Parts of a Sentence

The main two parts of a sentence are the subject and predicate, with the subject identifying whom or what the sentence is about and the predicate giving more information about the subject. 

The elements within the predicate adding more detail or meaning, are verbs, direct objects, indirect objects, and subject complements.

We'll now look at each of these in more detail.

Parts of a Sentence: Subject and Predicate

Subject

The subject of a sentence is the person, place, or thing that the sentence is about.

If it comes before an action verb (e.g. climb, eat, build, say etc) then it is the part of the sentence that shows whom or what is doing that action. If it comes before a state verb (e.g. is, see, smell) it tells us whom or what is in that state of being.

It is usually a noun or pronoun and can also include modifying words, phrases or clauses. Here are some examples of subjects in a sentence:


  • The woman...
  • Cars....
  • The boy in the red coat... (includes modifying phrase)

 

Predicate

While the subject is what the sentence is about, the predicate is what is being said about the subject. 

It will always include a verb but will usually also include other elements. So these are what it will/may include:

  • Verb
  • Direct Object
  • Indirect Object
  • Subject Complement

In the examples below, the predicate is in bold. 


  • The woman is hot.
  • Cars are blocking all the parking spaces.
  • The boy in the red coat is trying to find his toy.

 

Predicates as parts of a sentence can get a little more complex than this as there can be predicates within predicates when there are other clauses in the sentence (the ones above have just one clause) and there are also compound predicates.

We will look in more details at predicates in another lesson.

Direct and Indirect Objects

The predicate always includes and starts with a verb, but it may also be followed by objects. 

Direct Object

A direct object is the receiver of the action within a sentence, and it is usually a noun or pronoun. They are used with action verbs and are shown below in bold:


  • He built a cottage
  • The horse jumped the fence
  • He ate some dinner

Indirect Object

Indirect objects can only be in a sentence if there is also a direct object. They indicate to whom or for whom the action of the sentence is being done. Again, the indirect object is usually a noun or pronoun.

They are shown below in bold (the direct object is now the last noun).


  • He built his family a cottage
  • She bought them some presents
  • He gave his girlfriend a kiss


Learn more about the difference between direct and indirect objects

Subject Complement

It was explained above that objects are used with action verbs. However, for state verbs (verbs that describe a state of being e.g. is, see, hear, feel etc) subject complements follow the verb. 

A subject complement renames or describes the subject, and again is often followed by a noun or pronoun, but also commonly an adjective. 


  • John is a really nice person
  • She seems happy
  • I was impressed by the film

Parts of a Sentence Summary

The parts of a sentence can be divided into two main parts:

  1. Subject: who or what the sentence is about
  2. Predicate: what is being said about the subject

The predicate will start with a verb and could have various other elements:

  • verb + indirect object/direct object/subject complement

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