Subjects, Verbs, & Objects

Subject, Verbs, & Objects are the basic build blocks of a sentence in Standard Written English.


Subject and Verb (SV)

The subject is whom or what the sentence is all about. The subject performs the action of the verb. He or she (or it) is the actor, the protagonist.

The predicate – says something significant (complete idea) about the subject. It must include a main verb.

  1. She runs[Runs] is the predicate, a single verb.
  2. We want the prime rib. [Want the prime rib] is the predicate.
  3. American troops need more armor. [Need more armor] is the predicate.

Sentences need a subject. Sentences must have a predicate. This topic of subject and predicate is the most basic characteristic and structure of a sentence. Therefore, the two crucial questions to ask of any sentence are:

  • Who or what is the subject? Who or what is this particular sentence about?
  • What is the predicate? What is happening to the subject – and maybe why and where?

The predicate may be simply a verb (1: runs), or it can include a verb and a direct object (2: want prime rib and 3: need armor). Direct objects are underlined in (2) and (3) above. The predicate may also include indirect objects and other words and phrases.

Subject, Verb, and Objects (SVO)

A complete sentence must include a subject and a verb. Someone or something (subject) must do something (verb). Sometimes, the subject does something to something else—that other thing is called the object. Objects receive the action of the verb. Objects can be direct and/or indirect.

John carried the bag. 

John is the subject. He is the doer, the actor, in the sentence. Carried is the verb. It is the action in the sentence. Bag is the object. The bag is the thing being carried, so it is affected by the verb. 

How to Identify Direct Objects (DO) and Indirect Objects (IO)

  • direct object (DO) receives the action of the verb (Bill threw the ball). It will be a noun or pronoun.
  • An indirect object (IO) tells us to whom or for whom the action was done: Bill threw the ball to Jim.

If we put to or for in front of an indirect object, it becomes clearer. With to or for, the IO then usually goes after the direct object: He threw me the ball = He threw the ball to me.

Sentences with both (DO) and Indirect Objects (IO)

At Christmas, when I was eight, my uncle bought me a model train. He gave my sister perfume.

What did your uncle buy? A train. Train is the direct object. Who received the train? Me. Me is the indirect object. What else did your uncle buy? Perfume. That’s the direct object of the second sentence. Who received the perfume? Sister. She is the indirect object. 

Has the mailman given Mary the package? No, he left me the package since she was out.

What did the mailman give? To whom did he give it? What did the mailman leave? To whom did he leave it?

The catcher caught the ball. He threw it to First Base. First Base threw me the ball. I tagged the player at second base. 

What did the catcher do? Who received the action?

Exercises

Find the subject. Find the predicate. 

  1. The burden of proof lies on the plaintiff.
  2. In the eyes of a lover, pockmarks are dimples. 
  3. In golden pots are hidden the most deadly poisons. 
  4. Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight. 
  5. The structure of every sentence is a lesson in logic. 
  6. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. 
  7. Three women and a goose make a market. 
  8. The greatest right in the world is the right to be wrong. 
  9. In war, all delays are dangerous. 
  10. Most of the disputes in the world arise from words.

Identify the subject, verb, and indirect/direct objects in the following sentences.

  1. The man riding the scooter carried his grocery bags. 
  2. Lucy handed her backpack to her mother when they walked into the house. 
  3. The man in the elevator delivered pizza to the hotel room. 
  4. Salvatore gave Iris the notes from class today. 
  5. John watched the blockbuster movie the day it came out in theatres.