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Help! I Can't Find the Subject!
January 16, 2018

January 16, 2018

Here we are at Alice's Montessori school for her birthday celebration. It's hard to believe that she's been around the sun four times already. Time flies!

In last week's lesson, you learned to cross out a sentence's prepositional phrases before finding the subject. In this lesson, you'll learn how to find subjects in sentences that don't seem to have subjects.

Happy Learning,

Elizabeth O'Brien

I'm a year and a half into using your grammar curriculum, and I am so impressed with it. I've found success with both honors and non-honors students alike. Thank you for creating such a user-friendly and perfectly-paced curriculum.

- Kate, Teacher

Learn more here.

Grammar Video Lessons

Help! I Can't Find the Subject!

You probably already know that the subject of a sentence tells you whom or what the sentence is about. You also probably have no trouble spotting the subjects in the following sentences.

Lenora smiled.

Alice kicked the ball across the soccer field.

Caroline teaches fifth grade at Sunshine Elementary School.

The subjects are Lenora, Alice, and Caroline.

It's a little harder to find the subjects in the following sentences. Can you do it?

Walk the dog.

Pass the salt.

Please wash these dirty clothes.

In all three of these sentences, the speaker is requesting something or giving a command. Sentences that give commands are called imperative sentences.

Subjects & Imperative Sentences

So, how do you find the subject of an imperative sentence? This may sound crazy, but every imperative sentence has the same subject! That's right. Every single imperative sentence on the face of the planet has the same subject.

And the subject is...


Notice that the word you is not actually stated in the sentences.

Every time you give a command, you're addressing a person and telling him or her what you need or want him or her to do. It's as if you're saying, "(you) Walk the dog."

Diagramming Imperative Sentences

Diagram these the same way that you diagram other sentences. Just write (you) for the subject.

What do you think the subject will be when we add the person's name?

Bob, walk the dog.

Guess what? The subject is still (you)! Although we are speaking to Bob, we are using his name as a noun of direct address, which means that it is not grammatically related to the rest of the sentence.

Nouns of direct address are diagrammed on a line that floats above the rest of the sentence.

Would you like to learn more? You'll find these pages helpful:

Have a wonderful week!

About Elizabeth

English Grammar Revolution

Elizabeth O'Brien is founder of, a company devoted to helping people learn and love grammar.

Through her website, books, and programs, Elizabeth shows people how to teach and learn grammar the easy way. She's on a mission to inspire and motivate people by making grammar fun and friendly.

If you liked today's issue, you'll love Elizabeth's grammar and sentence diagramming programs, which will help you learn or teach grammar through simple, step-by-step instructions and sentence diagrams.

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