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Our Free Guide Gives You A Fun Way To Teach And Learn The Basics

Finding the Subject of a Sentence

Sometimes finding the subject of a sentence can be difficult. (Subjects tells us whom or what the sentence is about.)

Can you find the subjects of these sentences? 

The students from the classrooms at the end of the hall were very noisy. 

Each of the students in my class studies diligently.

Tip #1: The subject of a sentence will never be in a prepositional phrase.

The subject of a sentence will never be in a prepositional phrase.

Of course, that tip is only helpful if you know what prepositional phrases are! Prepositional phrases are groups of words that start with a preposition and end with a noun or pronoun. 

into the store, around the red house, up the tree, down the mountain

Check out the prepositional phrases page to learn more.

Tip #2: Cross out prepositional phrases before you look for a sentence's subject. 

Cross out prepositional phrases before you identify the subject.

Let's get back to our examples.

Example #1:

The students from the classrooms at the end of the hall were very noisy. 

You might look at that sentence and have brain-overload. You know that subjects are usually nouns, but there are four nouns in that sentence. 

The students from the classrooms at the end of the hall were very noisy. 

Eek! What are you going to do?

Since prepositional phrases contain nouns and pronouns, when we cross them out, we eliminate many potential subjects because we're eliminating many nouns or pronouns. 

The students from the classrooms at the end of the hall were very noisy.

Now it's much easier to see that students is the subject of the sentence.

Sentence diagram with three prepositional phrases

Example #2:

Each of the students in my class studies diligently.

Can you identify the subject? This sentence has three contenders.

Each of the students in my class studies diligently.

You might be fooled into thinking that students is the subject of this sentence. After all, the sentence is about the students, right?

Well, sort of. The subject of the sentence is actually each

If you know your prepositions, you know that of the students is a prepositional phrase, and subjects will never be in prepositional phrases. 

Each of the students in my class studies diligently.

Now it's much easier to see that each is the subject of the sentence.

Sentence diagram with two prepositional phrases

*Note that identifying the correct subject will help you choose the correct form of the verb. If the subject were students, the verb would be study. (subject-verb agreement)

For those of you who would like more information on prepositions, you can learn more on these pages:

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