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AP English Language and Composition

Recognizing Subjects and Verbs


A sentence is made up of single parts of speech combined into a pattern that expresses a
complete thought. In other words, a sentence is a group of words that expresses a
complete thought.
At the bare minimum, a simple sentence must contain two basic elements:
1. the thing we are taling about !sub"ect#
$. what we sa% about it !&erb'predicate#
(he subject is a noun, a pronoun, or some other word or group of words that function as
a noun.
(he verb !also nown as a predicate# is a word that tells something about the sub"ect) in
other words, it tells that the sub"ect does something or that something is true of the
sub"ect.
A sub"ect and a &erb are, therefore, the fundamental parts of e&er% sentence. In fact, it is
possible to express meaning with "ust these two elements:
*r. Carruthers dances.
*rs. *orse raps.
(Note that in each example the verb says that the subject DOES something!)
+inding &erbs and sub"ects of &erbs in a sentence is the first step in determining whether
or not a group of words expresses a complete thought. Loo first for the &erb, the most
important word of the sentence, and then for its sub"ect.
(he &erb ma% sometimes be difficult to find. It ma% come an%where in the sentence) for
instance, it ma% precede the sub"ect, as in some interrogati&e sentences (Where is my
coee!). It ma% consist of a single word or a group of two or more words) it ma% ha&e
other words inserted within the &erb phrase) it ma% be combined with the negati&e not or
with a contraction of not. (o find the &erb, loo for the word or group of words that
expresses an action or a state of being. In the following sentences the &erbs are
underlined:
*s. ,ust stood at *rs. Alexander-s side.
At *rs. Alexander-s side stood *s. ,ust.
*s. ,ust was standing at *rs. Alexander-s side.
*s. ,ust cannot stand at *rs. Alexander-s side.
.id *s. ,ust stand at *rs. Alexander-s side/
(he sub"ect ma% also be difficult to find, for, as we ha&e "ust seen, the sub"ect does not
alwa%s come immediatel% before the &erb. 0ften it comes after the &erb) often it is
separated from the &erb b% a modif%ing element. Alwa%s loo for the noun or pronoun
about which the &erb asserts something and disregard inter&ening elements. (he sub"ects
are italici1ed and the &erbs are underlined in the following examples:
AP English Language and Composition
"any of the students lo&e AP Lang.
(here is summer home#or$ in&ol&ed.
0n the weebl% was a hilarious photo of *s. ,ust.
In an imperati&e sentence, a sentence expressing a command or a re2uest, the sub"ect you
is usuall% implied rather than expressed.
.o the summer homewor.
3tud% grammar4
Either the &erb or sub"ect or both could be compound) that is, there ma% be more than one
sub"ect and more than one &erb:
"rs% "orse and "rs% &lexander teach. !(wo 3ub"ects#
"r% 'arruthers teaches and coaches. !(wo 5erbs#
"r% 'arruthers and "s% (ust teach and coach. !(wo 3ub"ects and (wo 5erbs#