The Grammar Guardian Presents – Building Sentences [subject and predicate]

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Note: The examples used in this article are a continuation of the Story of Millie Black.  To read Millie’s entire story, go back and start with Nouns.  All of the previous chapters are also listed at the bottom of this article for your convenience.   If you read the precious chapters or are just here to learn about Adjectives, and not Millie, read on.

Note 2: All images are courtesy of Quanta Ignis Photography

Subject and predicate

Lets start our look at building sentences by looking at the following sentence:

Millie followed Jake out of the field.

At their core, sentences can be split into two sections – Subjects and Predicates.

The subject of a sentence is the sentence’s topic. This represents who or what the sentence is talking about. In this sentence the topic is Millie.

The predicate of a sentence is the action of the sentence. It represents what the topic is doing or having done to them. The predicate of the above sentence is followed Jake out of the field.

I like to ask two questions when decoding sentences.

  1. Who or what are we talking about? We are discussing Millie. (subject)
  2. What about her/him/it? She followed Jake out of the field. (predicate)

But of course, it’s not that simple. You knew that, right?

Complete vs. Simple Subject

The complete subject is the main noun and all of the adjectives attached to it. The simple subject of a sentence is just the noun by itself. Consider this sentence:

The proud, beautiful woman refused to glance at her sister’s house as she passed.

The simple subject of this sentence is “woman.” However, the complete subject is “The proud and beautiful woman”. The additional words “the proud and beautiful” give additional information about the simple subject, woman.

Other Types of Subjects

Compound Subjects

Sometimes a sentence has more than one subject, and a single predicate can refer back to both subjects at once. When this happens it is called a compound subject. The following sentences have compound subjects.

Millie and Jake walked down to the dock where a boat was waiting. They climbed aboard in silence. Two men and a woman stared at Millie from the back of the boat.

The Unspoken “You”

In some sentences the subject is not expressly written; rather it’s implied. These are called imperative sentences. The unspoken subject for an imperative sentence is “You”. Consider this example.

“Take us out.” Jake’s deep voice echoed in the quiet.

What is the subject of the sentence “Take us out.”? It is understood that the subject here is “You”.

Complete vs. Simple Predicate

The simple predicate is just the main verb. Paired together with a simple subject, they become a complete sentence: Millie looked. The complete predicate is everything in a sentence that tells about the subject. . This can include a modification, an object or an enhancement of that main verb. Look at the following sentence.

Millie looked at the trio huddled in the back of the boat.

The complete predicate of this sentence is looked at the trio huddled in the back of the boat. However the simple predicate is merely the verb “looked”.

Compound Predicate

Just like there are compound subjects, there are compound predicates. Compound predicates involve two verbs separated by the word and or the word or.

She walked over to the woman and touched her cheek.

Notice there are two complete actions in this sentence. First, Millie walked over to the woman and then she touched her cheek. The two actions walked and touched form a compound predicate.

Subject Verb Agreement

Improper sentence structures often trip up even the most conscientious writers. Be aware of these common pitfalls and tips to help you in matching the right subject with the proper predicate.

If the subject is compound and connected with “and”, the verb should be in its plural form

Both Millie and the woman were breathing heavily, unshed tears in their eyes. (Note that were breathing is the plural, was breathing singular.)

If the subject is compound and connected with “or”, the verb should be singular.

Neither Millie nor the other woman knows what to say in that moment. Finally Millie’s name rushed from the woman’s mouth with a ragged sob. (Note that knows is the singular and know is the plural form of the verb. Know in its singular form refers back to either Millie or the woman.)

If the subject is compound, connected with “and” and contains both singular and plural subjects, the verb should match whichever subject it is physically closest to.

This woman and these men know what is about to happen, Millie thought. Her heart sank. (Again, note that knows is the singular and know is the plural form of the verb. Know refers back to the verb it’s closest to: men know)

“Doesn’t” is singular. “Don’t” is plural.

