Jane Straus - Subjects and Verbs

How to Find Subjects and Verbs


Jane Straus is the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and developer of GrammarBook.com


What do these words have in common: banana, dresser, grammar, potato, revive, uneven, assess? The answer is at the end of this blog about finding subjects and verbs.


Most of you probably learned to find the subject first and then find the verb. It is actually much easier to find the verb first and then find the subject. Why even bother? When you pair the verb and subject up correctly, you will be able to check that they agree. Keep reading and you will understand quickly what this means.

Definition: A verb is a word that shows action (runs, hits) or state of being (is, are, was, were, am).

Examples: He ran around the block. You are my friend.

Definition: A subject is the noun or pronoun that performs the verb.

Example: The woman hurried.

Rule 1. When looking for the subject and verb, always find the verb first. Then ask who or what performed the verb.

Example: The jet engine passed inspection. Passed is the verb. Who or what passed? The engine passed, so engine is the subject. If you included jet as the subject, lightning will not strike you. Technically, jet is an adjective here and is part of what is known as the complete subject.

Example: From the ceiling hung the chandelier. The verb is hung. What hung? The chandelier hung so the subject is chandelier, not ceiling.

Rule 2. A subject will come before a phrase beginning with of.

Example: A bouquet of yellow roses lends color and fragrance to the room.

Tip: If you thought roses was the subject, you would have used lend as the verb. Now you can understand why finding the correct subject is important: you want the verb to agree with the subject.

Rule 3. Any request or command such as "Stop!" or "Walk quickly." has the understood subject you because if we ask who is to stop or walk quickly, the answer must be you.

Example: (You) Please bring me some coffee.

Rule 4. Sentences often have more than one subject, more than one verb, or multiple pairs of subjects and verbs.

Examples:  He and I like cake.

                    She lifts weights and jogs daily.

                   I like cake and he likes ice cream.

Answer to Brainteaser

If you take the first letter of each word and place it at the end of the word, the word will be the same spelled backwards.

Jane Strauss