Subject: Definition and Examples


In grammar, the sentence is the simplest unit which can express a complete thought independently. It is written with a capital letter, an end punctuation (a period, an exclamation point, or a question mark), and most importantly, it has a subject and a predicate. In this article, one of the most important parts of a sentence will be explored—the subject.


What is the Subject and its Function?

In its simplest sense, the subject refers to the doer of the action or to what (or whom) the sentence is all about. It can either be a person, a place, a thing, or an idea, and can come in the form of a noun or a pronoun. Take a look at the examples below:


  • During the exam, Tommy slept in his chair.
  • In this example, the verb is “slept” and the doer of the action is the noun “Tommy,” which is why he is the subject in this sentence.
  • They are extremely wealthy.
  • The italicized verb in this example expresses the state of being of the pronoun “they,” which is the subject in the sentence.
  • Joey and Phoebe went to the audition.
  • In this sample sentence, “Joey” and “Phoebe” are both the doers of the action “went.” Therefore, both of them are the subjects in this example.

What are the Different Forms of Subjects?

Listed below are some of the most important terms related to the concept of the subject.

1. Complete Subject

The complete subject simply refers to:



  • The muscular man lifted the heavy table and transferred it to the other room.
  • In this example, the doer of the italicized verbslifted” and “transferred” is the “man.” But if you’re asked to underline the complete subject, you must also include the descriptive words (modifiers): “the” and “muscular.” Therefore, the complete subject in this sentence is the whole underlined part.
  • The tall and pretty lady fell into the freezing water.
  • In this sentence, the complete subject is “the tall and pretty lady,” because “lady” is the one who did the action “fell”. Take note that the words before the word “lady” are just the modifiers or descriptive words that distinguish this lady (in the sentence) from the other ladies.

2. Simple Subject

Basically, the simple subject refers to the noun or pronoun which is being or doing something. Unlike the complete subject, this doesn’t require you to include the descriptive words (modifiers)—just the main noun or pronoun will do.


  • The mighty superhero saved the day.
  • The simple subject in this sentence is the noun “superhero,” because he is the doer of the action “saved”.
  • She is indeed the epitome of kindness.
  • The simple subject is the pronoun “she,” because it refers to the person being talked about in this sentence.

3. Compound Subject

This term simply refers to two or more subjects in a single sentence joined together by a connector.


  • The captain and his ship were lost in the heavy storm.
  • The underlined part is the compound subject consisting of the two main nouns, “captain” and “ship,” plus the connector “and.” This is considered as the compound subject because the captain and his ship were the ones who “were lost,” or simply the doers of the action word or verb.
  • Christmas and New Year are my favorite holidays.
  • This sample sentence is about two events namely, “Christmas” and “New Year.” Therefore, these two nouns connected by the word “and” are considered as the compound subject in this sentence.

What is the Easiest Way to Spot the Subject in the Sentence?

If you are having difficulties figuring out what is the subject in a sentence, an easy tip to remember is to identify the verb first. (Note: A verb refers to a word which expresses an action or a state of being.)

Once you have identified the verb, the next thing you should do is ask the question “what” or “who” is doing this?
For example:

  • Billy jumped over the fence to escape the dog.
  • Step 1- Ask “What is the verb?”
  • The verb is the action word “jumped.”
  • Step 2- Ask ”Who jumped?” or “What jumped?”
  • Since “Billy” jumped, he is the subject in the sentence.

From the simple steps mentioned, you will be able to identify the subject without even breaking a sweat. Also, you must know that there are times when the subject is not explicitly stated or is not actually written in the sentence, such as in the examples below:

  1. Run!
  2. Please read the instructions carefully.

In sentences like those above, which state a command or a request, it is understood that the subject who does the italicized action words is “you.”

Final Thoughts

A deep understanding of the subject is very important for you to be able to form well-written compositions. This is one of the most basic and fundamental concepts in grammar, so you really have to get a good grasp on this topic before advancing to more complicated ones. With the simple explanations, examples, and tips provided in this article, studying this area shouldn’t be that hard at all.

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