OF BEING" VERB †PREDICATIVE COMPLEMENT   

 

 

is

content.   (adj.)      

 

 

 

is

a student / nine.   *(noun)      

 

 

fortunately  (adv. evaluation)

seems

better  (adj.) 

today.    (preposition of time)

very   (adv.degree)

often (adv. frequency)

appears 

pleased     (adj.) 

with his answer(prep. phrase)

 

possibly  (adv. opintion)

became 

angry. (adj.) 

 

modifies modifier to the verb
Modifies the adverb by telling "How much?"

modifies verb
Modifies the verb by opinion or frequency.
 

 

 

 

† Also called a "predicate adjective" or "predicate nominative"
*A "be" verb may be followed by an adjective ("descriptive be") or a noun ("specifying be")  Describing v. Specifying "be"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTION LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

In traditional grammar, a clause is constructed with a subject and a verb.  The subject may consist of additional modifiers: determiner, adjective, prepositional phrase, adjective phrase, etc.  The verb is either dynamic or stative.  Dynamic verbs take adverb modifiers, stative verbs do not. The verb is either intransitive (does not accept an object) or transitive (accepts an object).  If it does accept an object, then the object can also take additional modifiers.

In traditional grammar, when a noun has a modifier, the word "adjective" is used both for the "part of speech" and for the function (of modifying). No distinction is made between category (part of speech) and function (a relational concept).  For this reason, in current grammar descriptions, one does not say "adjective clause" (a clause cannot be an adjective, but a clause can function as a modifier) or "a noun used as an adjective" (a noun cannot be an adjective, but a noun can function as a modifier).

In current linguistic description, a clause includes a subject and a predicate which are respectively realized with a noun phrase (NP) and a verb phrase (VP).  A NP consists of a head noun and determiners (if required) and modifiers (optional).   The head governs (determines) the dependents, elements that can be added to the noun phrase . "The head of a clause is realized by a verb phrase VP. And the head of the VP is realized by a verb. "The verb thus functions as the ultimate head of the clause, and is the syntactically more important element within it: properties of the verb determine what other kinds of elements are required or permitted."  (See Huddleston  for a more precise and complete summary. "Sentence and Clause" 2.1–8)

CATEGORIES:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective

FUNCTIONS: Subject:  Subject,   Predicate: Predicator (V) Complements: (elements required by verb) Object, Indirect Object, Predicative Complement  Adjuncts: (optional modifiers) Adj, AdjP, Adv, AdvP, PP.s
 

REED-KELLOGG DIAGRAM  — SUBJECT TREE DIAGRAM — SUBJECT

The clever boy next to you raised his hand

complex subject tree 

REED-KELLOGG DIAGRAM  — PREDICATE TREE DIAGRAM — PREDICATE

Charlie suddenly raised his hand high in the air

tree diagram of predicate

Categories:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective; Subord – Subordinator;  Coord – Coordinator; Interj – Interjection

Functions: Subject:  Subject,   Predicate: Predicator (V) Complement:  elements required by the verb: object, indirect object, predicative complement  Adjuncts: (optional modifiers) Adj,  Adv, clause

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Proverbs

curious cat

 

 

 

Read Context

Curiosity killed the cat. — Wanting to know too much can get a person into serious trouble.
Two wrongs don't make a right. — This is a warning to a person who wants revenge.
Absence makes the heart grow stronger. — When a person we love is away, we tend to love them more. (A proverb we say to people who spend too much time together.)

Too many cooks spoil the broth.  — We say this when it is better to have one person fully in charge of doing something (to avoid a situation in which everyone puts salt in the soup.)
A squeaking wheel gets oiled. — We tell this to a person who needs to keep on asking or complaining until the problem is properly fixed.

absence (n.) – not bing present, not being there)

broth (n.) – soup

in charge of (verb phrase) – reponsible for managing something

proverb (n.) – a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought

get oiled (v.) – has received oil to make something work

revenge (n.) – something a perosn does in order to punish someone who has hurt or offended the person or loved ones

spoil (v.) – ruin, make bad

tend (v.) – be more likely,

squeak (n.) – a high pitch sound made by a mouse or equipment that needs oil

 

 

 

 

Identify the subject in each proverb (saying) below.

  1. Select the word or words that make up the subject of the sentence (noun + modifiers)
  2. Read the feedback box to check your answer, or click the "Check 1-5" button at the bottom.
1.
Curiosity killed the cat.






2.
Two wrongs don't make a right.








3.
Absence makes the heart grow stronger.   








4.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.






5.
A squeaking wheel gets oiled.   








 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Proverbs (more)

a bird in the hand
 

Read the Context

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. — It's better to have a small real advantage than the possibility of a greater one.

Haste makes waste. — Hurrying causes a person to make mistakes.

A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. — literal meaning (exactly as each word reads)

A stitch in time saves nine. — A timely effort will prevent more work later.

Ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer. — literal meaning

advantage (n.) – benefit, good point, plus

client (n.) – person who receives a service in a business.

dominate (v.) – take control of something or someone

fool (n.) – a stupid person, or a person who has done something stupid

haste (n.) – the action of hurrying

in time (expr.) – before it is too late; at a time the desired action is still possible

lawyer (n.) – attorney, someone whose job is to advise people about laws, write formal agreements, or represent people in court

literal (adj.) – each word has its own, original meaning  (opposite: expression)

stitch (n.) – a short piece of thread that has been sewn into a piece of cloth, or the action of the thread going into and out of the cloth

wag (v.) – move from side to side, espeically the tail of a dog

 

 

 

 

 

Identify the complete predicate in these proverbs (sayings).

  1. Select the word or words that make up the predicate and its modifiers [verb + object phrase + modifiers.]
  2. Read the feedback box to check your answer, or click the "Check 6-10" button at the bottom.

 

6.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.





7.
Haste makes waste.  





8.
A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.





9.
A stitch in time saves nine.




10.
Ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer. 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Saturday at the Movies

audience
 

 

 

Read the Context

— How is the movie so far?

— Well…

The girl behind me is throwing popcorn.

The guy wearing a blue shirt is chewing bubble gum.

The guy wearing glasses is kicking the side of my chair.

The guy to my left is feeling bored with the movie.

The curly-haired woman next to me is humming along with the movie.

A kid walking down the aisle of the theater is carrying a freshly-popped bag of popcorn.

A crazy woman standing in the aisle is dancing along with the people in the movie.

Another guy keeps making wise cracks during the love scenes.

Actually, the movie is not very good.

Watching the audience is more entertaining than watching the movie.

aisle (n.) a walkway between or along sections of seats in a theater, classroom, or the like.

chew (v.) – crush with the teeth

hum (v.) – to sing with closed lips, without saying words

wise cracks (expression) – jokes; making fun of something

 

 

 

 

Identify the sentence part.

  1. Select the option that is the best description for the words in red.
  2. Read the feedback box to check your answer, or click the "Check 11-20" button at the bottom.

 

11.
The girl behind me is throwing popcorn.

noun
noun



12.
The guy wearing a blue shirt is chewing bubble gum.


noun



13.
The guy wearing glasses is kicking the side of my chair.


noun



14.
The guy to my left is feeling bored with the movie.





15.
The curly-haired woman next to me is humming along with the movie. 


noun



16.
A  kid walking down the aisle is carrying a freshly-popped bag of popcorn. 


noun



17.
A crazy woman standing in the aisle is dancing along with the people in the movie. 


noun



18.
Another guy keeps making wise cracks during the love scenes






19.
Actually, the movie is not very good.


noun



20.
Watching the audience is more entertaining than the movie. 


noun