Characteristics of the Subject
| The grammatical
Subject has a number of characteristics which we will examine here.
In a declarative sentence, the Subject comes before the verb:
When we change this into a yes/no interrogative, the Subject and the verb change places with each other:
If an auxiliary verb is present,
however, the Subject changes places with the auxiliary:
In this interrogative, the Subject still comes before the main verb, but after the auxiliary. This is true also of interrogatives with a do-auxiliary:
Subject-verb inversion is probably the most reliable method of identifying the Subject of a sentence.
In a declarative sentence, the Subject is usually the first constituent:
However, there are exceptions to this. For instance:
Yesterday the theatre was closed
Here, the first constituent is the adverb phrase yesterday, but this is not the Subject of the sentence. Notice that the theatre, and not yesterday, inverts with the verb in the interrogative:
So the Subject here is the theatre, even though it is not the first constituent in the sentence.
Subject-verb AGREEMENT or CONCORD relates to number agreement (singular or plural) between the Subject and the verb which follows it:
There are two important limitations to Subject-verb agreement. Firstly, agreement only applies when the verb is in the present tense. In the past tense, there is no overt agreement between the Subject and the verb:
And secondly, agreement applies only to third person Subjects. There is no distinction, for example, between a first person singular Subject and a first person plural Subject:
Here, the form of the verb is not determined by the form of the Subject. Instead, it is determined by how we interpret the Subject. In the government is..., the Subject is interpreted as a unit, requiring a singular form of the verb. In the government are..., the Subject is interpreted as having a plural meaning, since it relates to a collection of individual people. Accordingly, the verb has the plural form are.
The pronouns I, he/she/it, we, they, always function as Subjects, in contrast with me, him/her, us, them:
The pronoun you can also be a Subject:
but it does not always perform this function. In the following example, the Subject is Tom, not you:
copyright The Survey of English Usage 1996-1998
Supported by RingJohn
Online Marketing UK