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Subjects and Verbs

Understanding Subjects and Verbs

It is crucial that a sentence contains both a subject and a verb; this is an unbreakable rule to which you must always adhere. To put it simply, the subject is the person or thing carrying out or interacting with the verb in a sentence.

In most cases, the subject of a sentence will be a noun i.e. a naming word, like the common noun, 'table', or the proper noun, 'John'. The verb (a doing, being or action word, like ‘run', 'live' or 'sit') interacts with the subject and also controls the tense of the sentence.

English word order, as opposed to say, French, is: subject, verb, and object. This means that the subject of a sentence will usually be placed at or near the beginning of a sentence, thus:

John ran down the road.

Here, the subject, 'John' (a proper noun), is doing the action, 'ran' (a verb). It is crucial that subjects and verbs agree in a grammatical sentence.

However, it is possible for a subject to be placed later in the sentence, thus:

After it stopped raining, John walked to the shops.

Notice how the subject here is still the main noun, 'John' who is doing the action of the verb, 'walked', but the clauses of this complex sentence have been reversed, instead of saying:

John went to the shops after it stopped raining.

The sentence structure has been altered to add variety to the writing; nevertheless, the subject doing the action is still the noun, 'John'.

Remember that although a sentence does not always contain an object, it must always contain a subject and a verb for it to be considered a sentence. For example, the shortest sentence in The Bible is 'Jesus wept'; two words but still a sentence because it contains a subject and a verb.

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