what is a predicate and subject?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The two main parts of a sentence are a subject and a predicate.

Subjects are easy enough to spot because they're nounish--that is, they're nouns, noun phrases, or noun substitutes:

  • Mrs. Lippman had a son.
  • The police around here don't seem to have the first clue.
  • Was she a great big fat person?
  • Put the f@cking lotion in the basket!(You understood)
And they usually refer to whatever the sentence is about. If you're still having trouble, find the verb and ask yourself who the verb refers to.

For example, in the first sentence, the verb is "had," so ask yourself, "Who had?" The answer is clearly "Mrs. Lippman."

Predicates are made up of verbs and all the words governed by or modifying it. Basically, predicates tell us what the subject is doing or what state it's in. They're a bit trickier to spot, but once you know the subject, it's pretty easy to locate the predicate, because they tend to be whatever's left.

In the four sentences above, the unbolded, italicized portions are the predicates, and, like we said, they each tell us something about the subject--Mrs. Lippman had a son; the police don't have the first clue; she was a great big fat person--and so on.

The last sentence, "Put the f@cking lotion in the basket!," is a bit trickier because the subject doesn't appear in the sentence. But, if you know when the subject is you understood, you should be okay. If you don't know, the easy way to tell is if the sentence expresses a command, like,"Put your hands in the back...thumbs up!" "Get a hold of him more and feel his hand son, talk to him," or "Put the f@cking lotion in the basket!"

Another thing to remember is that there are simple subjects and predicates, and compound subjects and predicates. If you can spot the subject and the predicate, these should be pretty easy.

Simple subjects are just the subjects stripped of all the other words that modify it. It's usually a single noun or pronoun (such as "she" in the third sentence), but sometimes it can be more (like "Mrs. Lippman" in the third sentence).

In the second sentence the subject is "The police around here"; this may seem a bit tricky, but it's not too difficult to see that "the" and "around here" are modifying "police," which would be the simple subject.

Simple predicates are even easier--they're just the verb or verbs that link with the subject.

Compound subjects are multiple simple subjects:

  • Johns Hopkins, the University of Minnesota and Columbus Medical Center are three centers for transsexual surgery.
Compound predicates are multiple verbs referring to the same subject:
  • Get a hold of him more and feel his hand son, talk to him.