Grammar: Subject and Predicate

Elements of Syntax and Etymology Grammar meets Writer

Yes, boring, but not so much if you make Grammar your friend. Even a nodding acquaintance will pay off in the end. While you may never experience that snuggle-up-moment experienced by those infatuated with language, you will come to appreciate Grammar's benign influence on your writing.

The beginning of grammar is an understanding of the two main parts of a sentence or a clause, the 

Subject and Predicate

From A New English Grammar for Schools, by Thomas Harvey:

1. Warm up:

a. What is the subject of the narrative excerpt you find by clicking here?*

b. What is the subject of the first sentence in that narrative?**

2. The subject is that about which something is affirmed or denied.

a. Chalk is white. What is the subject of this sentence?

Chalk. The affirmed quality of ‘chalk is that it is white. Write a sentence affirming some other quality of chalk.

b. Iron is metal. What is the subject? What is affirmed about iron?

Iron. The affirmation concerning ‘iron is that it is metal. ‘Metal’ denotes, not a quality, but a class or kind. Write a sentence affirming a class of the subject ‘horses.’

c. Achilles is not happy. What is the subject? What is the denial?

Achilles. He is not happy. 

3. The predicate is that which affirms or denies the subject.

Chalk is white. ‘Is white’ is a predicate which affirms the subject ‘chalk.’

In the other sentences above, ‘is metal’ is the predicate that affirms the subject ‘iron’; ‘is not happy’ is a predicate making a denial about ‘Achilles.’

4. Exercises:

a. Affirm or deny qualities of the following subjects:

Iron, gold, silver, lead, ink, cork, sugar, vinegar, grass, books, lessons.
Ex. — Iron is heavy; Lead never floats.

b. Affirm or deny the following qualities of appropriate subjects:

Transparent, hard, round, square, good, bad, bitter, heavy, rough, smooth, red, yellow, green.
Ex. — Glass is transparent; Sugar is not bitter.

c. Affirm or deny class of the following subjects:

Horses, oxen, coal, wood, hay, oats, wheat, ax, hoe, locomotive, dogs, sheep, copper, gold, apples, trees, wagons, houses.
Ex. — Wheat is a grain; Dogs are never trees.

d. Point out the subject and the predicate in each sentence which you write.

Model.—Wheat is a grain.
‘Wheat’ is the subject.
‘Is a grain’ is the predicate.
*A girl on the road (note title)
** I [was driving]

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