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Video:What is a Subject?

with Heather Kamins

The subject is one of the most prominent components of a sentence, as it can't be a sentence without one! Learn how to properly identify the subject of a sentence in this video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:What is a Subject?

Hi, I'm Heather Kamins for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about what a subject is.

What is the Subject in a Sentence?

A subject is one of the components that every complete sentence needs to have. Usually a subject is a noun, like car or country; a pronoun, like he, she, or they; or a noun phrase, like the winning team, or my fourth grade teacher.

Usually the subject is the one who does the action in a sentence. For example: the dog chased the ball. In that example, chasing is the action, and do is the subject - the one who does the action.

That action can also be more abstract, such as in the example: The wedding was beautiful. In that example, the action is being beautiful, and the wedding is the subject that does it.

Subject in a Passive Sentence

Both of those examples are in the active voice. In the passive voice, the object - which is the thing that had the action done to it - becomes the subject. It's acted upon, rather than doing the action itself. So for example, you could put the active sentence "The dog chased the ball" into the passive voice by saying, "The ball was chased by the dog."

Do be careful not to use the passive voice too much, because it's less dynamic than the active voice and it can make your writing wordy.

Subject in Interrogative and Imperative Sentences

All of the examples I've used so far, both active and passive, have been declarative sentences. In a declarative sentence, the subject usually comes before the verb. In interrogative sentences - also known as questions - the subject usually comes after the first part of the verb, or the helping verb. For example: Did the dog chase the ball? is a question. Did is a helping verb.

One other type of sentence is the imperative. It's a direct address to the audience, usually instructing them to do something. So for example: "Shut the door" is an imperative sentence. In imperative sentences, the subject - you - is typically implied rather than specifically put into the sentence.

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