Subjects of sentences
Video: Grammar Tips, "I" vs "me" by Helen Wilkie from Helen Wilkie's Writing and Communication Tips (new tab). (Watching time: 1m:24secs)
Subjects of sentences
Getting to grips with how the different parts of the sentence relate to each other. i.e. who does what to whom.
What is a sentence subject?
There is often confusion about when to use me or I. " I " belongs to a group of words that we will call subject pronouns. Most of these pronouns (but not all - you and it are the exceptions) can only be the subject of the sentence. The subject is the person or thing doing whatever happens in the sentence.
I eat muesli, every morning.
I will just stay in bed.
More than one clause in a sentence
Complex sentences are those which may have more than one clause in it, each of which needs a subject and verb.
A sentence can happily have more than one clause, (see Sentence fragments), each of which has its own subject and verb.
Teachers are striking today, so I will just stay in bed.
Multiple subjects: It is also common and acceptable to have more than one person (or thing) occupying the same subject position of the sentence and doing the same thing in that sentence.
My flatmates and I eat muesli every morning.
The cat and I will just stay in bed.
My husband and I wish you all a prosperous New Year.
[Someone] and I
What to do when the word "I" appears as the subject along with another noun or pronoun.
A polite note:
When there is you and another subject or subjects, we always place I last in the list. For example we never say:...
* I and my flatmates eat muesli every morning. * (Note: red asterisks signal that the sentence is wrong.)
Instructions: Hover or tap the questions below to see the reason for the answers given in the quiz.
1. Question: Who or what is the subject of the sentence below?
Against the odds, the bungee jumper survived the 300m fall into the crocodile infested river when her bungee chord broke.
the bungee jumper ✔
Why: In loose terms, the subject is the person who performs the action in the verb. In this case it is the bungee jumper, and the action is "survived"
2. Select the sentence/s that is/are true.
|▢||A sentence must have at least one subject and a main verb.|
|▢||A subject is not essential in a sentence, but a verb is necessary|
|▢||It is equally okay to say "the cat and I slept all day" or "I and the cat slept all day".|
|▢||A verb can have more than one thing occupying the subject position.|
A sentence must have at least one subject and a main verb. ✔
A verb can have more than one thing occupying the subject position. ✔
Why: All sentences must have something or someone occupying the subject position. Even a command such as "sit down" has an implicit subject: "(you) sit down". It is also true that there can be several people or things occupying the same subject position... such as "the cat and I...".
A sentence is not a sentence unless it has a main verb. [Link here to sentence fragments lesson].
3. Select the most appropriate pronoun as subject for this sentence.
The doctor and the nurse performed the operation under extreme conditions.
Why: "They" is the only item on the list that is a plural subject pronoun. (He = singular subject pronoun | John and Margaret = proper nouns, not pronouns | them = plural object pronoun)
4. True or false
If a sentence has more than one clause in it, each clause must have its own subject/s and verb.
Why: A sentence can have a number of clauses in it (often separated by a conjunction). Each clause needs to have its own subject/verb combination. Without this the sentence structure falls over and the reader cannot understand the sentence.