Hard to Find Subjects

May 21, 2021

Questions and Emphatic Statements

Sometimes the subject of a sentence can be hard to find. In a question, the subject usually comes between the helping verb and the main verb. To find the subject, keep all the words from the question and turn it into a declarative sentence.

Did you decide to keep that puppy?
You did decide to keep that puppy.

Here and There

Even if a sentence begins with here or there, these two words can never be the subject. In sentences like this, the subject usually comes after the verb. Find the verb and ask yourself who/what did it? You can also rearrange the sentence, switching the part after the verb with the part in front of the verb.

Here are the books from the library. (What are here? The books.)
The books from the library are here.

Inverted Phrases and Sentences

Sometimes a sentence is inverted, which means the normal sentence order is reversed. The sentence begins with a prepositional phrase and the subject has been placed after the verb. Find the verb and ask yourself who/what did it? You can also rearrange the sentence by switching the part after the verb with the part in front of the verb.

On the bench are my sister’s gloves. (What are on the bench? The gloves.)
My sister’s gloves are on the bench.

Predicate Nouns

If a sentence with a linking verb has a predicate noun, the verb must still agree with the subject, not the predicate noun. The subject generally comes before the verb, and the predicate noun after the verb. In a question, however, they both come after the verb.

Casey’s Christmas present was two tickets to a concert.
Are sports your favorite pastime?

Prepositional Phrases After Subjects

Don’t let yourself be tricked by prepositional phrases after the subject. Make sure you match your verb to the subject, not to the object of the preposition.

The birds on the beach are seagulls.
That box of erasers belongs in my desk.

Hint: If you cross out the prepositional phrase, it is easier to find the subject.

The birds on the beach are seagulls.
That box of erasers belongs in my desk.


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