It doesn’t have to be this way,” one of the men said quietly. “We don’t want any trouble.

Make sure to match the simple predicate with the simple subject. There may be other phrases in between.

Jake, his face hard but his eyes softening, watched the exchange. (Subject +predicate = Jake watched.)

The other of the two men was softly praying. (Subject +predicate = Other was praying)

In sentences beginning with the word “there”, remember that “there” is not the subject. In these cases the subject is often at the end of the sentence and the verb should agree with the actual subject.

“There are no other options, Millie. You know this.” Jake said. “I would not have asked you if there were.” (Subject +predicate = options are)

Finally, keep in mind that some words may appear plural, but are actually singular and some words may appear singular but are actually plural. Make sure you understand which is which. (You also can also check our recent Tips, Tricks and Tools feature on Singular and Plural words)

Millie finally looked back at Jake. Her eyes began to glow faintly. “Is the team ready, then?” she asked. Jake nodded. He knew whom she was referring to.

Everyone is already in position.” She nodded, her expression once again masked and stepped up to the captain’s seat. The engine roared to life as she turned the key.

Conclusion

Sentences come in many shapes and sizes. Some are long and intricate, while others may only be a few words. However every sentence must have a subject, even if implied. Every sentence also needs a predicate. Without both of these things all you have is a fragment of a thought, not a complete message. Proper understanding of subjects and predicates and how they work together can often make the difference between a message that is conveyed and understood and one that isn’t. As we review the latest installment of Millie’s story, see if your can match the subjects to the predicates of each sentence.

The Story of Millie Black – Chapter 4 – The Boat

Millie followed Jake out of the field. The proud, beautiful woman refused to glance at her sister’s house as she passed. Millie and Jake walked down to the dock where a boat was waiting. They climbed aboard in silence. Two men and a woman stared at Millie from the back of the boat.

“Take us out.” Jake’s deep voice echoed in the quiet. Millie looked at the trio huddled in the back of the boat. She walked over to the woman and touched her cheek. Both Millie and the woman were breathing heavily, unshed tears in their eyes. Neither Millie nor the other woman knew what to say in that moment. Finally Millie’s name rushed from the woman’s mouth with a ragged sob. “This woman and these men know what is about to happen,” Millie thought. Her heart sank.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” one of the men said quietly. “We don’t want any trouble”. Jake, his face hard but his eyes softening, watched the exchange. The other of the two men was softly praying.

“There are no other options, Millie. You know this.” Jake said. “I would not have asked you if there were.” Millie finally looked back at Jake. His eyes began to glow faintly.

“Is the team ready, then?” she asked. Jake nodded. He knew whom she was referring to.

“Everyone is already in position.” She nodded, her expression once again masked and stepped up to the captain’s seat. The engine roared to life as she turned the key.

Parts of Speech/The Story of Millie Black Contents

1 – Nouns

2 – Verbs

3 – Pronouns

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One thought on “The Grammar Guardian Presents – Building Sentences [subject and predicate]

  1. Nicole Anderson

    April 8, 2017 at 10:41pm

    Anyone that wishes to write consistently well needs to understand the concepts of correct sentence structure. You have presented this information in such an easy-to-follow way which makes sense and highlights the important points. Use of the examples and color coding was very effective in putting across the information clearly.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      admin

      April 10, 2017 at 7:26pm

      Thank you very much.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. eazynazy

    April 9, 2017 at 1:05pm

    I loved few important points you Highlighted. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      admin

      April 10, 2017 at 7:28pm

      Thank you. Grammar is sometimes a lost art, but it is so important.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. The Mad Mommy

    April 10, 2017 at 5:10pm

    I love this! I am constantly learning, as a writer, how to be a better writer! Posts like these are extremely helpful!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      admin

      April 10, 2017 at 7:37pm

      Thank you. I’m glad they help. This is part of a larger series on parts of speech, so I hope you will check out them all.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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