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What is a Simple Subject? Useful Examples of Simple Subject


What is a simple subject? Grammar can be confusing. Even if you are a native English speaker, you probably find that it’s hard to identify various parts of English grammar. If someone asked you to identify a sentence’s simple subject, could you do it? After you read this article, you’ll be able to! Let’s take a look at a sentence:

  • The tiny kitten meowed loudly in the box.

What’s the simple subject there? Take a guess. If you guessed “kitten,” you are correct. But, what makes a word a simple subject? Let’s find out.

Simple Subject

What is the Simple Subject?

The “simple subject” is the one word in a sentence that is the subject of the verb. It is the thing that is doing the verb. While in the above sentence, “The tiny kitten” is the complete subject, “kitten” is the simple subject. The kitten is meowing.

Simple subjects tend to have modifiers – we see two of them in the above sentence. Both “the” and “tiny” are modifiers. You remove the modifiers to get the simple subject. Finding the simple subject matters in English grammar because it helps you to conjugate your verb. If you are unsure whether you have to use a singular or plural verb conjugation, the answer is based upon the simple subject, no matter how many modifiers are present.

Take the following sentence:

  • The container of toy cars [is/are] over there.

What’s the right conjugation of the verb? The answer is based upon the simple subject. What is the simple subject in this sentence? To find it, you will need to remove all modifiers.

The first modifier to remove is “The.” You must also remove the prepositional phrase, “of toy cars” from the subject as well. This leaves you with “container” as your simple subject. With “container” left, you know now that you have one singular subject that is doing the noun. In this case, you get a full sentence of:

  • The container of toy cars is over there.

Some people may be fooled by the plural form of “cars” in the sentence, but don’t be! To get your simple subject, cut out all modifiers of the noun. These modifiers could be adjectivesadverbsphrasesclauses, or determiners., but once they are gone, you get that simple subject.

Simple Subject Examples

Now, let’s take a look at some simple subjects! You’ll see several sentences below, and the simple subjects will be in parentheses right after the sentence.

  • Dogs love to play fetch. (Dogs. They are the ones doing the loving.)
  • Your red box full of papers is on the table. (Box. The box is on the table.)
  • When you are done working, give me a call. (You. You are the one who needs to get done working to call.)
  • The cold iced tea tastes great! (Iced tea. This was a trick one – iced tea is a noun referring to tea that has ice in it.)
  • That restaurant over there is my favorite place to eat. (Restaurant. The restaurant is conjugating the noun.)

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Simple Subject

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