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How to Find Subjects in Sentences
- 1). Identify words in the sentence that express action or being. These words may be verbs, although not all of them are. For instance, in the sentence "The audience applauded the gracefully twirling ballerinas," two words appear to be verbs: "applauded" and "twirling." You may even think "gracefully" appears to be a verb, since it conjures the image of graceful action.
- 2). Determine the sentence's tense -- whether it took place in the past, present or future. If you have trouble with this, try putting the word "yesterday," "today" or "tomorrow" in front of the sentence to see which version makes sense with the sentence as written. If "yesterday" makes sense, the sentence is in past tense. If "today" makes sense, the sentence is in present tense. If "tomorrow" makes sense, the sentence is in future tense. In the example sentence,"yesterday" makes the most sense: "Yesterday, the audience applauded the gracefully twirling ballerinas." Therefore, the sentence is in past tense.
- 3). Substitute a different time word -- "yesterday," "today" or "tomorrow" -- and see what other word in the sentence you have to change for the sentence to make sense. That word is the verb. For instance, if you used "tomorrow" in the example sentence, you would need to change "applauded" to "will applaud" in order for the sentence to make sense: "Tomorrow, the audience will applaud the gracefully twirling ballerinas." This means that "applauded," not "twirling" or "gracefully," is the verb.
- 4). Identify who or what performed the verb. The performer of the verb is the subject of the sentence. In the sample sentence, the verb is "applauded," so ask the question "Who or what applauded?" The answer is "The audience."
- 5). Eliminate any articles (words such as "a," "an" or "the") or adjectives (descriptive words such as "yellow," "amazing" or "complicated"), leaving only the noun or pronoun. This is the subject of the sentence. In the sample sentence, you would eliminate the article "the," leaving only the noun, "audience." "Audience" is the sentence's subject.
- 6). Repeat the process if there are multiple verbs. Some sentences are compound or complex, meaning they have more than one subject and verb. For instance, in the sentence "The audience applauded the gracefully twirling ballerinas as the orchestra played," there are two subjects: "audience" (performing the verb "applauded") and "orchestra" (performing the verb "played").