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Every English sentence must contain a subject. A subject is anything that governs the action of a verb.

  • The dogs barked at me.
  • Stars are twinkling overhead tonight.
  • The gross national product of India is greater than that of its neighboring countries.

Generally, the subject is the doer of the action expressed by the verb; however, in passive sentences, the subject actually receives the action of the verb.

  • The ancient tree was destroyed by tiny bacteria.

Extremely simple sentences can consist of only a subject and verb.

Nightis falling.

A verb agrees with its subject in number and person. If the subject is singular, the verb it controls must be singular; and if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

  • My hands are cold. (my hands = third person plural)
  • The mail is late today. (the mail = third person singular)
  • am ready to leave. (= first person singular)

Subjects are almost always specifically named. However, even a single-word command can qualify as a sentence because it has an implied subject: you.

  • Stay! (You stay.)
  • Look! (You look.)
  • March! (You march.)

Subjects are usually nouns or pronouns. From a grammatical point of view, all the words that modify, explain, or identify the noun/pronoun are included as part of the subject. In these sentences, the main noun of the subject is underlined, but the entire subject is in boldface.

  • The man standing on the corner is selling t-shirts.
  • The movie that I was telling you about will be on TV tomorrow.

Infinitives and gerunds, which are derived from verbs but act as nouns, can also be subjects, along with their phrases.

  • Going for a drive in this terrible snowstorm would be a bad idea.
  • To identify the murderer is the police department’s goal.

Subjects can be simple (meaning that there is only one subject) or compound (meaning that there is more than one subject). Compound subjects are joined by a coordinating conjunction.

  • Later, Lupe and all her friends threw a party to celebrate.
  • Louis, Marisa, and Roxanne have the flu.

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